Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When Rights Falter, Should Men & Women be Equal in Punishment?

A protest to the UN about polygamy in Saudi being fair to the society because it limits the number of wives to four, and obligates the man to support them all, got me thinking on the issue of adultery in Islam!

In the defense of Islam, a website lists many Pre-Islamic religions and cultures and how they punished such sin. It, then, concludes, “Unlike almost all pre-Islamic traditions, the Qur’an makes no distinction between men and women who commit heterosexual offences, neither in the degree of sin nor in the punishment.”

Furthermore, “Almost all pre-Islamic traditions are quite lenient to a man, married or unmarried, who has sexual intercourse with an unmarried woman. The Qur`an greatly strengthens the sanctity of marriage by making all heterosexual intercourse outside of marriage equally punishable.”

Yet I think the very weakness of adultery punishment in Islam is equality! If a married man and a married woman commit adultery, they are punished equally under the law of Islam. But should they?

Let us assume that both married parties committed adultery because they were not fulfilled in their marriages, under the law of Islam as is practiced today:

1- A man has a right to peruse 3 additional wives.

2- A man has a right to divorce his current wife.

3- A man has a right to remarry immediately after divorcing a wife.

4- A woman cannot pursue additional husbands.

5- A woman cannot easily divorce her current husband, she has to seek court, and some financial losses might be involved in the process as well as losing guardianship to kids of certain age.

6- A woman has to wait after being divorced, for a specified period of time.

If a men and women’s rights to marriage as well as within the marriage are not equal under the laws of Islam, why should their punishment in adultery be equal?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Racing: A Way to Heal

With so much frustration build up lately, I found in this post a nice way to "take it out"; TypeRacer.

Roll up your sleeves, shut out the world, and type the minutes away. Isn't it wonderful to conquer (something) in life? What's your best? Someone's got 215 w/m. Mine was 76, but I ain't stopping until I reach 100.

An elderly in law just died upon return from treatment in the US. She was in a coma. I was TypeRacing while it happened-still am. You should be too. *Hushhh.

Type on...

Friday, April 25, 2008


It is becoming increasingly hard for me to tolerate “opinionatism”, or to adhere to it. And for the last while I started wondering if the state I thought to be “temporary” might be slowly settling into a permanent state.

It happens like this: the more loud opinionated a person is, the more attentive I become to the darkness surrounding them; the areas in which differing views, arguments and "versions" of truth exist. I stop being receptive of the person speaking, and listen to all else.

I wonder why people assume that opinions make them stronger. The way I see it, firm opinions limit the vast possibilities into one temporal shock of light that is blinding and is soon to vanish or even harm like lightning would.

Is it like this: we pass a driving test by following the rules of the book, but survive the life by following the rules of others who share the road? Does it come down to this: we pass our schools, colleges, and higher education, by learning the diversity of life, but survive life by portraying the singularity of ourselves?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blogger Hadeel in Danger

To many, Hadeel is a blogger. To me she's much more. She's the closest friend I've had since college. She's the black rock my soul grabs onto in it's ongoing attempts at escaping the nowness of pain and working towards a brighter future.

Hadeel is a determined, hardworking, and intelligent woman who despite all cultural pressures manages to stand up for herself as well as other "under spoken" members of the society. I woke up this morning with a msg from her sister Arwa saying "Hadeel needs your prayers." And later found a letter from her father in Sahat, stating she's in intensive care.

Please join her family in prayers, her mother, father Mohammed Alhodaif, sister Arwa and family who were not allowed to spend the night at her side in the Intensive Care Unit. Hadeel has been unconscious for over 12 hour now. She fell into a coma while sleeping. Right now, her heart and breathing are dependent on outer sources.
* * * * *
April 21, 8 pm pacific, arwa, "hadeel is breathing on her own, she was given water and accepted it."
April 22, 1 am pacific, father, "hadeel is not breathing on her own, she is still in a coma, and soon to be assessed by a medical group."
May 16, 2 am pacific, Hadeel has passed away.
* * * * *
You are a survivor Hadeel.
You have to come back.
You have to see for your own eyes that there's an entire life, people, places, futures and hopes that cannot go on without you. There's my heart :(

Friday, April 18, 2008

Saudi Reaction to Texas Polygamist Compound?

I am eagerly waiting for a Saudi reaction to the story of Texas Polygamist Compound broadcasted for the last couple of weeks on CNN and other news networks. Beside the story touching briefly on a sensitive issue that exist in Saudi itself, I believe it is healthy for Saudis to import world news as well as export them!

In the story, 400+ children are removed from the polygamist compound and their mothers, and taken into custody by the authority for further investigation. This takes place after the authorities claim to have received a call from a 16 y.o who had undergone child abuse within the vicinity; a call many believe to be a hoax.

Listening to one of the mothers saying “we don’t understand them (the authority), they don’t understand us,” made me think and rethink the many times the US gov’t attempted to bust in and fix (problems) for other countries, and I thought to myself “this case is much more complicated!”

