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Arabian Muslims: Prisoners of the Monarchy?

Essay by   •  November 15, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,554 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,810 Views

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Arabian Muslims:

Prisoners of the Monarchy?

Saudi Arabia is the 14th largest country in the world.1 The official language is Arabic, and when written down, it is read from right to left. There is only one forest in the entire country, as it is one of the driest places in the world. The main meal of the day is lunch. 100% of its citizens are Muslims.2 Saudi Arabia's government is a monarchy, and the closest resemblance to a constitution is the Qur'an, the Islamic bible. Both the government's monarchy nature and religious constitution can lead to controversy regarding human rights and individual freedoms and independences in Saudi Arabia. All native citizens and visitors alike are subjects to strict policies regarding all aspects of Arabic life, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or sexual preference. These policies and the enforcements and punishments that accompany them make it obvious that the Saudi Arabian government allows no room whatsoever for freedom of expression or individuality within the confines of the country.

In Saudi Arabia, although some Arabian citizens may not realize it, they are being submitted to unfair laws concerning their own rights and freedoms. "Freedom of religion does not exist."3 Due to the strictly sacred nature of the government, all people of Saudi Arabia must be of the Muslim faith only. Any Muslim who converts to another religion is guilty of apostasy - the act of turning away from God. Apostasy is a severe offence under Islamic law and is punishable by death. In 1995, one Arabian man was sentenced to execution for practicing witchcraft.4 Within the past 5 years, seven Indian Arabs and an undetermined number of Filipino Arabs were arrested in the cities of Jubayl and Damman for celebrating Christmas.5 But religious freedom is not the only small luxury denied of Arabian Muslims - the media they are permitted to be exposed to is very limited as well. Officially, television is prohibited, but some Arabs find themselves disobeying this policy in private and it is not strictly enforced. Public theatres and cinemas are banned as well, as they are supposedly incompatible with Islamic law. Government officials have the power to censor, band, or block any publication, film, song, television station, internet website, or consumer product that may directly or indirectly promote un-Islamic values or themes. In 2001, Freedom House rated Saudi Arabia's media restrictions, giving the country a full 15 out of 15 negative points for political influence of media content, making it one of the worst on the globe.6 The monarchy's affect on Arabian society is very restricting.

Not only do native Arabian citizens suffer under the reign of the strict monarchy, the foreign visitors are subjected to such torture as well. Any person whom applies for an entry or exit visa is questioned regarding their religious background. Any applicant that provides the answer "atheist" is automatically banned from the country. This is in attempt to protect Islam's two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, both found is Saudi Arabia. Muslims are said to look respectively upon their fellow "People of the Book", Jews and Christian, public worship other than that of Islam is strictly outlawed. Foreigners are free to practice a separate religion in private, but the presence of churches or public religious gatherings and public possession of Christian material is disallowed. Custom officials are encouraged to routinely open all incoming and outgoing letters and packages to search for any non-Muslim religious items. Such findings are grounds for confiscation. Visitors to this Muslim country can also find themselves stripped of some of their own material luxuries. Narcotics and alcohol and their use are prohibited; this could be disappointing to a Westerner. Possession of pornography is also against the law. Possession or consumption of pork, any carnivorous animal, rodents, or reptiles is banned to all natives and foreigners. Any person in Saudi Arabia that is found to have any of these banned items is imprisoned or deported. Foreigners to Saudi Arabia are also required to dress modestly (like the Muslims surrounding them) during their stay. Bare shoulders, calves, thighs, or stomachs are an absolute offence. No matter how excruciating the heat, all people must attempt to cover as much skin as possible. Shirts must be buttoned right up to the collar. Hemlines should be at least at ankle length, and sleeves well past the elbows. Although visitors are expected to meet Islam modesty standards, traditional wear on foreigners is highly offensive and discouraged strongly. Non-Arabian citizens must be very careful to keep modest attire while differing enough from that of the Muslims. The treatment these visitors receive is very confining and allows for little to no personal identity.

Suffering the most under Islamic law are the Arabian women. The rules they face regarding attire are far stricter than those placed upon foreigners. Like the foreigners, they are expected to show little skin, but is it preferred that Muslim women show only their eyes and hands, except during prayer, when they remove their shoes. The ultimate look to obtain is that of baggy concealment. There rules are enforced so strictly that on March 11th, 2002, the Mutaween, or religious police, allowed for the death of 15 schoolgirls and injury of 50 others in a schoolhouse fire.7 Why? They were not permitted to flee as they were not wearing veils and cloaks. Muslim women living in Saudi Arabia are also at a disadvantage when trying to find employment. With the unemployment rate being very high at 25%, the competition is fierce. 8 Although they are considered to be the more ambitious gender of the Arabian culture, they are not encouraged to find jobs at all. When educating themselves, their subject choices are cut down because of their gender, and they may not study whatever subject they please. They are not permitted to work in most government offices. If an Arab woman finds herself a job in workforce with men, she is always segregated. Arabian women are restricted in their means of transportation as well. They are not permitted to drive, ride motorcycles, or pedal bicycles. They cannot travel absolutely anywhere without the escort of a related male. An Arab woman is not allowed to purchase plane tickets, and must be granted



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