The romance of Valentine in Saudi Arabia

Valentines day, the day dedicated to the celebration of love, is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, even for married couples. In Saudi Arabia any kind of interaction between people of opposite sex are forbidden, even just talking. Any public display of affection is taboo.

valentine-haya1

Religious police ”Anti Valentine patrols” roam the malls and shops, they confiscate any red or heart shaped items days before the infidel ‘V-day”.
All this makes Valentines day especially romantic in Saudi. Imagine the dangers, trials and tribulations, not to mention he enormous costs your loved one has gone through to get you that contraband red rose, and heart shaped box of chocolates!

valentine

From AFP Friday 14 2014

Red roses lurk hidden in flower shop back rooms and heart-shaped chocolates are sold under the counter, but Saudis still manage to buy Valentine’s gifts and defy the religious police.

Florist Hussein came up with a simple solution to a ban on red tokens of love: he filled his window with white roses, orange irises and violet hydrangeas.
“I’ve hidden everything red in the shop, so when a religious police patrol comes along, they find nothing to complain about,” he said.
Hussein’s shop window may be blooming with white, orange and violet, but he still has the real thing — red roses — out the back.
“I’ve sold at least 350 red roses at 20 riyals ($5, 3.90 euros) a pop. Many women call us on the phone to order roses, because they fear the religious police.”

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Kumar, another florist, was persuaded by a Muttawa visit not even to consider flouting the Valentine’s Day ban. However: “We’re going to sell these to a chocolate shop,” he said, pointing to bouquets of red flowers in a back room of his store.

Confectioners do have chocolate hearts for discreet sale, but only to the right people. “Of course we have them, but the religious police came by and warned us against selling them,” said one chocolate shop owner who asked not to be identified. “We hid them because we don’t want any problems,” he added, smiling, indicating that an illicit transaction involving the chocolate contraband would be more than acceptable.

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This year in Jeddah, a city more open and relaxed than most of the rest of Saudi Arabia, some florists have been openly selling red roses, and are unafraid to give their names.
“The religious police didn’t come. We’re doing nothing wrong anyway,” said Abu Zakaria, who runs a flower shop in the north of the city.

Another man, Thamer Hussein, said some people with romantic yearnings marked the Valentine’s festival a day in advance, to ensure the experience was hassle-free. “Some young people celebrated St Valentine’s Day on Wednesday evening, with small parties and exchanges of gifts,” he said.

Read more:

 Ahram online

To veil or to die, that’s the question

niqab-4

Yesterday a student at the women only campus of a Riyad university collapsed and died of a heart attack. Allegedly the male paramedics had to wait for an hour before they were admitted due to ”modesty concerns”

The student, now identified as Amna Bawazir was known to suffer from heart problems.

Okaz newspaper said administrators at the King Saud University impeded efforts by the paramedics to save the student’s life because of rules banning men from being onsite. According to the paper, the incident took place on Wednesday and the university staff took an hour before allowing the paramedics in.

king saud university

However, the university’s rector, Badran al-Omar, denied the report, saying there was no hesitation in letting the paramedics in. He said the university did all it could to save the life of Amna.

Professors at King Saud University are demanding an investigation. “We need management who can make quick decisions without thinking of what the family will say or what culture will say,” said Professor Aziza Youssef.
One staff member, who witnessed the situation, said paramedics were not called immediately. She said they were also not given immediate permission to enter the campus and that it appeared that the female dean of the university and the female dean of the college of social studies panicked. The staff member spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from university management.

Al-Omar said the staff called campus health officials within minutes of Amna Bawazeer collapsing and that about 25 minutes later they called paramedics.

The students insisted that the officials who refused to allow the medical team into the college on the pretext they were men should be held accountable for the incident.
”Islam is a religion that facilitates practices, and the religious rule, in exceptional situations, are relaxed,” some of the students told the daily. “We do not see any necessity that is more pressing than rescuing the life of a human being from imminent death.”