When dealing with foreign countries, it is easy to blame the misunderstanding on heritage, culture, religion, geographical difference, language, bad gov'ts, bad living conditions. However, when dealing with people who exist within your same land, carry your same skin color, speak your very language, share your nationality, heritage, rights and understand the legal system-dealing with those people can put one to a real challenge!

Why come into the compound now? Why after allowing for such religious practices and beliefs to grow and regenerate would the police bust into the compound? Why after all the children have grown and adapted to such practices do the authorities begin to shake them up at their core values? What right does any gov’t have to mass manage children, and have them removed in such indiscriminative and impersonal manner?

Why are the women appearing on TV and interviews to excuse the men? Polygamy in the first place relates to men being allowed to marry several women, so why aren’t the men making their appearances as religious leaders, family heads and husbands? Why aren’t they coming forward to emotionally influence the crowd by saying “we miss our children too”? Why do some of the women interviewed go to the extreme of saying “we have not witnessed any child marriages taking place,” copying each other’s answers?

I was shaken by learning that practices so similar to what might’ve taken place in Saudi 30+ years ago are alive and well in a modern US. Taken by the inside peek at the compound: the long dinner tables, large sewing rooms, big family cars, restricted women dress and a life spent strictly inside. Everything is done in groups, prepared for large numbers and looks duplicated.

It is a human nature to find peace in assuming a familiarity with fellowmen and women. Yet that same assumption takes us to a state where we stop attempting to dialogue and converse with people who we think we know and understand well. As the time of silence and assumptions extends, the familiar grows into a mystery.

* Videos:




Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Offline: Modern Version of Dead?

When communication was dumb, people assumed you were alive unless a man on a horse brought to them the news of your misfortune. With smart communication, people somehow assume you are dead unless you come online to tell them you are alive and well…

I look at my messenger of 140 contacts, 20 of them online and absolutely green. I count how many days I’ve been hiding in an offline mode. The realization makes me feel like a fugitive, chased by guilt for not talking to family, relatives, friends, distant friends &friends in the making. But what can a human do these days to keep up both: their own life and life with others?

People who are not good at “keeping in touch”, if in the past would lose a point for not visiting the neighbor, now would lose five. They could’ve (1) visited, (2) called, (3) sms’d, (4) emailed, or (5) chatted online with that neighbor! Moreover, the world population increased, so there’re more and more people to lose points to!

People claim that keeping in touch is about feeling. If you love your family, friends, etc, you would talk to them often, but in reality lots of steps separate the feeling from executing it.

There are times when I feel overwhelmed with all those doors/promises that I have opened and thus became obligated to attend to. I experience an equivalent of a panic attack, a tormenting yearning for taking refugee in a metal box, a tight one, in which I can lock out the entire world with single turn of the key. Instead of the accusatory stare given to me through modern communication devices, the isolated box would momentarily allow me the liberating feeling of talking to no one else but myself-a promise that often goes unnoticed!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Saudi Alchemist!

He is as close as I've gotten to an Alchemist. Murtadha Almtawaah, a Saudi Portlander, on a journey for the light. Please go ahead and read the latest of his posts, a culture discussion with US highschool students, tackling issues such as sectarianism, women, homosexuality, which the students were brave enough to ask, and he was thoughtful enough to answer on the spot as well as reflect on long after he had left them.

"People don't hate because they are evil. people don't even love because they are angel! they do all that because something are forcing or motivating them to do so (...) This blog is my life journey in finding my self again and you are more than welcome be part of it" M.M.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Honking at da Ladies!

While walking my toddler to school, yesterday, a car honked at us. It was tailing us at a slow speed, which wasn’t suspicious at first because we were in a residential area. At the second honking I looked over my shoulder to check the car out. It caught up with us, and the guy in the passenger seat who was in his late twenties looked up, “Hey, can I come over to your place sometime?”

Usually, I use such comments to my advantage. Meaning, think to myself “Surely I must look hot today.” And that would give me wings for hours to come! However, at that particular incident I made a mental check of myself: I just woke up, my hair was tied back in the cruelest manner and my pants and jacket baggy and worn out. I haven’t applied any eyeliner and my lips were plain.

I looked down at my toddler who did not quit on the “oh, what’s dat?” since the first honking, and arrived at this conclusion: I do not look hot today, but I look like a single mom who might be too desperate that she wouldn’t resist such a generous offer from two street jerks!

I maintained a calm smile and resumed singing “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed” with E. But the monkeys had increased by then. They were making such chaos in my thoughts that every single incident in which I’ve been honked at in Portland sprang before my eyes. I clearly visualized the different streets, times, comments, and individuals who made them. I flashed back and forth between Portland and Riyadh, and I concluded again how men and women function on a political system independent of their geographical location, which made the honkers of "conservative" Riyadh not any different from honkers of "liberal" Portland.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Driving at Long Last!

Interesting that just when we’re about to head back to Saudi Arabia, Hning and I are learning how to drive. What could it mean? Mind you that this is not meant to portray either of us a significant Saudi female, on the contrary, we’re pretty late compared to many Saudi girls who acquired their driving license much earlier; a couple of months after they’ve arrived to their foreign/scholarship destination.

