Pharyngula

Progress in Saudi Arabia!

In 2002, 15 young girls burned to death in a school fire because firemen were not allowed by their religion to enter and rescue females who might not be covered head-to-toe in concealing clothing. In fact, religious police had actively hindered the escape of the girls, with reports that they were hitting them and pushing them back into the building, because they were trying to run out without putting their head coverings on first.

Now, in 2010, the religious ministry has given orders to the religious police to allow even male rescue workers to enter girls’ schools in an emergency.

Wow. So it only took them 8 years to figure out that maybe lives are more important than modesty.

Comments

  1. #1 ronsullivan
    May 17, 2010

    Added to the Rabies List, check.

    If I ever get rabies, I’m making a list of whom to bite. It’s already a loooooonnnnnng list.

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    May 17, 2010

    Any chance that they’ll ever decide that enforcing some hallucinations by some crazy guy is a bad idea?

    Nah, too obvious.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  3. #3 vanharris
    May 17, 2010

    At least this is a step in the right direction. I guess it’s too much to hope that this might signal the beginning of a trend?

  4. #4 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 17, 2010

    Never mind the ones keeping the kids in the school until they had their Burkhas and head scarves properly attached.

  5. #5 Michelle R
    May 17, 2010

    8 years? Well I wonder, how many other girls died in the same fashion since decades?

  6. #6 va.terrero
    May 17, 2010

    it always dazzles me when those girls say they don’t put the veil/ Burqa or whatever on just because it’s required but because they want to. So deep is the indoctrination that they can’t even tell the difference.. So deep is the dehumanization (which is in my opinion one of the goals of many religions) it’s just sad, scary, repulsive and down right abusive.

  7. #7 evogene
    May 17, 2010

    I am gonna have to assert here, that “So it only took them 8 years to figure out that maybe lives are more important than modesty.”, should actually say ” … more important than stupidity”.

  8. #8 tsg
    May 17, 2010

    Taking 8 years to acknowledge a bare minimum of human decency is not progress. I mean, how fucked up do you have to be to think that letting people burn to death because of what they’re wearing (or not wearing) is even a decision to be made?

    I don’t care if I’m wearing a crotchless pink tutu, clown shoes and rubber gloves, drag my ass out of the fire and don’t stop to think about it.

    (If for no other reason than to save my favorite outfit.)

  9. #9 mattheath
    May 17, 2010

    Is any government, anywhere nastier than the West’s good ally in Saudi?

  10. #10 Matt Penfold
    May 17, 2010

    Is any government, anywhere nastier than the West’s good ally in Saudi?

    I am struggling to think of one. Afghanistan under the Taliban might have been one, but then the Taliban were never as organised or as in control as the bullies in Saudia.

  11. #11 'Tis Himself, OM
    May 17, 2010

    Is any government, anywhere nastier than the West’s good ally in Saudi?

    Possibly Uzbekistan. Plus there’s always Somalia, whose major source of foreign revenue seems to be piracy.

  12. #12 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 17, 2010

    Possibly Uzbekistan. Plus there’s always Somalia, whose major source of foreign revenue seems to be piracy.

    Can we really call what Somalia has a government?

  13. #13 'Tis Himself, OM
    May 17, 2010

    Somalia is the libertarian paradise with no government to tell people what to do.

  14. #14 Aperšus dÚsagrÚables
    May 17, 2010

    @9 Sudan is to China what Saudi Arabia is to the US perhaps?

  15. #15 puzzledponderer
    May 17, 2010

    Hoshit, you linked to my blog. :D *gets over it*

    I said pretty much all I had to say: With that minor change that at least protects lives, they’re still one messed up country. I suppose any country that can claim to have an islamic religion guard on duty around a school all day must claim a certain level of crazy.

  16. #16 Margaret
    May 17, 2010

    Is any government, anywhere nastier than the West’s good ally in Saudi?

    The Vatican.

  17. #17 Anri
    May 17, 2010

    Wow. So it only took them 8 years to figure out that maybe lives are more important than modesty.

    I would say that they have figured out that deaths are more important than modesty.

    When they dispense with mandatory dress codes, they will have realised that lives (ie, having one, living one, experiencing one) are more important than modesty.

    …but baby steps are better than no steps at all.

  18. #18 Andrew Hall
    May 17, 2010

    See… this is the slippery slope, one minute they’re not pushing girls into a burning building and the next thing is gay marriage.
    http://laughinginpurgatory.blogspot.com/

  19. #19 SkepgineerChick
    May 17, 2010

    @#1, you’d better get a backup pair of falsies to complete the list.

    @#8, it’s only your favorite because you saw me in it first! And you forgot the oil.

    But seriously, 8 YEARS?!?!?! Atrocious.

  20. #20 omarali50
    May 17, 2010

    I have no doubt that all these laws and rules about women and modesty and so on are insane and misogynistic, but staying in a skeptical vein, I would offer the following observations (I have lived in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US, so this does reflect some personal experience):
    1. Saudi Arabia is by no means the worst government on planet Earth. People saying that are using a single criterion (shariah law or some similar notion) but if you are serious then I have to say that you have no idea what “government” can look like in most third world countries. In terms of daily abuse by police, torture, disappearance, lack of education, lack of healthcare, anarchy, lawlessness, etc. Saudi Arabia is far superior to most third world countries. One can start another argument about how much better they COULD be if they were a well functioning democracy with the same money, but lets not get carried away with “worst government on earth”.
    2. It may be hard for people to accept this, but its worth keeping in mind that the Saudi Royal family is LESS conservative than the Saudi population. Brainwashing is bad, but in this case its not the state that is doing most of the brainwashing. The PEOPLE were already washed and dried and ready to roll and the state frequently has to prod them to change in a more liberal direction. This is NOT the whole story and its probably not the best way of putting it, but since most commentators seem totally ignorant of life in Saudi Arabia, I just wanted to throw this out there.