Amna Bawazir’s death sparked a debate on Twitter by Saudis who created a hashtag to talk about the incident.  Thousands of Saudis vented their anger online. In the debate, many Saudis said the kingdom’s strictly enforced rules governing the segregation of the sexes were to blame for the delay in helping Amna Bawazeer.

In 2002, a fire broke out at a girl’s school in Mecca, killing at least 15
girls. The religious police would not allow the girls to escape, actually chased them back into the burning school, because they were not wearing headscarves or abayas.

Petition: Save my life, then my Modesty
Read more:

Al Arabiya

ABC news

Gulf News

No Woman No Drive

Bad luck for three women who have won the weekly raffle draw of two luxury cars, the prime attraction at the popular “Hayya Jeddah Shopping Festival.”

They may have won the cars, but being women they are not allowed to drive them!

There are six more cars to be won, now if they would only include a foreign driver with those cars won by women…

Read more:

Maktoob News

Suspension of text messages when women leave Saudi Arabia

The automatic text message service where a text message is send to a man to inform him that one of his ”dependants” is leaving the country is being suspended for the time being. Pending adjustment. So it’s not going away, but adjusted. Maybe they will be going back to men having to sign up for this service instead of all men being warned automatically.

saudi woman

In Saudi Arabia women and children are considered dependants. So if a woman or children, or household personnel, is at the airport in order to leave the country, the husband/father/employer gets a text message that ”dependants are leaving the country”. Now any man would be aware anyway that his ”dependants” are leaving the country because women and children also need a ”yellow paper”, a form signed by the husband/father/son/grandson/any related male, confirming that he allows them to leave the country.

Sometimes the form is not enough, especially if it is a Western woman with children, and the man has to go to the airport to give his consent personally on the spot. Even a very old woman needs male permission, if necessary from a young grandson.

So now the text service, which was made an automatic one in 2012, is suspended. “The system has been suspended due to some observations and it will undergo amendment,” said Lt. Col. Ahmad Al-Laheedan, spokesperson of the Passports Department in comments published on Monday. He indicated that the system could be reintroduced, adding new options.

Many women rejoice of course. And there are a lot of Saudi men who do not like the system either. But most interesting is the reactions on twitter, blogs and in the comments on Arab News. Read the comments in the link provided below!

Reactions are very diverse:

  • Sabria S. Jawhar  ”The notification process should have never been introduced in the first place because it is humiliating for women. It is demeaning to women and restricts their freedom.”
  • ”Without such a system, a woman or a child would be free to come and go and travel abroad without her or his family knowing about it. If such is the case, we will find many of our women and children going abroad without our knowledge.
  • Salwa, another blogger, said that since the aim of the notification system is to provide a good service for families, men should also be included to augment the advantages. “I am sure that many problems would be solved if women were aware of their husbands’ cross-border movements as well,” Salwa said. “In fact, women would benefit from the system much more than men. So please include men and alert their wives about their international departures and arrivals,” she said.
  • ”What is the big issue? As a muslim women we shouldnt be travelling without a mahram anyway except for necessity and if your guardian has already given you permission then whats the big deal that he gets a text
    message?”

What do you think?

read more:

Arab News

Ramadan Kareem

Tomorrow will be the start of the month of Ramadan. The holy month is a good occasion for Muslims to remember the less fortunate and help with their generosity. It is also a time for spiritual reflection.

We wish all Muslims peace and joy during the sacred month.

 

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Ramadan and the lunar calendar

moon_phases_diagram

This year the Ramadan starts on the 9th of July. The month of Ramadan is a month of partial fasting and extra prayers. Muslims fast from dawn till dusk, and that includes not drinking. As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the months migrate through the seasons, moving forward every year by 11 to 12 days. A Lunar calendar is based on the cycle of the lunar phase. Twelve lunar months make up 354,37 days.

