“Harrah”, shout all the human rights watchers, “at last we can welcome Saudi Arabia to the 20th century”, and so perhaps observe that they then only have 100 years of social progress to catch up on after that since we actually all live in the 21st century.
Ah but hold on a moment, what exactly are they being permitted to vote for, does it actually mean anything?
- Well, first off, the next elections are not until 2015, so no vote until then
- Secondly, they still need “permission” from a male relative to participate in public life
But the real core observation here is that Saudi is not a democracy. All they get to vote for, or stand for office in, is the Shura Council, the king’s advisory board.
Many label this reform as “hugely significant,”, and yet in reality it grants very little real democracy … the right to get to vote for who whispers in the ear of the King, the chap who makes the actual decisions is meaningless. The current king, 87-year-old Abdullah is tipped to be succeeded by Prince Nayif ibn Abdulaziz, the interior minister and also a staunch anti-reformist. Can you honestly see him paying any attention to the advisory board?
These latest reforms are simply diversions and do little to change the plight of women in a country where they can’t drive, can be flogged for adultery, and cannot travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian (All women, regardless of age, are required to have a male guardian).
Why is it like this? In reply many claim “It’s the culture, not the religion,” (that’s a Saudi saying). Unfortunately, the actual evidence for that claim does not stand up to scrutiny. What is in play here is an ultra conservative form of Islam that brainwashes the believers into thinking that woman are inferior. There is much more that is utterly insane, but for the moment, lets stay on topic.
What drives this social landscape is Wahhabism. The Saudi’s do not actually call it that, only outsiders do, and it claims to adhere to the correct understanding of the general Islamic doctrine (don’t they all?) as uniquely interpreted by Abdul Al-Wahhab .
So who actually thinks that this strict variation of Islam introduced by Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab is wrong? Most outside the cult do, including the father of the founder, Abd al-Wahhab, his brother Salman Ibn Abd al-Wahhab who was an Islamic scholar and a qadi (judge in an Islamic court), who wrote a book in refutation of his brothers’ new teachings. It is also deemed to be extremist and heretical by most other Muslims mainly based on Wahhabbism’s rejection of traditional Sunni scholars and interpretation as followed by 96% of the world’s Muslim population.
So that simply leaves an obvious question that also have a very obvious answer. Why does this cult hold so much power and lack any real moves toweards actual reform? … oh come on now, you know the answer … “Oil”. Such wealth enables the rulers to bribe their own population into conformance, and also with their hands on the tap, its a stick they can threaten all outsiders with.
When faced with claims that women have been granted the right to vote in Saudi – Remain skeptical, the latest announcements creates the illusion of progress without any actual progress at all.