Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
"So that is all the Arab hypocrisy you cared to mention?" Many readers asked or seemed to ask.
Some reminded me of the way we talk and act on women issues. When Rajaa Alsanae, a Saudi dentist, wrote her first novel about the love lives of four Saudi girls, many exploded. They called the book "Sex and the City." While many similarities exists with the famous HBO's TV series, there was no explicit sex in the book, only the adventures, dreams and disappointments of four Saudi girls in their relations with the other sex.
The book is a true description of how many segments of society still treat women as a piece of property to be sold to the highest bidder. One girl was refused by the groom's mother because she was half American from a lesser family. The other lost her chance because she was divorced. The third had to play the game of aloofness with the man she loved, learning a lesson from a friend who was divorced because she showed her eagerness to have sex with her husband before she moved in with him. Naturally for many paranoid Saudi men, he suspected that she was experienced in the art of love, and he wasn't the first in her life. The fourth character was very traditional, but lost her husband to a Japanese girlfriend.
Love is the last thing considered in lots of traditional marriage arrangements. Many young hearts are crushed in the process without mercy, empathy or mere understanding.
Some of us, men and women, live in denial. They felt the book gave false impressions about our virtuous society. But few could deny the existence of these and many other similar tragedies. The best way to solve a problem is to admit it. You can't cure an illness if you don't know or refuse to know.
Hypocrisy rules when it comes to our women rights. We do make flowery talk: She is the beloved mother, sister, daughter and wife; the preserved and protected pearl and jewel. But most won't even utter their names in public, referring instead to "the family," or "dependents."
Because of such "dependency-property" attitude, our women need to get males' permission for education, work, bank accounts, travel, and even medical attention. Imagine that: a new guideline for girls schools stated that in case of emergency, the school cannot send students to hospitals without male guardian permission. Another rule stipulates that doctors, even in extreme emergencies, need to wait for such permission.
Foreigners and religious minorities also suffer from our hypocrisy. We talk about Islamic and Arab hospitality, principles and rights. We claim that we treat our foreign guests well and give them their due rights. The truth is too many suffer from physical, psychological and financial maltreatment.
The same goes for religious minorities, whether they are Muslims of other sects or non Muslims. They deserve more religious rights, starting with passion and respect.
Other respondents highlighted additional aspects of our hypocrisy, as they see them. Dr. Joseph Lerner wrote: "The religious differences within Islam are overwhelming. Then, there are the tribal-like aspects of the Arab world which impact the functional integrity of the existing states.
Consider the Arab response to Palestinian refugees. The Arab League has directed Arab countries not to grant citizenship to them. Some Arab countries refuse to accept them as refugees and those which do, limit their employment opportunities. Their living facilities are generally below national standards. Arab countries limit their financial assistance claiming the problem was caused by non-Arabs."
Muhammad Yusuf declared: "We Western Muslim’s can really understand that Arabs are cursed with hypocrisy. We followed the Islamic countries summit in Makkah and the Saudi National Dialogue where participants speak about a united Muslim Ummah, but it is all talk with no action. We see Arabs claiming that western Governments are trying to destroy Islam. It is not Western governments that destroy us, but Arab hypocrisy, backbiting, lying, etc, etc..
Saudi King Abdullah was right when he said in Makkah summit "Allah will never change to the better the situation of any people unless they first change themselves, as Allah promised in the Quran."
Chris Chrisman contended that "the first step in making change happen is to recognize the need for change. I am reading more and more articles by Arab journalists and intellectuals saying that their world cannot continue on the same course it has been maintaining. This is very hopeful. Have a great New Year.
Ralph Sorbris advise that the best way to improve Arab situation is to unite: "For the new Gregorian year of 2006, I wish you all the best and I look forward to see the formation of a common vision for the Middle East. A strong united Middle East would enrich the world."