Friday, June 18, 2004

This is called pandering: Imagine you had a conference, and the subject was about offering more equality to a certain section of your populace that was traditionally offered very litte in terms of individual rights. Things like driving a car, walking unescorted, or *gasp* having your head un-covered. Simple stuff really.

You'd think that such a conference might allow that oppressed sector to stand up, be seen, and speak openly. Well, you'd think wrong. Okay, it's pretty clear that we're talking about Saudi Arabia; no real surprise here.

The women attending this conference were kept in a separate room from the men, and only seen via video-conferencing. Fortunately, at least, they were taken seriously. Some comments:
From the conservative camp, Mohammed al-Arifi, a theologian, ridiculed calls for women to be allowed to drive or appear in public without "covering their heads properly."

At least one man spoke out for women. Writer Yeha al-Amir brandished a copy of a high school textbook that he said included a passage describing women as "weak creatures. If they are left alone without guidance they will be corrupt and corrupt others."

"How can we teach our children that women are a source of corruption?" he demanded.
How, indeed, can they?

Listen, you want to be part of a crazy religion that makes you wear tin-foil beanies? Fine. But when you're without a choice as to being a part of that religion (given that if you try to opt out, you'll be banished by your family or perhaps maimed and/or killed), then that's where the argument about "respecting" the traditions of others falls short. But they have the oil, so...

On the other hand, maybe the conservatives have a point. If they start to let things slide, with the genders freely mixing, who knows what might happen. As one conference attendee put it: "What is next? Shall we see them one day sitting in a cafe and drinking tea together?" Shudder to think.

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