Ramadan dates can vary in different countries depending on whether one goes with the calculated time of the new moon, or the actual sighting of the new moon. All countries on the planet will see the new moon within a 24 hour period, starting from the first sighting in the east

The lunar calendar with twelve months, the Hijri Qamari, is the official calendar in Saudi Arabia. Other lunar calendars may include the addition of extra months to synchronise them to the solar calendar and make them better linked to the seasons, and are in fact ”lunarsolar” calendars. Most calendars used in antiquity had some adjustment to bring it in synchronisation with the solar year.

In the hijri lunar calendar it takes about 33 years and five days for the month of Ramadan to migrate through the solar year and end up where it started.

Muslims believe that Ramadan is the month when the Quran was revealed. We know it moves up 11 to 12 days every year, and that it takes 33 years and five days to make the cycle through the solar year, so we could calculate when exactly the Quran was revealed on the Gregorian calendar.
Anybody like to try? Please share the result!

AA

Read more:

The lunisolar calendar

The lunar calendar

‘Saudi Arabian liberals’ website founder detained since one year

Raif Badawi

Raif Badawi

Amnesty International urged the Saudi Arabian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally a website founder who is still detained and on trial one year after his arrest for expressing his views online.

After founding “Saudi Arabian Liberals” – an online forum for political and social debate – Raif Badawi, 29, was charged last June with “setting up a website that undermines public security” and ridiculing Islamic religious figures. The prosecution had on the basis of this called for him to be tried for “apostasy”, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.
He has been detained for the past year in a prison in Briman, in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah, after being arrested on 17 June 2012.

“One year on, Raif Badawi remains behind bars as his trial continues for the ‘crime’ of encouraging social debate online,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“His detention shows the authorities’ contempt for online expression, and serves as a warning to the third of the Saudi Arabian population who are resorting to social media to express themselves, particularly if they are thinking of airing dissenting views.”

The charges against Raif Badawi relate to a number of articles he has written, including one about Valentine’s Day for which he is accused of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s Commission on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

One of his articles concluded:
“Congratulations to us for the Commission on the Promotion of Virtue for teaching us virtue and for its eagerness to ensure that all members of the Saudi public are among the people of paradise.”

The charges against the website founder also mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website, including one that insinuates that Al-Imam Mohamed ibn Saud University had become “a den for terrorists”.

“Amnesty International considers Raif Badawi to be a prisoner of conscience and therefore calls for him to be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther.

His trial began in June 2012 in the District Court in Jeddah, and was marred by irregularities there. According to his lawyer, the original trial judge was replaced by a judge who had advocated that Raif Badawi be punished for “apostasy”. His lawyer contested the judge’s impartiality in the case.

On 17 December, the District Court referred the case to the General Court in Jeddah, which five days later made Raif Badawi sign documents to enable his trial for “apostasy” to proceed.
Conflicting views over which court had jurisdiction over the case, relating in part to the judge at the District Court insisting that he be tried for “apostasy” – something only the General Court can do – resulted in the case being shuffled between several courts. Most recently on 8 June the District Court sent the case back to the appeal court once again insisting that he be tried for “apostasy” despite the appeal court not considering that he be tried on that charge.

“Raif Badawi’s trial has been an attempt to intimidate him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives,” said Philip Luther.
Over the past two years, the Saudi Arabian authorities have arrested several others for expressing online views deemed to be contrary to Islam.
Hamza Kashgari remains detained without charge or trial since he was extradited from Malaysia in February 2012, where he had fled after he wrote about the Prophet Muhammed on the social network Twitter.
The prominent writer and academic Turki al-Hamad was reportedly released without charge on 5 June after he was detained in December 2012 for tweets also deemed contrary to Islam.

Bloggers, critics and activists have been increasingly singled out for their online activism in the Gulf kingdom.

On 9 March 2013, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) was required to shut down its social media accounts and disband. Two of ACPRA’s founders, Mohammad al-Qahtani and Dr Abdullah al-Hamid, were sentenced to 10 and 11 years’ imprisonment respectively. They submitted appeals against their sentences on 28 May.

From: Amnesty International

Saudi women jailed for helping a Canadian woman

saudi woman jail

Fawzia al-Ayuni and Wajiha al-Huwaider, the well known Saudi women activist, have been sentenced to 10 months in jail and banned from leaving the country for two years.

They have a month to appeal against the judgment.
The two women were convicted of the Islamic sharia law offence of takhbib*, or incitement of a wife to defy the authority of her husband. They had been briefly detained by police a year and a half ago in the company of the Canadian woman who at the time wanted to flee the kingdom with her children, although they were only taking the woman to go shopping for food because her husband had left her in the apartment without enough provisions.

When they left the apartment the women were taken into custody.

Regional rights group the Gulf Forum for Civil Societies expressed “deep concern” over the jail sentences handed down against two women, who had “defended a humanitarian right”.

Wajeha Al Huwaider

Wajeha Al Huwaider

.

*) Takhbib:  In Shari`ah, ”takhbib” means to estrange a wife from her husband in order to marry her. The Prophet disowned those committing such a sin saying, “He is not one of us who estranges a wife from her husband or the wife of his slave in order to marry her” (Reported by Abu Dawud).

AA

Saudi Arabia and witchcraft

magic

 

In the western world the belief in witchcraft and black and white magic is usually considered an anachronistic superstition of the dark ages. But in Saudi Arabia the belief in witchcraft and magic is not only fully alive but every year people are executed on the charge of witchcraft. It is usually foreigners or illiterate poor people who are accused and executed for witchcraft, but just as in the dark ages of Europe, those who (claim to) be able to practice magic but perform for the rich and powerful are left in peace . Practises like fortune telling and astrology are considered un-Islamic.

For witchcraft being proven, and a persons life to be forfeit, such items as glass bottles with fluids, charms, and owning a book about witchcraft are enough. Other evidence arrayed against witchcraft suspects typically revolves around statements from accusers and suspicious personal belongings that suggest the supernatural, in a country where superstition is still widespread.

In Saudi Arabia in modern times real witch hunts still happen. The religious police have an Anti witchcraft unit and sorcery hotline.  There is no legal definition for ”witchcraft”  or which body of evidence would prove it.

The judges in Saudi Arabia have a lot of leeway in interpreting sharia and there are no codified laws.

Amnesty international claims these judges use witchcraft charges to arbitrarily “punish people, generally after unfair trials, for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion.”

There’s evidence that the cases may involve coerced confessions and miscarriages of justice as well. Human Rights Watch chronicles the plight of an illiterate Saudi woman named Fawza Falih who was beaten, forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read, tried without a lawyer, and sentenced to death for “witchcraft, recourse to jinn, and slaughter” of animals after a man accused Falih of rendering him impotent and authorities found a “foul-smelling substance,” a white robe with money inside it, and another robe hanging from a tree in or near her home.

A Lebanese  television personality on a religious pilgrimage to Medina, for making psychic predictions on a Lebanon-based satellite channel. Sabat was arrested by the Saudi religious police after they recognized him from television and pressured him to confess to violating Islam if he hoped to return to Lebanon. His confession landed him a beheading instead.
The only evidence presented in court was reportedly the claim he appeared regularly on Lebanese satellite issuing general advice on life and making predictions about the future.
After intense international pressure the Saudi Supreme Court eventually freed Sabat after ruling that his actions hadn’t harmed anyone.

Especially foreign maids are considered to practice sorcery. From the Saudi Gazette:
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Hai’a) has said it has broken a spell that a housemaid in Taif put on the five daughters of the elderly man she was employed to look after.
Muhammad Fari’, head of the Hai’a’s Shihar District branch in Taif, said the maid cast a spell on the women, who live with their husbands and children in other parts of the country, to stop them visiting and increasing her workload.
“They would visit with husbands and children during the holidays and it would appear that their numerous demands during those visits led to her putting the spell on them to stop them visiting their father,” Fari’ said. “The Hai’a in Shihar stepped in to break the spell and return affairs to their normal course.”
Fari’ said that foreigners, and particularly women, were responsible for acts of magic in Saudi Arabia.
“These practices are foreign to the Saudi society,” he said.

