Sunday, August 03, 2003

Saudi Women and Schizophrenia

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi •

When I wrote here about our schizophrenia two weeks ago, the first example I gave was about how we behave in different environments in different ways. We get into planes to travel abroad and by the time we get off a plane in another country we have become different people. Many women, discarding their abayas, change into tight and revealing clothes, while some men seem to forget many of their important traditions and religious regulations.
Many women thought I was targeting their freedom to dress as they wish.
“Is it not enough that you force us into certain behavior and dress code at home, you want to follow us with your prison rules abroad,” one angry reader wrote me.
Others, including my mother, took issue with my explanation that women don’t have to cover their face or wear black abaya, as long as they cover hair and body. Their argument is: Yes, most Islamic schools of thought don’t require this particular dress code, but our society needs it.
What I really, truly, wanted to say is: We have to synchronize our beliefs, behavior and attitude. If we believe in our religion and culture, then Allah is everywhere. We cannot pray five times a day in Saudi Arabia, and then skip even Friday prayers abroad. We shouldn’t cover hands and toes at home, and wear shorts when we are away. If working in a mixed environment is allowed in Islam, then it should be permitted inside the Kingdom as well as outside. Why may families mix freely in London, but not in Riyadh? Why can women drive in Bahrain, but not in nearby Dammam? How come we let them study in Dubai in mixed schools, but won’t give them the same right in Jeddah?
We need to agree first on what is acceptable in our religion and what is not. Our religious establishment should come together in a forum and discuss all issues with the aim of giving clear guidelines and advice.
Families and individuals could then decide for themselves how to behave on the basis of the information given. And once a consensus has been reached, we should all act consistently.

No comments: