A Woman’s Life in Saudi Arabia

This paper was written by a college student who attends Georgia University.  Considering that American Bedu blog is among his resources and references which he used to gather information, I thought it would be interesting and worthwhile to share with readers of my blog. 

  

English Paper – A Woman’s Life in Saudi Arabia

A Woman’s Life in Saudi Arabia     

           The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a Middle Eastern country that holds a large portion of the world’s oil reserves.  It is the birthplace of Islam that contains the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.  The country is ruled by a king, and the laws of the nation are set by the holy book of Islam, the Quran.  Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States, and was a host country to US troops during and after the First Gulf War.  It is a dry country, meaning no alcohol is allowed in the country, and harsh penalties come to those who smuggle alcohol or drugs in (CIA).  Although all this is true about Saudi Arabia, a definition of the country alone is not appropriate to learn about it.  To do that, one must study the people and the choices that they can make in their lifetime. 

 The people in Saudi Arabia have many options in life, though some are limited to men of a high social class.  The country has become a battleground for women’s rights and government reform.   Society has begun to change as the globalization of society increases through international relations and internet contact.  These changes face resistance by the government and the societal norms set by the Muslim religion, which requires modesty for women.  The modesty, by Western standards, is an extreme control over women and the lives that they may be allowed to lead.

Many changes are opposed by the Muslim clerics, who use the Quran as a basis of control over the country.  The clerics have a great influence over the country because Saudi Arabia has many elements of a theocracy, so Islamic law is also national law. Every law in Saudi Arabia has been derived from Quran verses that are strictly interpreted by the clerics, often without considering historical precedents.  Clerics encourage men to beat their wives to keep them in line with what the husbands want (Fox).  The clerics also comment on the social ‘calamities’ of other nations and decisions on Islam.  The clerics condemned an Egyptian official in 2006 after he expressed nostalgia for the past when women could freely go in public without covering themselves with scarves (Cleric Condemns).  Women’s sports have remained largely unavailable because of the requirement to stay covered in public and not take part in strenuous activity.  A women’s soccer match, the first of its kind, was held January 22, 2008.  No men were allowed in, even if they were related to a player (Al-Maeena).  In the past, women were generally not allowed to play sports at all.  One blogger states that she believes the game was played to show that Saudi Arabia is becoming friendlier towards women’s sports to appease the Olympic Committee and Western nations (Jawhar).

The internet is an important medium for change in Saudi Arabia.  Although not everyone is for the changes being pushed for society, many Saudis do want the change and are able to express their views by creating blogs.  Bloggers risk being imprisoned for what they say on the internet, but they continue because it increases global awareness of their problems and is a way to speak with others that share their feelings in a safer environment than actual contact (Al-Omran).  The people hope for change in their society that will allow for a better country for their children when the next generation takes over. 

Women’s rights are an important topic on many Saudi blogs, both by men and women.  Many of the issues mirror those of other countries, including the United States.  Both countries have a situation where women aren’t as well paid as men, and women aren’t the breadwinners nearly as often as men.  Some of the issues, such as creating women’s sports and increasing women’s education, have also become a major point of debate.  Because some of the changes in women’s rights were only made a generation ago, the US people should be able to understand the difficulty and need for changes in Saudi society.  Other problems, however, were changed in the Western nations so long ago that very few people remember the changes, so it seems as though things have always been the way that they are.

Many issues facing women in Saudi Arabia are unique to Arab and Islamic nations.  The Quran, the holy book of Islam, has been interpreted in a manner that many consider to be unfair to women.  The Women are often not allowed to leave their homes without a male guardian, and, in those cases, must rely on a male family member to take them to work or anywhere else they may want or need to go.  Saudi officials only recently announced that women may get the privilege to drive later this year.  At the moment, women must either have a father, brother, or husband drive them if they do not have a driver.  If they have someone to drive them, they still need written permission from their male guardian to travel.  Women have also only recently been given the right to sell lingerie at retailers after complaints with having to buy it from men (La Guardia).  All of these constraints are trivial when compared to the fact that many Saudi marriages are arranged by a bride’s parents.  Many brides will not know or will barely know the man that they are about to marry (Bedu).

Globalization has done more than increased women’s sports and allowed them to speak out.  It has also flooded the market with Western news, movies, games, and books.  This provides the Saudis with information on what stereotypes we have about them, and it provides them Hollywood cinema-style stereotypes about us to them (Lulu).  Although much of the media can provide a bad or false idea of what the US is like, some of it can provide understanding of the American culture.  Music often uses a common routine or theme that many people can relate to.  Even without understanding the words, people can often understand the emotion of a composer by listening to his music.

With the many emerging technologies that allow Saudis to live much like Americans through, it is only a matter of time before the underground life becomes the norm.  Bluetooth has allowed men and women to communicate to each other without being conspicuous.  Television and movies introduce Western ideas into the culture.  Men and women throughout Saudi Arabia are finding other ways to communicate without arousing the suspicion of the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, an organization that can detain and press charges on individuals who they believe is violating Sharia law.  Although no cultures completely embrace outside influence, it does slowly affect the way of life for everyone.  Those influences are what will help women loosen their restraints and help remove their segregation from men in society.  Women have several basic choices that they can make in their life, if their male guardian allows them to make their own decisions.  They can become a part of the growing female workforce, continue their education, or become the stereotypical stay-at-home woman that keeps the family and home together.  A recent study found that only sixteen percent of women are currently working in Saudi Arabia (Mubarak).  There are, however, many female students getting higher education in the country.  With the higher education comes the possibility of more and better jobs for women.  The only thing that women really need now is time to take advantage of the changes in the outlook and execution of society.  They are inexperienced workers because of they have had on them, and will eventually become more prominent in the workplace with better working skills.

If I were in the same situation as most Saudi women, I believe that I would try and find my place in the business world.  Although women are not as well paid or as common in the workplace, they are very important to the Saudi economy, especially since the number of working women in Saudi Arabia is constantly rising.  Working would allow for a lifestyle of some independence, although one should never rule out marriage and raising a family.  A sexist husband, however, would have no place in the life of a modern woman, nor would kids at the early stages of education and marriage (Ubergirl87).  A husband that does not respect his wife’s happiness cannot say that he truly cares for her well being, and it would be counterproductive toward the advancement of women.

