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Today's quote:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

There is no alcohol in Saudi Arabia but you can get stoned anytime.


I've just listened to Karen Elliott House on ABC Radio National talking about her book On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines and Future and was totally riveted by it.

Not surprisingly, I immediately ordered from BookDepository.com this well informed, authoritative and illuminating book about the strangest country you probably never visit where men obey Allah and women obey men. Fortunately for men, Allah is distant, but unfortunately for women, men are omnipresent.

Not much seems to have changed since I lived and worked there for a number of years in the early 80s. I, too, had a run-in with the religious police who hit my legs with wooden sticks and told me to go home, not for wearing red nail polish but for wearing a pair of shorts.

Mind you, the religious police is not always just about red nail polish and shorts (a combination I personally haven't tried yet). In 2002, this same bunch of hateful bigoted bastards prevented more than a dozen girls from fleeing their flaming school building in Mecca, thus condemning them to burn to death because, while trying to escape the fire, their abayas and veils didn't fully cover them.

Saudis have a joke that summarises their society's passivity in the face of all this oppression:

The king decides to check the will of his people. So he sets up a checkpoint on a busy road. No one complains. So he asks his security officers to further test people's patience by also doing an identity check at the checkpoint. Still no one complains. Determined to find the public's limit of tolerance, the king asks the officer not only to stop the people and check their identities but also to ticket them. The line of cars grows ever longer on the busy Riyadh road, but still no public complaint emerges from a Saudi. So the king asks the officer to go one step further and slap those he stops, identifies, and tickets. Finally one Saudi man goes ballistic. The ruler asks that his angry countryman be brought before him to explain his outburst. "I have waited for hours in the queue", the man tells the king. "If you are going to do this to us, at least get two officers to slap us so the line moves faster."

So what of the future? The book's last pharagraph sums it up very well:

"So the Royal Saudi 747, richly appointed but mechanically flawed, flies on, its cockpit crowded with geriatric Al Saud pilots. Buffeted by mounting gales, the plane is losing altitude and gradually running out of fuel. On board, first class is crowded with princely passengers, while crammed behind in economy sit frustrated Saudi citizens. Among them are Islamic fundamentalists who want to turn the plane around, and also Islamic terrorists who aim to kill the pilots and hijack the plane to a destination unknown. Somewhere on board there also may be a competent new flight team that could land the plane safely, but the prospect of a capable pilot getting a chance at the controls seems slim. And so the 747 flies on into the headwinds, perhaps to be hijacked, or ultimately to crash."