Many of my mother’s generation who were sent out in scholarship programs just as we are now, had also acquired their license regardless of their religiousness or ideological stance. Another argument as to why the issue of “
women driving” inside Saudi is non-religious, non-ideological, but rather a battle point between liberal and conservative parties within the country to prove which one has dominance and authority over the society, a battle which gained an exaggerated importance merely because the gov’t has not stepped in much earlier to resolve it. Now, any immediate resolution by the gov’t, if not played tactfully, will indicate “taking sides”.

When I was 17, I had a rather unsuccessful attempt at driving. My dad took me on the road in Canada. I will spare you the details and just say, we arrived at the building from which we started with my dad’s temper as burnt as the breaks.

When he asked me to open my door I freaked, “Ha, what, how?!"
It was the straw for both of us.
“The door. The! Door! Can’t you even open a door?!”
I quit on driving right there and then.

This might be why I postponed driving thus far. Other reasons are sharing the same car with hubby, driving almost everywhere together, and
TriMet being amazingly convenient and accessible almost anywhere I need to go. But boy, do I regret waiting out on the experience of OWNING the wheel!

Please don’t think of yourselves when you were 17 or even 19 and learning how to drive. There’s something different to learning at 25. Something not cute, but rather serious and self changing. Being in charge of the thicker key chain. Enabling and disabling the family's access to the car. Sitting up front-on the left. Leading others to a destination, with you playing the active role. Eyeing cars on the street with a sense of equality; a sense of authority; of being responsible for your own safety as well as theirs.

Something about the way I walk changes once I step out of a driving session. I begin to perceive myself in mechanical terms such as: start, stop, yield, turn right, turn left, slow down, make haste. My eyes start spotting life at a higher level; the level on which signs exist. Yellow, red, orange, white, numbers, little cautionary notes. People, streets, traffic, thoughts, ideas, images, fall into organized and coherent categories.

My chest feels much stronger as it takes in the air around me and releases it. My inner muscles slowly expand, like they’re being called by name and raising head to identify themselves in response.

I was lucky to get a good instructor. Found him via
Oregon Driver Education Center. Despite all the crappy signs I received at first, with the center drawing the tuition from my bank three times. Despite the delay between registeration, and scheduling, I am happy with the instructor I got (another reason as to why you should NEVER rely on marketing in the US as an accurate measure for product).

He says he trains cops, car racers, and I believe him! He’s also training other instructors; one has joined our driving session this week. Along with the scratch in the face and the cool blues of his eyes, you can immedialty spot how he owns the car to the extent that he doesn’t need to micromanage the student- I am too conspicuous to him with all my awkwardness and probable moves that he smoothly steers me in the direction of learning.

Hubby is playing an amazing role as well. He’s not melting in his seat as I drive nor holding to the edge of it. He's pretty mellow and cool. Today, he took me in my first highway ride EVER! He has me understood so well, that he’s got the right formula for where to compliment and where to suggest.

I hope to be able to get my license before returning home. I also hope that it will be more useful than a card in a wallet.

And I wonder what the streets of Saudi would be like if women shared the right and responsibility of way…

* 4/17/08:
Yepppyyyyy, I got my License! Passed with a border line of 75/100 :P

Friday, April 4, 2008

Changes in SACM?

For the last month, I am noticing high responsiveness from SACM which besides supporting and asserting students in the States, works as their immediate link to the Ministry of Higher Education in SA.

It all started three weeks ago, when my advisor (who was responsible for Saudi students in PSU, PCC, UP & Concordia) sent a group email notifying us that she will be strictly responsible for PSU students because a new advisor has been assigned to the rest of the schools.

Since this notification, I have been receiving personalized emails! Emails which address me by name, and discuss issues related to me: such as asking for documents, or congratulating me on specific achievements. My advisor has also started volunteering to fill up request forms on my behalf; some ofwhich would earn me privileges. Her emails were no longer a result of communication that I initiate.

My husband, who has been assigned to the new advisor, noticed similar improvements and follow ups. Moreover, we both started receiving regular emails from high ranking personnels at SACM which forbid and state strict penalties for circulating or communicating any hate or discriminatory materials, assuring no leniency to any students whose grades fall short.

I wonder if this improvement is affecting the Portland area alone, or if it comes as a result of major changes within SACM itself. After two and a half years suffering from difficulty of communicating with advisors, dropped phone calls, loss of papers, faxes, and feeling invisible-it is such a relief to be cared for in this assertive manner.

Two and a half years are pretty damn long time to achieve this upgrade, but I am obliged nonetheless. Good job SACM and please keep it up until I graduate :)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Downtown at Six

Traffic at six p.m. washes down the streets like the last stream of consciousness. From a small cafe that sits on a tight downtown corner I watch the men and women flutter down the streets in their handsomely long jackets and wonder: do they realize how beautiful they are at this time of day?

*I am headed for my first class in NW Film Center School of Film. Can't contain my joy. Thank you Saudi Cultural Mission for little joys you help bring on...