In order to lead a happy life, one would not only have to work, learn, and be able to make their own decisions, one must also be active in what they believe in.  A successful Saudi woman should not take her success and enjoy it herself, but would have to show the benefits of her hard work and fight for the rights of others.  Blogging with information about how to be successful in hopes of other women doing the same, as well as being an activist for the rights of others, would be the only way to lead a full life.  Sharing one’s profession could be compared to having children.  For many families, it means a continuation of what someone has worked for and wants others to carry on what they have done.  That same principle carries over to women in the workforce.  The fruit of one’s labor is not the money gained by work, it is the experience in life and the ability to bring change and equality for others.

So now the question is simple: why do I believe that the right choice of a life for me?  Why should I take a risk in going into business, why should I risk getting arrested for being critical of the government?  The answer can be given by the historical Jewish scholar, Hillel, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”  The literal meaning of the quote is quite easy to understand.  No one will stand for you if you don’t, but you should not stand only for yourself.  And if you don’t do it immediately, it is unlikely that you will ever start.  The execution of the quote, however, is much harder than understanding it.  It is easy to get caught into the trap of being for oneself.  It is even easier to just go about your life without stepping on anyone’s toes and follow the societal norms.  The problem is that injustice will continue, and one’s life will continue to be miserable because the conditions are not favorable.  Although no one wants to risk getting in trouble for standing up for themselves, no one wants to lead a life that is controlled almost completely by the decisions of others.

Now that the Saudi people have started to demand changes, and they do so in a peaceful manner, it is only a matter of time before the changes are met.  The blog Saudijeans has compared the segregation of men and women to the US segregation of blacks and whites half a century ago.  Saudis can only push forward from where they are now, and continue to take up more jobs and study harder.  The only thing that can truly stop the movement toward freedom is indifference and acceptance of what they already have, because change is only earned through perseverance through hardship.  As long as they hold their heads high and continue to peacefully question authority, then the day when women are considered equals to men in society and can make their own choices is not far ahead.

  BibliographyAl-Maeena, Tariq.  “It’s All About Women.”  Arab News.  2 Feb 2008.  18 Feb 2008.  <http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7§ion=0&article=106364&d=2&m=2&y=2008&gt;Al-Omran, Ahned.  10 Feb. 2008.  Saudi Jeans.  10 Feb. 2008.  <http://saudijeans.org&gt;American_Bedu (pen name).  “American Marriages in Saudi: Questions for the Groom.”  13 Dec 2007.  Accessed 20 Feb 2008.  < http://delhi4cats.wordpress.com/2007/12/13/arranged-marriages-in-saudi-questions-for-the-groom/&gt;The Associated Press.  “Saudi Arabia’s Top cleric Condemns Egyptian Culture Minister’s Anti-Veil Remarks.”  The Associated Press.  19 Nov 2006.  Lexis Nexis.  17 Feb 2008.  <www.lexisnexis.com>Central Intelligence Agency.  “Saudi Arabia.”  7 Feb. 2008.  The World Factbook.  9 Feb. 2008. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sa.html&gt;Fox News.  “Saudi Marriage ‘Expert’ Advises Men in ‘Right Way’ to Beat Their Wives.”  2 Nov 2007.  Fox News.  12 Feb 2007.  <http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,307680,00.html&gt;Jawhar, Sabria.  “The Close-to-Home Politics of Sports.”  Sabria’s Out of the Box.  29 Jan 2008.  18 Feb 2008.  <http://saudiwriter.blogspot.com/&gt; La Guardia, Anton.  “Muslim Clerics’ Anger Delays Saudi Plan to Let Women Sell Lingerie.”  16May 2006.  UK Telegraph.  12 Feb 2008.  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/05/16/wsaudi16.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/05/16/ixnews.html&gt;Lulu S J.  “Is it The Kingdom or the US?”  Lulu S J’s Xanga.  4 Dec 2007.  18 Feb 2008.  <http://www.xanga.com/lulu_s_j/630506793/is-it-the-kingdom-or-the-us-.html&gt;Mubarak, Ebtihal.  “Work Out Change From Within — Brundtland to Saudi Women.”  1 Feb 2008.  Accessed 19 Feb 2008.  <http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1§ion=0&article=106327&d=1&m=2&y=2008&pix=kingdom.jpg&category=Kingdom&gt; Qusti, Raid.  “Saudi Human Rights Official Slams Vice Cops in Yara Case.”    Arab News.  10 Feb 2008.  17 Feb 2008.  <http://arabnews.com/?page=1§ion=0&article=106645&d=10&m=2&y=2008&gt;

“Ubergirl87” (pen name).  As Told By ubergirl87.  15 Feb 2008.  Accessed 18 Feb 2008.

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79 Responses

  1. There is at least one word missing from each line on the right hand side of the article! Maybe if you try left aligning it will make for easier reading. ;)

  2. Umm Ibrahim,

    Thanks for pointing out. I just went into the original document I had received and unfortunately it seems like it has been locked in that I cannot make any changes to include changing margins. )-:

  3. Ha…. I was lucky. Hope you enjoy this posting.

  4. Congrats Carol
    Wow! A blog as an educational source material is brilliant, opens up the world to a diversity of views.

    I bet it is really encouraging!

  5. Forgot to add:
    Article about “Wazhma Frogh, an Afghan, uses her religion to press for women’s rights – and development agencies take note. Jill Carroll in The Christian Science Monitor”
    Hope you don’t mind the link.

    http://asianwindow.wordpress.com/2008/03/05/inside-islam-a-womans-roar/

  6. Hi Winslie!

    Yes; I was surprised to learn that blogs were being utilized in educational research materials and as source material. It certainly does open up new horizons.

    Regards,
    Carol

  7. Estimados, que pena que este todo en ingles, pero intentare traducir, parece muy interesante, saludos desde españa.

  8. Buenos gracias, Carlos. No problema la tienes inglesia.

  9. College Student,

    I was very impressed on how you got such a ‘feel’ for women in Saudi Arabia as well as by all of your research to comment the way you did. Just one question, have you ever lived in KSA?

  10. im sorry but this paper was irratiting.

    Saudi women go through alot and you try to make everything seem positive.
    they are treated very harshly and barely have ANY rights without men standing by their side.

    you need to evaluate more.

