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.