 

AA

 

Saudi Arabia: Interview with Romance Novelist, Kat Canfield

It is a pleasure for American Bedu to interview one of the followers of the American Bedu blog.  With this interview, readers learn more about Kat Canfield and why she has an interest in Saudi Arabia!

kat canfield

 

Firstly Kat, thank you, for the opportunity to interview you and share about yourself and your background with readers.

I am honored to have you interview me.

Let’s start with some details about you!  Where are you originally from?  Where do you live now?  How long have you been following the American Bedu blog?

I grew up in Ohio, in Amish country. I moved to Florida after we had a blizzard and the temperature on the thermometer was -32 degrees F! For me, even hurricanes were better than that and I lived through several of them.

I lived in Florida for 25 years before moving to Tennessee with my husband.

I found American Bedu while researching for my book. It has been helpful to learn and understand a very different culture.

Please share your background with readers.  How did you end up in law enforcement as your first career?  At what age or what point in your life did you know you wanted to be a police officer?

Law Enforcement found me I think. I had many people who thought I would be good in that field and encouraged me from high school on but I didn’t listen. I worked in Agriculture in Ohio and several businesses when I moved to Fl. Nothing fulfilled me or was I good at. Finally, I decided to prove everyone wrong that I didn’t have what it takes to be a police officer. Well, I proved to myself I really was!! I was thirty one years old and could beat the barely twenties in physical activities, the shooting range, martial arts, etc. I gained respect from my instructors when I could ‘fall down and give me 100’ (yes, pushups, the full military ones). Sorry, I have to brag on that, as several of the male instructors did not think women should be involved in police work, as it took a man. One of those instructors took me aside just before graduation and told me I had changed his mind about women in police work. It was then I realized I could be a role model for other women which is another reason I want to tell your readers about it. I think the American Bedu Blog helps empower the women in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world who are oppressed. I am all for helping women find their value in the world.

I must also relate this as it has to do with empowering women. I was married briefly in Ohio. I was a battered wife. I got the courage to leave in a time when it was socially unacceptable to do so. Thank God, the laws have change greatly in this area. As a police officer I could help abused women and children get help.

What were some of your most memorable moments when you were on the force?

I have so many memorable moments!! First I must say, read the book as several of them are in there, just the names, and some circumstances are changed to protect identities.

But my most favorite moment is this. I worked as a mounted police officer for eight of my years in police work. Horses are still my first love. One day I was working in the park when a woman and child approached me. The woman asked if her little boy, about seven, could pet the horse. This was a normal thing that happened in the course of the day. The boy was petting the horse and talking to it. I was trying to understand what he was saying to the horse so I asked his mother what he was saying. She was crying! Now I was worried. I asked her what was wrong. She told me her son was autistic and had never spoke a word to anyone before that moment. Now I was crying. The horse had opened up a door for that child. The police horse did that in a lot of instances and is a tool more police departments should utilize.

Did you ever encounter any Saudis while you were an active law enforcement officer?  If so, please share as you are able.

I met many people from everywhere when I lived in Florida. I met Arabs from everywhere in the Middle East. I found them pleasurable and respectful. I probably met more Pakistanis than Saudi. Because all that I knew where very nice people I found it hard to believe so many of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. I did not want to believe it. We have to remember that a few bad apples does not mean the whole bunch is bad.

You are also a multi-faceted individual.  At what age did you begin to have an interest in writing?

I started writing when I was a child. In high school and college I wrote for the school newspapers and was editor my senior year. I wrote feature articles for the local newspaper and authored many short stories. I just never thought it was that good so didn’t pursue it. However, as a police officer, I had to write, lots and lots or reports. Some of those were short but on more difficult cases they were very long and detailed. I think I improved my skills by writing all those reports! Plus, it gave me experience that found its way into my novels.