  11. Kathleen – this paper was written by a University student in the United States who used online resources for information. It is posted to illustrate the effort made and information acquired.

    However one thing I have learned from living and working in KSA as well as being part of a Saudi family is to not judge the Saudi women as a woman from the West. And that a non-Saudi should not be the one to determine whether or not the Saudi woman has too many or too little rights. It is the Saudi women who need to speak out whether they have too little rights. There are a large number of Saudi women who believe outsiders (such as westerners) are too interfering on this topic.

  12. i really dont know…most of the information are not accurate and spicific in this article…..and many behaviors are interpreted and explained in a wrong way……. thanks any way for making bad picture about saudi women or generally about saudis mentioning bad sides and leaving the good!!!
    maybe for profit?
    this is about informing ignorant people with the wrong information
    making them more ignorant
    doesnt mattter anyway what others think about us really

  13. Have you talked to a Saudi girl before writing this I am sure that the answer is not

    I Saudi girl Muslim 19 year old and I study software engineering I have a Special car and driver, but I refuse to go except with my father or my brothers and I refuse to woman drive(such as most of the women here)
    I refuse Remove Hjabi (also such as all the women here) in fact We are very proud of it ,AND I am very happy Because my father responsible of me
    you think you are helping, but …..
    I just want to say that The veil is a cover for the face (a kind of protection) is not a cover for the mind
    if i want to remove my Hjabi no one will be able to forced me to wear it
    Please understand that the freedom which we love is not like that what do you know
    Apologies
    Respect for all

  14. Primrose–I enjoyed your perspective which is very informative and proves American Bedu’s point above about Saudi women being the ones to speak out on their culture, and wishes.

  15. May–I just noticed your comment which also contributes an interesting critique from a Saudi woman (I assume). Thanks to both of you.

  16. Primrose – I am very happy to see and read your comment. Interestingly as I understand the student who wrote this paper which I shared on my blog did reach out to Saudi students. I don’t want to put words in his mouth but wonder if those who responded had the majority view reflected in his paper? It’s good to hear from you and you raise some excellent points and help broaden the understanding of a Saudi woman’s life!

  17. miss /master Chiara your assumption is correct,Does it require a high intelligence so that others can understand
    Saudi girls live in big houses and have served as a luxury, high cost, Special the latest model car and its driver has a remarkable family give a protect and love
    so what do you want to we get???
    and what do you want to get?
    Is not fair that women equally with men, because the installation of women different physical and psychological so them will lose a lot if women become equal to men
    As for the hejab
    I swear to you I will not be happy when the men look at my beauty and they will get happy
    i never be happy if i be just a body

    I apologize if my words is hard
    I apologize also spoken at length
    Also apologized for my language (my English is still limited)

  18. Primrose – no need to apologize for your English. It is easy to follow and your views are understood!

  19. Primrose–thank you for your further comment, and no need for apologies. Many Arab Muslim women are contributing to the discussion on how Arab Muslim women wish to be seenand understood, how they relate to their religion, and what “rights and privileges” they want or don’t want. These are the women who should lead the way in their respective countries, and communicate with others from outside their countries. Studying Software Engineering can be considered a feminist act in itself, and feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive. I hope you will continue to share your perspective here and elsewhere.

    Chiara (female :) )

  20. hi,
    My name is Nydia and i just wanted to say that this is a very good article. I used information from it for a project in global studies and got myself an A+

    I recommended this article to many other people and they also said its very interesting….

  21. @Nydia – Thank you!!

  22. I stumbled across this page while researching life in Saudi Arabia, i thought it was very interesting. My husband might be relocated to Saudi Arabia, and that scares me a little. I’m worried for my children and myself, what kind of life would we have over there? This might be inapropriate, but i would really appreciate some insight on life over there, if anyone would be willing to help me.

  23. @Barbara – first of all, welcome to the blog! I’m happy to advise you that this entire blog is all about life, customs, cultures, traditions and experiences in Saudi Arabia. If you do specific searches such as housing, compounds, security, things to do, from within the blog search box you will find specific posts.

  24. “However one thing I have learned from living and working in KSA as well as being part of a Saudi family is to not judge the Saudi women as a woman from the West. And that a non-Saudi should not be the one to determine whether or not the Saudi woman has too many or too little rights. It is the Saudi women who need to speak out whether they have too little rights. There are a large number of Saudi women who believe outsiders (such as westerners) are too interfering on this topic.”

    Right on Bedu. I come across this type of ethnocentricity all the time. In anthropology, we try and see things from as much objectivity as possible. I hope I do a good job but like everyone, I am a product of my upbringing and society.

    anthrogeek10

  25. Thanks Anthrogeek!

  26. First about the structure of the paper – I don’t know the level of the student – which year of undergraduate or graduate level, but he really confirms my experience of a lot of other American undergraduate students of not structuring his paper properly – they have to be repeatedly told to divide their essay into thematic sections so that the essay is much more insightful than the continuous narrative style in which this essay is written. And I keep on getting surprised at the fact that the US students are not taught this since in my country we are taught this in secondary school level – by the time we are in college we are well accustomed to dividing our essay in thematic sections. In college we are also taught to first discuss in brief what others have already studied on this topic and what our paper says which may be new and why this topic is of importance – another lacuna I have often found in many American undergraduate students’ writings as it doesn’t appear they are taught this in college. This student is no exception.

    Now for the arguments – I said once on another post in this blog that it’s a major flaw in the US education system that till undergraduate level, most US universities don’t have a significant focus on the history, geography, economy, religion and society of the non-Western world. Only some good universities in Graduate level provide this education, but not everyone goes to Graduate School. This means that till Undergraduate level, most US students don’t have much knowledge of the non-Western world – not surprising that Americans misunderstand so much about these societies. There is a 1 semester Study Abroad Programme in college, but that’s not enough to know a culture. Compare this to the education in my country, where extensive stress is given on the study of world geography, history, religion and society, and economy even in secondary school level. Undergraduate students in my country are not so ignorant about other parts of the world. The ethnocentricity referred to here results from this.

