Inside The kingdom

The following piece is from the book Inside The Kingdom by Robert Lacy. I got the book from the publisher last month but I wasn’t able to finish reading it until last week. I will write a book review about it soon. By the way, I don’t think this book would be allowed to be sold in Saudi Arabia.

In page 250-253, Robert Lacy wrote:

“As the bombs were going off in the Saudi Capital, the columnist Hussein Al-Shobokshi wrote of his dream of a better place- of how, twenty years or so in the future, these dreadful shooting would be a distant memory. He imagined himself flying into Jeddah from Riyadh on Saudia Airlines (since this was a dream, the airline was privatized and the plane landed on time) to be met by his daughter, who would then be twenty-seven, qualified and working as high-powered trial lawyer (female lawyer can not at present appear, let alone speak, in the courts of Saudi Arabia).

“How was the trip, Daddy?” his daughter asked, as she drove her car smoothly through the Jeddah traffic. “Great,” replied Hussein. “I attended the World Conference of Human Rights in Riyadh, where the Kingdom received a special award for the fairness and efficiency of its judicial system”

“I went to congratulate our neighbor Fouad Tarshlo on his marriage to the daughter of Sheikh Golehan Al-Qtaybi,” Hussein imagined himself saying from the passanger seat. “Then I flew up to Buraydah to meet the mayor, Reza Baqir”

The satire lay in the surnames. It was quite impossible to imagine a Hijazi (Tarshlo) being accepted into the family of Nejdi Sheikh (AlQtaybi); while a Shia (Reza Baqir) could not hope to get work in a Wahhabi stronghold like Buraydah as a street cleaner, let alone become a mayor.

“Hurry up,” Hussein told his daughter. “I want to get home to watch the television.  The minister of finance is on tonight, getting grilled by the Shura members on all the details of the budget.”

perhaps it was this final fantasy that went a step too far. When the Saudi budget is published every year, no less than 40 percent (166.9 billion riyals in the budget for 2008) is labeled “Other Sectors,” which includes defense, national security, intelligence, direct investment outside the country…etc

Hussein Shobokshi himself reckons it was his religious imagination that got him into real trouble. Toward the end of his “dream” he expressed his intention of going to the Grand Mosque in Mecca to listen to the teachings of a learned member of the supreme ulema, Sheikh Taha Al-Maliki. with a name like that, the sheikh could only be a Sufi.

The call came within hours- from Hussein’s editor in chief. “I have had ten calls already,” he said, “from the Ministry of Information,”  Shobokshi was banned from being published, with immediate effect, and when he got to the TV studio, he discovered a message canceling his talk show- plus an in-box jammed with angry e-mails.

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9 thoughts on “Inside The kingdom

  1. Mahla

    Great excerpt! I really want to read this.

    I really root for Saudi Arabia to progress. I think a lot of people don’t appreciate how much it has already progressed in say, 100 years. :^)

  2. Hi Murtadha,
    I had the pleasure of joining a discussion of the beautiful article of Huseein Shobokshi from the man himself in the Makkiyah salon at Jeddah sometime around the time it was published. He was a very enlightened, specific in addressing things with their real name, and quite pessimistic, not like the impression you get from reading his article… He is presenting a show on economic analysis now in a TV show and writing a weekly article on foreign politics for Asharq Al Awsat, his fight and demands as listed in the article are quite simple yet so far and dangerous to claim…

  3. -susanne430 & Mahla
    The book is incredible in a sense that you will want to finish it once you got to reading. I will write my review about it soon.

    -Hala
    you disappeared suddenly from the blog sphere so I am glad to hear back from you.
    I am glad that Mr. Shobokshi was able to get to his TV show and publish his article in the newspaper. I am very astonished by his courage in writing such an article. It is dangerous as you said, to talk about political, social reform here!

  4. oby

    I am reading this book now and it is a page turner…I am thinking that if it is accurate it is an amazing insight behind the curtain of Saudi Arabia. I am only about 1/2 done. Two things that stood out to me in particular so far…how, in the aftermath of 9/11 it was the Saudis who were after the Americans to get it together better and it was the Saudis who created a “commission” to try to deal with this head on BEFORE the Americans got around to it and it was after Saudi pushing that it got done. (I apologize as I have forgotten the name of the commission and I can’t find it in the book now) It appears that the Saudis were quite proactive quickly.

    No offense to anyone Saudi about the next part…I am just telling it like it was in the book.

    The second is it talks about lesbianism in KSA. Almost the whole chapter is quoted by women as to why it happens. The author doesn’t really put his opinion in but rather lets women explain what goes on.

    It is for primarily two reasons:

    1. the woman says that in general Saudi men do not respect their women and treat them as if they are embarrassed by them when inside KSA. She said that is due to mothers treating their sons as if they are the most wonderful thing God put on the earth and they have an overblown sense of self due to that. She said once the family leaves KSA(vacation) the men are completely different and so nice. So she says it is something about the culture that compels them to act this way. They leave their wives alone a great deal of the time to go out and hang with their friends, they cheat with other women and the women are not only treated badly they are lonely.

    2. Due to the strict segregation of the sexes the women spend the vast majority of their time with women…they eat together, laugh together, comfort each other, but most of all they have respect for each other which is something they can’t find with their husbands. BECAUSE these women crave respect and tenderness and because they can’t get it from their husbands and because they are in such close proximity to women who do give them respect naturally, they do allow themselves to become involved in love affairs that reach them not so much on a sexual level but on an EMOTIONAL level. They are getting from other women what they can’t get from their husbands. Because it is forbidden to be seen with another man in any way shape or form, even considering an extramarital affair with a man is suicide. So they turn to those with whom it is safe. She said they can shop, eat out, watch movies do everything together and no one thinks about it and that also makes it easy to conduct affairs.

    I felt sorry for the women because if they got what they needed from their husbands and I don’t mean sex…but rather tenderness, conversation as an equal, respect, etc they most likely would never seek to look outside their marriage. There would be no need to.

    She says it would take mothers treating their children, boys and girls, equally and the society would need to see them as equal to men too in order for the men to realize that women needed a gentle touch. Perhaps a little sensitivity training???

    and she said that is what the big attraction about the soap opera NOOR was all about. the husband treated his wife as an object of his desire but an equal as well.

  5. oby,
    excellent comment and summary about the book. I would love to hear your reflection on many parts of the book. I will write my reflection soon but I am kinda busy with final for this upcoming two weeks. So, soon I will write my review. I might be able to do an interview with the author in my blog. so let me know if you have specific question that you want to ask for the author.
    as for lesbianism, there are even gays in Saudi Arabia and I will talk about that later in another post. It has become like a phenomena in Saudi arabia. but I wouldn’t generalize one story on the whole population. The new generation of Saudi are more open and different than the previous ones. for example Many of my friends who are married, would never leave the house without a permission of their wife 🙂 they are very proud of that. My married brothers wash the dishes and clean the bathroom and do the laundry for their wives. So I think it all depend on family teaching and environment.

  6. oby

    Murtadha,

    Your sisters in law must be very happy with their husbands! My husband who is from India and has been in America 15+ years doesn’t even do that for me…OK, he’ll vacuum and unload the dishwasher once in a while.

    It sounds as if your mother was a very wise woman and prepared her sons for their marriages well. If the woman is happy the rest of the family is happy!

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