What gave you the idea to write a novel about Saudi Arabia?

Well, if you believe in the Ginn or spirits of the desert, it could be said one of them spoke to me. I tried several ideas but this one just felt right so I went with it.

When did you start to have an interest in Saudi Arabia and why?

The book, Arabian Nights. I love that book. I also love Arabian horses, I have owned and ridden them. And then there is Lawrence of Arabia. The country just has a natural romance to it. Every book I have ever read that had something about Saudi Arabia in it is fascinating. If you want to write a romance novel, why not have a character that is from Arabia?

Have you ever traveled to Saudi Arabia and/or personally know some Saudis?  How did you obtain your material about Saudi Arabia for your book?

I have traveled there only in pictures and via the internet. I want to go there very much. I did a lot of research on the country and customs through the internet. I found yours and other blogs about the country that gave me ideas. You actually helped me find books about Saudis that I read like Princess, A True Story of Life Behind the Veil, by Jean Sasson and Ted Dekkers book, Blink of an Eye.

only love twice bookcover

Can you give American Bedu’s a brief synopsis about your first novel, ‘Only Love Twice?’

It is my fantasy. A story of fifty plus year olds. It is Cinderella and her Prince Charming. In this one Prince Charming is a Saudi and Cinderella is American. And if that isn’t enough to keep them apart, he is Muslim and she is a Messianic Jew. I like to use a line from Michael Crichton’s book Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way” to describe it. In this story, Love finds a way.

Did you find it easy or difficult to write a romance novel featuring an American and a Saudi?

I wrote from the heart. (That Ginn again) The man is Saudi but raised in the western world so is not as ‘Muslim’ as the Muslims would like. I took what I learned about Saudi culture to compare the two cultures. I wanted more than just a romance, I wanted to show everyone that two cultures could learn to get along together despite the differences and even learn to love.

What has been the reaction of Saudi’s to your book, ‘Only Love Twice,’ which features a romance between an American Jewish woman and a Saudi man?

I really would like feedback from Saudi readers about the book. I have not to date had any reviews from them. My friends and family that have read it really liked it and asked how I got the idea and how I got the knowledge of the different culture.

How can American Bedu readers obtain their own copy of ‘Only Love Twice?’

The book is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and my website, http://www.katcanfield.com.

American Bedu has had the honor of reading ‘Only Love Twice’ and was captivated.  However, I must ask you, is it simply a coincidence that the featured female character resembles you?  After all, she is also a retired police officer and fond of horses.

Great question! It is my fantasy after all. But really, I just found it easier to use some of my experiences to give Madison a personality. Also, many of my friends have asked me to write about my experiences as a police officer. So this was a way to include those stories and weave them as threads in the story. And who is the personality of Saleem? He is the best of every man I know.

Do you have another book in the works about Saudi Arabia?  If so, what can you share?

I am writing a sequel. In it they travel to England and Saudi Arabia. In it there will be more of the differences of cultures and discussions about child brides, arranged marriages, and letting Saudi women drive. I borrowed the visual of one of Susie’s abayas, (Blue Abaya Blog) the one with the hand painted peacock feather on it for several scenes where Madison wears an abaya. (I hope that was ok, Susie?)

I have another completely different characters book working but have not decided if the male character will be Muslim or from a Muslim country. For some reason I find them easier to write about (Must be that Ginn again).

When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I spent two months this winter in Florida training with my instructor and my horse in the pursuit of better dressage; what I called Dressage Boot Camp. I also walk every day, I am up to 6 miles a day which I can do in an hour and 20 minutes, so I move out. If I am not walking or riding I am on the computer reading or writing.

What personal message would you like to convey to the thousands of followers who read American Bedu daily?

Keep an open mind. Listen to the views of others, express your views in a respectful way. I have found other views to be insightful and actually changed my opinion on some things.

Kat, thank you again for the interview.  I wish you all the success with ‘Only Love Twice’ and all future books.

Thank you, Carol, and wish you well and pray for you every day. You are an inspiration!

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