    Those who may feel offended at my critique of the US system of education, please know that I have seen essays from the undergraduate students from Harvard, Yale, Univ of California, Purdue, Washington Univ, Univ of Michingan – just to name a few amongst many.
    This particular paper has almost completely based itself on popular writings on the Internet and this has led him to simply follow the biases that exist in these popular Internet resources. Ideally, he should have read some good academic books and articles in journals on Saudi Arabia and combined that reading with the popular writings from the Internet – for example, from Carol’s blog he could show how many different kinds of views are being expressed here – some are completely supporting Saudi women’s lives, some are denouncing both Saudi practices and Islam and some are asserting that Islam is good but Saudi practices have distorted Islam. From here, he could go on to discuss why these different views are being expressed – what kind of conditioning at popular level leads to these different perspectives. While discussing these he could talk about the concept of different definitions of “rights” and “privileges” that exist in different societies. What appears as restriction or a privilege in one society may not be so in another culture. Here, he should’ve included some different perspectives from Saudi women themselves – yes, these are also different as no society can be completely homogenous. Of course, some aspects of Islam should have been added to explain why these laws exist the way they do in KSA and may be a little comparison with the way Islam has been practised differently in other countries, some of which Saudi Arabia could adopt. Then, there should have been some discussion on some issues that are universally wrong across religions or cultures – such as blaming of rape victim.
    Carol’s blog could have been used in a much more effective manner than the way he has used it here.

    I must acknowledge here that much depends upon the way the teacher frames the question – student structures the essay according to the requirements of the question – this shows a lacuna in his teacher’s teaching method.
    The point that I liked the best in his essay – the quotation from the Jewish scholar. That was a pleasure to read.

  27. @Daisy,

    Can I persuade you to write a paper? I know it would be a spellbinding read! And yes, I do agree with your comments.

  28. Carol,
    OK, but I’ll need time. I’ll send it across to you when it’s ready, though I don’t promise a spellbinding effect! Right now I am working on another paper which is already late.

  29. i enjoy the way you write!!

  30. Daisy,
    I am from the U.S. It was extremely superficial (opposed to well researched). I became bored and stopped after a bit.

    Hope you find some time to write something for this forum.
    anthrogeek10

  31. Carol, and Anthrogeek,
    Thanks, will try my best.

  32. On the bright side for women – by wearing a vail you can enjoy all the man candy you want to look at without your husband knowing and complaining. The vail is the muslim womans best kept secret. And think of the money women save on makeup

  33. Scott,
    You are right, I am aware of this – and more about the “powers” of veiled women! :-|)

  34. Sorry, that’s a wrong wmoticon! :-)

  35. Scott, LOL about the $$ saving on makeup and don’t forget fashion! Tons of money spent on both of those things in the Muslim world.

  36. In fact those women are quite fashionable – often much more than the women like us who don’t veil. And if you see them in an all women’s space, you won’t believe what you see!
    This is the ambiguity about veiling that the West hasn’t understood.

  37. @Scott,

    Welcome to the blog and thanks for your comment. Weeeelllll, I guess a woman who has veiled could look at “man candy” if she wishes. But it does seem kind of contradictory to why a woman would choose to veil in the first place. (smile)

  38. Yes, Carol, it would seem contradictory but I thought it has already been stipulated that one cannot know the purpose of a woman’s veil since so many are made to wear it against their will.

  39. Carol,
    Yes it does seem contradictory as you say – and contradiction is the most characteristic feature of the veil as I have observed it. Scott is really right about it. I have interacted closely with women who practise veiling by choice and they are from different countries including my own and I don’t see why there can’t be such women in Saudi Arabia. Sometimes I have been shocked to see what kind of activities they can get away with because they are mostly segregated and veiled – someone like me can’t even fathom devising such actions! Actions of women who don’t veil are always open to public observation. Women behind the veil are in some ways capable of activities that “free” women without veil can’t achieve.

    Of course I don’t say all veiled women are like that, but this seems a fairly common feature amongst them, and the veil seems to help them. That’s why I said, the West hasn’t understood the finer nuances of veiling.
    And to those who may think I want to support this custom, I want to emphasise that I am against this practice, I don’t practise it and will never practise it as a principle.

  40. have never covered my face, but i have used the abaya on occasion to cover up , the one time i remember we were going to a mixed party and my daughter spilt juice on my clothes … ahhhh so i whipped the top off put a t-shirt on and donned my one and only cute abaya,and off we went , to the grand party and not a soul knew, of course i insisted i didn’t want to take it off there – No offense to those covering up due to their faith, to me it was quite handy when i felt lazy.

    and yes some of the thngs the veiled ones do :-) It can be quite liberating in KSA.

  41. @Lynn,

    I know women who’d rather not wear a hijjab but few who are wearing a veil against their will. Granted I had to veil for a short period when we lived in a very conservative area and it was not what I preferred to do but it was prudent to do so.

  42. Since the subject of veiling has come up, I’d like to recommend the book “In the Land of Invisible Women” by a dear friend of mine, Dr. Qanta Ahmed. She touches on veiling and many other aspects of the life and traditions of Saudi women.

  43. I know about this book. There is also another one- Behind the Veil in Arabia by Unni Wikan, an American Social Anthropologist.

  44. Thanks Daisy! Can you give a sneak preview? Do you feel it is a fair book?

  45. Dear western friends,

    first of all – NO im not osama bin laden :P

    I am from Palestine (which i know that most of you haven’t even heard of even though it is the last occupied country in the world). it is an Islamic country.

    I don’t know how to write an essay and i don’t even read so often, but i know this. Islam is not just a religion, it is a way of life, as its instructions cover each an every aspect of life, from the prayer to most advanced banking system to politics and war to the way you sleep with your wife.

    Please understand that i am not arguing the essay here or what any of you have said, im discussing the layer of understandings that you(the west again) build your opinions upon.
    i just want to say a couple of things.

    1- who said that you (the west) can define the RIGHTS of a WOMAN in a Culture that you know almost nothing of.
    2- The Hijab and Veil are related to the roots of our religion, we are a society that drives its actions and boundaries from this religion and we can not, and in my opinion should not separate the religion from our daily lives.

    that said, i feel i need to get this of my chest.

    United States of America, you are not a GOD. if you are the Free World, why are occupying Iraq ? to set them free!? free of what? what makes it your responsibility to do so? and if you are so responsible, why are supporting the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land? and the war on Gaza?

    USA has more crimes that the Islamic world combined, your society is not so great because you have an inner feeling or commitment to whats right and whats wrong, you fear the punishment that a law created by other humans sets.

    in KSA people leave their shops OPEN when they go to prayer. while in USA if you have a blackout, shop owners stand at the doors of their shops with rifles and shotguns to defend their shops.

    dont get me wrong, im not saying we are better than you are, but please do not think you are better than us, because simply you are not. which means that you are not in a position to say what is the rights of a woman and whats not. you are not a free world.

    you may have a democracy that we lack, but this is not the fault of the Islam, this is originally the West’s fault, when the west (UK, France,Italy etc) occupied the Arabic Islamic world, they did not leave it without establishing a ruling systems that will serve them after they have left.

    the flaus we have in our systems and societies are caused by the west. becuase what works for one culture does necessarily work for another.

    i have been to USA and to UK before, as a culture exchange student, and i was amazed by the ignorance of the general of some of the issues that concerns their believes the most. if you are the freedom defenders, why are you supporting Israeli occupation? if you have such a great awareness of whats right and whats wrong, why is the crime rate so high?

    im not trying to offend anyone here, and i apologies if i did, but if you think that i have offended you by simply saying “mind your own business” then that simply proves my point.

    regards.

  46. Hi there,

    I am an Australian and my partner is from Saudi Arabia. We have been together for almost three years and are planning to go to Saudi this year to get married. I am aware of the issues that women face and I have been preparing to face them myself. I think that your essay is a little bit too simple and it is obvious from the comments alone that the desire for change is shared by some of the Saudi population but not all. There are a number of women who are happy with the lifestyles they lead because that is all they have ever known. You must first understand the Saudi mind before you can comment on the society. The majority of the population are devout muslims and this is a concept that western people cant understand. Islam prescribes every aspect of life. The Quran is a guide for how you live, from when you wake up in the morning until you sleep at night. Your article does mention the clerics and their interpretations of the Quran, but I think you need to be more specific about these interpretations and which ones are under constant debate in Saudi Arabia. Otherwise, I found your article enjoyable to read and I like the quote that you made from the Jewish scholar, I’m not sure if it was a coincidence that you choose a Jewish scholar but it was powerful nevertheless.

  47. Hi there again,

    Sorry but I just wanted to make a comment about some of your critics. A number of people, who are clearly Muslim and live in the middle east keep commenting on the hijab/veil, however I dont remember that being mentioned, or being the focus of the essay. Wearing the hijab is one thing, but not being able to leave your home to go to the shop without a male guardian is another thing. And wearing the hijab is one thing but not ever being allowed to share a meal with your husbands father and brothers is another thing.

    Furthermore, interpreting the Quran is very difficult because not many people speak classical Arabic today. My friend from Riyad argues that the words they speak in Jeddah are not even Arabic, the two largest cities in Saudi. People put their trust in the clerics who are meant to be more educated in classic terms and so on. There are constant debates about the interpretation of the Quran, for example;

    Surat 4. verse 34. of the English translation of the Quran states
    …”As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful)…

    People have obviously interpreted this verse in different ways. I once heard an Imam say that to beat lightly is a soft smack on the back. However, I have alse heard stories of men whipping their wives and tying them up during the day so they cannot leave the house.

    Futhermore, how do you interpret ‘ill-conduct’? Is it if she reveals her face to a man? Or if the house is messy when he comes home from work? You can see how things can become blurred, in a world which depends on the Quran for moral guidance.

  48. @Majnoona,

    Welcome to American Bedu blog and all the best for your upcoming marriage.

    The article was posted to the blog for it presents a college student’s perspective of the life of women in Saudi Arabia. I liked posting it for showcasing the views and perceptions which are quite different after one has lived in the Kingdom.

    Regards, American Bedu

  49. I am sure many women are happy in KSA but this is not the point. Many slaves were happy with their lot and didn’t want to be freed as this was all they knew. Every person, male or female, must have free will to make their own decisions, if they choose to obey fathers or husbands despite that freedom then that’s fine but they must be free to make that choice. Your male guardian having complete control over you and relying on his mercy is humiliating and cruel. To be trapped because your guardian won’t allow you to leave the country is shocking. Women have an IQ proved to be slightly higher than men. They are intelligent rational human beings. They can be emotional and so can men, witness the anger and rage of males, such emotion!
    There is absolutely NO justification for treating women as if they are infants. I also think that giving custody automatically to men is vindictive, harsh, unatural and very cruel.

  50. Welcome Val and thanks for sharing your view.

  51. thanx 4 this i got many points for ma assignment

  52. shreya, but not for grammar I suspect.

  53. @Aafke , yes u r ryt,grammatical mistakes r there

  54. Hi,

    Just want to add that Muslims people’s and women around the world would give up anything to live in the Saudi Arabia, because its a holy place and we can live the true islamic culture without prejudice and discrimination. Each year billions of people from around the globe went to Saudi Arabia to do the Haaj. Note that this is a dream of every Muslims and also one among the 5 pilars in Islam (if you have the money to furnish this trip once in a lifetime.)

    So regretable that not in many countries womens are able to coverer from head to toe as prescribed by the holy coran wearing the Abbaya. If you do so in non islamic countries you wont get schools, job, people will stare at you like Aliens…

    Its just that people’s born in the Saudi Arabia are just lucky to be there, because they will reach the door of Jannah after death, ( Paradise ) as said in the Coran as they are following the sacred islamic rules.

    If you follow the the fashion and trend which is not mention in the holy Coran this will be the door to heavy punishments after death.

    But if you are not muslim its useless to understand, as Muslims believe in the day of Judgement.

    Thanks you.

  55. @Farah,

    “….because its a holy place and we can live the true islamic culture without prejudice and discrimination.”

    But Farah you need to read a little more about Saudi. Every type of discrimination exists in the country and it is rampant. Let’s name some areas so you are aware:

    – Religious: Only Muslims are allowed to worship freely
    – Sectarian: Shiiat are mistreated and not allowed to perform their religion the way they choose. All sects of Sunna are dominated and not allowed to teach their message in Saudi except in a limited basis. This includes Maliki, Shaffi, and Hanafi. Only Hanbali with the extreme twist of Wahabbism is allowed.
    – Gender: Women experience the worst prejudice in the world. They are not even given a status without a guardian.
    – Sexual orientation; Officially, gay men are to be executed. Gay women to be jailed and lashed.
    – Racial: Saudis treat outsiders from the West as infidels. If they are from the developing world as inferior. If you are black you will be referred to as Abid (slave). Tribal prejudices are still present. Saudis are even prejudice against each other.

    What is sad is none of these behaviors are viewed as radical, so change has not even begun. You do not have to go to Saudi to experience this, just look at our local Bigot Saud and read what he writes about his Shiiat neighbors. I hope you open your eyes and read more about the issue, I am certain some of the books marketed to you are Wahabbi in nature and are describing Saudi as paradise to you.

  56. majnoona
    Furthermore, interpreting the Quran is very difficult because not many people speak classical Arabic today. My friend from Riyad argues that the words they speak in Jeddah are not even Arabic, the two largest cities in Saudi

    there is a difference between fusha and spoken arabic. anything read in text is/usually the classical, but spoken arabic is what you speak to each other in life. like on the street in stores getting gas ect… and it can be different dialects/accents depending on what arab country and area you are in. like an object spoken in saudi could be referred to as masc, but in a different arab country it could be referred to as fem…i am not an expert, and don’t be shy of what arabic you speak, at least you are trying. maybe someone can explain better than me.

  57. Yes the Arabic is not same as the dialect for any arabian languages. But if you know the history of how the Coran has came to this world you will surely know that.

    (I dont speak any Arabic language but i read arabic as in many countries of the world we dont speak arabic, and there are good transliteration of the Coran.) However if you are not sure of anything you can ask an Imam for better guidance or cosult the Hadith it will surely help you in whatever you think right or wrong.

    @ Moq – If you really want to have an answer to everything you want may be you should study Islamic from the begining to the end and also do not ask questions as this is the basic rules, to have a better idea.

  58. farah
    i agree with moq on saudi being just as discriminating…have you ever lived there more than one year? that’s plenty of time to feel it. but you would have to understand arabic to really get the full effect.
    moq studied arabic it is very apparent in his writing..and why not ask questions? are you going to read until you find the answer? time must be on your side…peace.

  59. Clerics encourage men to beat their wives to keep them in line with what the husbands want ,,,

    Really? do clerics say to men beat ur wife?

    do you know that the rate of women abuse in ur evil country is much higher ?

    Iv read most of ur articls , and I tell u that ur knowledge about saudi arabia is poor .

  60. I went to saudi arabia twice for work. I did not interact with saudi women (ofcourse its difficult since mingling/mixing between genders is prohibited). however i worked with 2 saudi men and got to discuss why women are not allowed to drive.

    As per islam, women are not allowed to travel alone, moral being some kind of physical protection for women. a woman has to have (MOHRAM: relative male companian) when she travels, moreover, a woman can not reside privately with a stranger male. having said that, if a woman is allowed to have a driving license, it will jeopardize the 2 rules in islam mentioned above. so apparently, if a woman is driving on her own and a police officer for example stops her for speeding, or has to arrest her for some reason, that would break the second rule. also if shes travelling long distances alone, this would break the first rule. It does make sense i mean, at the time of prophet mohammed PBUH, there were no cars! there was camels and horses. women at the time were allowed to ride those and travel, but with companianship of a relative. now translate those facts into modern days, a woman should be able to drive, but she always has to have some (brother, dad, uncle) sitting next to her! but whats the point?

  61. about beating women… i would like to clarify:

    a woman must accept/obey her husband’s wishes as long as they do not contradict with islamic rulings. a man is encouraged to give his wife the best life and treatement he affords, do not picture husband/wife relation as rules and conformation, its alot more complicated, but in the case of disagreement, a man decides on conflicts. now , it should be stressed here that if a woman refuses to follow her husbands decisions he should start with convincing her with logic several times. if this doesnt work, he should stop sleeping with her on the same bed/place (as an expression of dissatisfaction). if she still refuses to obey he is allowed to hit her, now he cannot just hit her anyway he likes, there are rules for that (no scratching, no leaving marks, no hitting on face … etc).

    please dont get all judgmental about this, and start saying (ooh thats too kind, no scratching … etc). I want you all to know that it is a matter of prespective, if you take islam as a whole, and a lifestyle, study the shari’aa carefully. you will see how it is PERFECTLY designed for a peaceful and balanced life. I get really irretated by people who judge by certain existing aspects in certain countries and judges according to them. you MUST realise that middle east is a mess and presents so little about what islam truely is.

  62. As a Muslim woman if my husband were ever to hit me I would defend myself. I absolutely do not accept his right to hit me (with no scratches etc, etc). In fact, many interpret the most obvious meaning of that verse as not to hit but to “strike out on another path” and that is what makes more sense. First of all the wife has to have done something truly awful for things to reach this stage- and if she does, and is not sorry, he can ultimately leave her because they are uncompatible- not hit her.

    To suggest in any way that hitting makes sense is wrong. What is the purpose if not to hurt the women? Just to humiliate her? Humiliation does not make for a happy marriage.

    So to all you outside Islam who realilze that hitting a woman is wrong- please keep speaking up. Stay as judgemental as you like. These poor women who get to live this entire “lifestyle” often don’t have many options.

  63. @Farrah, I just read your comment and NEED to respond even though you will likely never be back to see it. I have like 10 million problems with what you wrote.

    “Just want to add that Muslims people’s and women around the world would give up anything to live in the Saudi Arabia, because its a holy place and we can live the true islamic culture without prejudice and discrimination.” MoQ is absolutely right in KSA’s incredible discrimination practices. Racism runs rampant, women are perpetual children, and their “culture” only exacerbates all of it. Believe me, there may be some, but “Muslims people’s” are not flocking to Saudi Arabia… they are flocking to places like the U.S. And may god be with the woman who decides to go there.

    “So regretable that not in many countries womens are able to coverer from head to toe as prescribed by the holy coran wearing the Abbaya. If you do so in non islamic countries you wont get schools, job, people will stare at you like Aliens…” – for the record I cover… and I have a job…. And I went to school…. and I live in a non-Islamic country. Some people stare but it’s nothing a warm smile doesn’t fix. Where are you getting these ideas?

    “Its just that people’s born in the Saudi Arabia are just lucky to be there, because they will reach the door of Jannah after death, ( Paradise ) as said in the Coran as they are following the sacred islamic rules” – I choked on my Diet Coke and almost sprayed it on my husband when I read this. You can’t be so naive and ridiculous to think that Saudis get a free pass to Jannah because they happen to have been born there. You think just because they live in Saudi Arabia, they are pious or even religious?! While some of them are, Saudis are like any other people in the world in that they are not all alike. They DO NOT get a get out of jail free card because of their nationality…. sorry to say it but that’s a ridiculous statement to make.

    “But if you are not muslim its useless to understand, as Muslims believe in the day of Judgement.” Seriously you should do a little cross religious studying before making statements which are not only false but destroy your credibility because of how ignorant they are. We Muslims share the belief in judgment day with Christians and Jews.

    Phew. Now, please before you comment in the future, do not make assumptive sweeping and generalized statements for all Muslims because really you can only speak for yourself. Muslims like me get annoyed with this behavior. Also, I would suggest getting to know a little bit about other religions so you can identify the commonalities before assuming you don’t share any beliefs with them.

  64. Hi all. Thank u for a very interesting blog. I have fallen in love with a bussines man for Saudi, he loves me to. What advice can u give me im from the other SA – South Africa. He is very liberal as he grew up and studied in the States. What are my chances of being accepted by the other woman.

  65. Tulip,
    It depends a lot on the women themselves. The best advice I can give you is to find someone who is very familiar with the Arab culture in general, and also with South African culture so that way they can help explain the differences to you. If you can find someone in a similar situation to you, it really helps. There are a lot of things that are done differently that are culture related, and some of the things that my Saudi ex did are just now starting to make sense as I become more familiar with the culture.

    And it’s not just Saudi Arabia; other countries in the region have a similar culture. The main thing is whether or not the guy is serious about you and will stand up to his family and tell them that you are the woman he wants to marry. If he does this, then the family will (typically) be at least be polite and friendly on the surface. Anything other than that just depends on the individual situation. Based on my limited understanding, if he introduces you to his family, that is about the same as telling them that you are the woman he wants to marry. He may not tell you this ahead of time. However, it also depends on whether he and his family identifies more strongly with Saudi culture or American culture. That will make a difference, too.

    Where are his family from? Where do they live? What are they like? What expectations do they have for him in terms of the woman they expect him to marry? These are all things that may give you an idea, but the best source to find this out will be your boyfriend and actually meeting his family when the time is right.

    If you have any questions, then feel free to contact me at livingcuriosity@gmail.com, although I can only give you info based on my experience as an American who dated a Saudi, and has since become highly interested in Arab culture.

  66. Hi StrangeOne. Thank you for the advice. I spoke to a very good family friend who is an Imam and his advice is much the same as yours. My boyfriend and I are both in our late 40’s. His mom is American and she has accepted me as a daughter, his 2 daughters think Im the best. His dad passed away 3 years ago. So it seems that I must just do my part and reach out with love and understanding.

  67. I wish you all the best Tulip.

  68. Thank you, much appreciated. He read the blog – laughed, and said, “you girls love chatting and supporting each other”.

  69. Tulip,
    I am always glad to help if I can. I just hope that I am giving relevant, informed advice, which I really try to do! Your boyfriend sounds really sweet! I wish you two the best in life and in your relationship!

  70. Oh StrangeOne. . .hahaha. He is a darling, so caring and understanding with a naughty sense of humour. I’ll keep u updated and thanks I’m sure I’ll be knocking on ur door for advice. Have a great one.

  71. @ Farah,

    Assalamu’alaikum,

    Farah, I don’t know how old you are, so if you are very young, which I think are, then please don’t get too upset by my comments, but do please reflect upon them because you have some intellectual maturing to do.

    First, alhumdulillah I’m a devout Muslim woman, but a million dollars and a crow bar couldn’t wedge me into living in Saudi. I hope to go to hajj soon and wanted to this year, yes, but to stay any longer? Lord, no. I live in Jordan now but previously lived in the US, and alhumdulillah I freely lived a true Islamic lifestyle, covering in full hijab with abaya, teaching at an Islamic school, going to Friday prayers, avoiding alcohol and pork, being active in a Muslim community, and I never once experienced open prejudice or discrimination (it’s rampant on the internet, but not in real life. And my friends and students who had true faith had no problems living like Muslim women. So I really don’t know where you got your incorrect ‘information’ from.

    “So regretable that not in many countries womens are able to coverer from head to toe as prescribed by the holy coran wearing the Abbaya. If you do so in non islamic countries you wont get schools, job, people will stare at you like Aliens…”

    No one ever stared at me in my hijab and abaya and I had a job with many other job offers (in non-Muslim organizations) even during the economic crisis. Sometimes people would ask me about my clothing and be interested in it, alhumduillah, but no one ever stared at me or treated me like I was an alien. Actually, the people who most openly discriminated against it were other Muslims who lived off the fear they’d been taught about what other people *might* think.

    “Its just that people’s born in the Saudi Arabia are just lucky to be there, because they will reach the door of Jannah after death, ( Paradise ) as said in the Coran as they are following the sacred islamic rules.”

    Um, and Muslims elsewhere can’t?????? Are you seriously saying that all Muslims in KSA are devout and perfect? This is ridiculous — just not based on reality.

    “If you follow the the fashion and trend which is not mention in the holy Coran this will be the door to heavy punishments after death.”

    Only Allah swt knows so don’t act like you do.

    “But if you are not muslim its useless to understand, as Muslims believe in the day of Judgement.”

    And so do many other religions including Christianity and Judaism so please do some research on people other than yourself so that you won’t sound as ignorant as the people who make incorrect statements about Islam and Muslims.

    That said, I think the paper posted here is almost just as irritating as Farah’s comments. It’s obviously written by a Western male who doesn’t know what he’s talking about and just re-posted other people’s biased statements. makes me embarrassed of the American educational system I studied and worked in for so long.

  72. @Ahmad

    Assalamu’alaikum,

    Brother, your comments got my blood boiling for their pure lack of logic. Let’s consider how they don’t make sense:

    >>I went to saudi arabia twice for work. I did not interact with saudi women (ofcourse its difficult since mingling/mixing between genders is prohibited). however i worked with 2 saudi men and got to discuss why women are not allowed to drive.

    Well, I’m glad you openly admit that you have no idea how this situation might feel like for women, but are only defending it from a male’s, only slightly educated (on this topic), point-of-view.

    >> As per islam, women are not allowed to travel alone, moral being some kind of physical protection for women.

    Women ARE allowed to travel alone locally. it’s only on longer travels that women are supposed to have companions, and many shuyukh say that with airplane travel (we aren’t going through the desert on camels any more risking the inevitable bandit raid), mahrams are not required, but of course still ideal.

    >>Moreover, a woman can not reside privately with a stranger male.

    What does this have to do with not driving?? The only connection I can make is that women who have drivers have to be in the car, often alone, with a stranger male. So their laws are forcing women to do what they aren’t supposed to do. Is that what you’re trying to say? I’m an American Muslim women and I won’t even sit in a car alone with a strange male, although here in Jordan I’m forced to on occasions with taxis. So in this vein, I could better practice modesty in religion in America.

    >> having said that, if a woman is allowed to have a driving license, it will jeopardize the 2 rules in islam mentioned above.

    As I just explained, it actually forces her to break your second “rule.” And the first rule is not an Islamic rule to begin with. So no point here.

    >> so apparently, if a woman is driving on her own and a police officer for example stops her for speeding, or has to arrest her for some reason, that would break the second rule.

    So she can sit in a car for exxtended period of time with a non-Mahram male, but she can’t speak with one on a public street with a door separating them? Islamically we are allowed to communicate with non-Mahram men so long as someone else is around (as in a public street). As for being arrested, doesn’t Saudi arrest women for other violations? How do they handle that? Why is there a difference if the woman was driving while intoxicated vs. going out in public intoxicated an dmaking a scene? Illogical ‘logic’ here.

    >> also if shes travelling long distances alone, this would break the first rule. It does make sense i mean, at the time of prophet mohammed PBUH, there were no cars! there was camels and horses. women at the time were allowed to ride those and travel, but with companianship of a relative.

    And sometimes with non-Mahram men who stayed outside their chamber while the women stayed inside. But chauffeurs are different — they’re in the car with the women. And if they can’t drive long distances alone, how does this preclude driving alone locally? Two different points here.

    >> now translate those facts into modern days, a woman should be able to drive, but she always has to have some (brother, dad, uncle) sitting next to her! but whats the point?

    NOT TO GO TO THE CORNER GROCERY STORE! Is she allowed to go to the mall without them? Is she allowed to sit in the back seat without them? Then why can’t she sit in the front left seat, behind the wheel, without them?

    This is the stuff that just enrages Muslim women like me who are sick of hearing illogical men who act like they know everything about how we should live our lives when they can’t even make a sound argument! Everything you just posted makes no sense at all. It’s based upon their emotions and personal desires, and cultural tradition — not on Islam nor on logic.

    >> now , it should be stressed here that if a woman refuses to follow her husbands decisions he should start with convincing her with logic several times.

    Wait, are you talking about the men who actually do have logic, or those who form arguments like your cronies at work?

    >> if this doesnt work, he should stop sleeping with her on the same bed/place (as an expression of dissatisfaction). if she still refuses to obey he is allowed to hit her, now he cannot just hit her anyway he likes, there are rules for that (no scratching, no leaving marks, no hitting on face … etc).

    1) don’t forget, Islamically, she’s also allowed to get a divorce based on incompatibility alone. If my husband event hought to lay a hand on me he’d be divorcced before he knew what happened, and if I were in a situation where culturally I couldn’t get a divorce, he’s better not sleep for a loooooong time because he’ll have something coming to him.

    2) Like another posted noted — so the point is to humiliate her? Repeatedly we’re taught that the Islamic way is /not/ to humiliate people but rather to bring out their inner nobility that Allah gave to men AND women.

    3) Other interpretations abound. One that ‘strike’ here can have many other meanings (and these other meanings are also used in the Qur’an for the same word), such as ‘strike out on foot’ or even have physical relations for her since darb can also be used for intercourse. From a woman’s point-of-view, this makes much sense, as my husband could have succcess when he’s romantics and tries to woo me over, but to hit me would be an end game for the marriage. Wise men understand that this last definition is much closer to a woman’s real make-up, and it’s the only interpretation which doesn’t contradict ahadith (such as ‘don’t hit the handmaidens of Allah’).

    >> please dont get all judgmental about this, and start saying (ooh thats too kind, no scratching … etc).

    It’s too kind? What kind of person are you??

    >> I want you all to know that it is a matter of prespective, if you take islam as a whole, and a lifestyle, study the shari’aa carefully. you will see how it is PERFECTLY designed for a peaceful and balanced life.

    alhumdulillah complete agree here… when culture is taken out of the equation and Shari’ah is looked at for what we were acctually taught — not what we WANT it to be.

    >> I get really irretated by people who judge by certain existing aspects in certain countries and judges according to them. you MUST realise that middle east is a mess and presents so little about what islam truely is.

    Like your comments just showed — an illogical mess.

    I get your intention here brother, and it’s a good intention, but please rethink your arguments and ‘evidence’ in the future.

    Wa salaam

  73. Thank you for this. Very informative. I live in the United States and as a female concerned for suppressed people anywhere (man or woman) of course, I became bewildered as to why women in Saudi Arabia are denied basic rights. I read so much anti-Islamic stuff it makes me sick in my heart. Then I read justifications for the treatment of women where you live (all written by men, of course) I love reading about The Prophet (SAW) and considered converting until I began to realize that maybe women really were beaten, denied the vote, etc. I just don’t see how this benefits men (let alone women) Why do you believe the suppression of women began in the first place? Good luck to you in your endeavors. I will pray for you. God bless you.

  74. In the end a women s lifestyle is always up to her

  75. actually non muslims particularly the americans are trying to destroy the islamic way of life. A large part of USA government economy is made of the money of obtained from crime. USA is porn loving country. They want the islamic country to be porn loving country. Islamic law put woman at high rank.

  76. Mohd, then explain why women have no freedoms and very few rights in Islamic countries, why they are treated so badly?

    And I hate to destroy your fairy-tale view of the world, but statistics show that most internet searches for porn, and especially gay- and deviant porn, come from the middle east and Pakistan.

  77. mohd, perhaps you should look east, not west, when it comes to porn, sex crimes, and living on money made on crime. Thailand is tops in sexual deviancy and Russia and Japanese mafias have taken over. Actually, no one country has the market on crime; humans behave badly everywhere!

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