  21. #21 tsg
    May 17, 2010

    @19, you only wish you looked half as good in it as I do. And I didn’t forget the oil, it’s still in the microwave.

  22. #22 mfd512
    May 17, 2010

    Somalia is the libertarian paradise with no government to tell people what to do.

    Somalia is the anarchist paradise with no government to tell people what to do.

    Fixed.

  23. #23 KOPD
    May 17, 2010

    The part of my brain that doesn’t get invited to make decisions would like to see the people who wouldn’t let the girls leave get punished by being dressed in flaming burkas. The rest of my brain realizes that’s incredibly cruel and is willing to settle for life imprisonment (which of course will not happen).

  24. #24 'Tis Himself, OM
    May 17, 2010

    I am not going to turn this thread into another looneytarian wankfest.

  25. #25 acastcia
    May 17, 2010

    Who cares about dead girls, please…they were just girls, no big deal, there are plenty of them. No more worrying about to marry them before they can do anything that taints the precious family honor. And then, these fine, brave men of the religious Gestapo (if it is a Godwin, so be it) how bravely they did their duty…I mean the girls were not covered,but these fine men resisted temptation and did their duty..RESPECT! I’am so happy that there are still countries to proof to the godless evil non-believers(doomed they are)what high moral standards and unreached human decency a real faithfull society has. Thanks to allah a real desaster was avoided…no boys died and no man was tempted by these horrible,awful,uncovered vessels of sin and unpureness. Allahu akhbar

    Bastards, all of them, don’t matter if chrisnatics, musnatics or jewnatics.

  26. #26 Mystyk
    May 17, 2010

    Did anybody else notice the orwellian name they give the religious cops?

    “Office for the Advancement of Virtue and Prevention of Vice”

  27. #27 JBlilie
    May 17, 2010

    Many Islamic societies (I’m not going to comment on the religion itself) emphatically and publicly rank modesty higher than women’s lives. Hence “honor” murders and acid in the face. (Pay attention to their deeds, not their words.)

    Such people deserve no respect whatsoever.

    If they come to my country to demand it, they should be expelled or exterminated.

  28. #28 cs.rean
    May 17, 2010

    As if I needed another reason to hate religion. *sigh*

  29. #29 Gregory Greenwood
    May 17, 2010

    8 years to concede that a woman’s life has worth enough to countenance risking a man *shock, horror!* laying eyes upon her filthy, ungodly, corrupting uncovered head?

    It does not matter if they are all naked, halfway through a lesbian orgy and still masturbating, you go in and you save them. To do otherwise is to place your peurile sense of juvenile moral outrage over another person’s life. Islamic societies need to grow up and start treating women with some measure of respect.

    Religion; you don’t know real crazy misogyny ’til you have tried it…

  30. #30 Gregory Greenwood
    May 17, 2010

    Islamic societies need to grow up and start treating women with some measure of respect.

    Scratch that, all religions need to grow up and start treating women with some measure of respect.

  31. #31 bertilow
    May 17, 2010

    “Scratch that, all religions need to grow up and start treating women with some measure of respect”

    No, no, no. Totally wrong. No growing of any kind. All religions should be destroyed, forbidden and banished for ever – at least religions like Christianity and Islam. Die, monster, die!

  32. #32 Heather Clemenceau
    May 17, 2010

    Well, count this as one of those situations where their society advances one step ahead, whilst continuing to drag the other foot behind.

    Abdul Hamid Bin Hussain Bin Moustafa al-Fakki (of Sudan) is still sentenced to death after he was accused of producing a spell that would lead to the reconciliation of his client?s divorced parents.

    Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences, including some with no lethal consequences such as sorcery. Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by a lawyer, and in many cases are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them.

    They may be convicted solely on the basis of confessions obtained under duress or deception. And prisoners in Saudi Arabia may be put to death without a scheduled date for execution being made known to them or their families.

  33. #33 flyonthewall
    May 17, 2010

    i don’t think we can really call this progress if they need an order to have this happen.

    I mean seriously, if this type of thing doesn’t come naturally to you, well… i don’t know what to say.

    And as for the men who pushed the girls back into the burning school…..did they get a medal or something?

  34. #34 Gregory Greenwood
    May 17, 2010

    bertilow @ 31;

    No, no, no. Totally wrong. No growing of any kind. All religions should be destroyed, forbidden and banished for ever – at least religions like Christianity and Islam. Die, monster, die!

    You’re right. It is probably stake-through-the-heart time for religion in general…

    I can hear the accomodationalists grinding their teeth from here. If religion is Dracula, accomodationalists are Igor.

  35. #35 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    May 17, 2010

    I wish the same thing could be said about the (far) right:
    http://jonathanturley.org/2010/05/17/crowning-of-arab-american-as-miss-usa-unleashes-torrest-of-attacks-from-the-right/

    ————————

    Off topic: Check out this prank call.

  36. #36 SteveM
    May 17, 2010
    “Scratch that, all religions need to grow up and start treating women with some measure of respect”

    No, no, no. Totally wrong. No growing of any kind. All religions should be destroyed, forbidden and banished for ever – at least religions like Christianity and Islam. Die, monster, die!

    That just will not work. What is needed is for people to grow up and abandon the infantilism of religion for the adulthood of rationality. Then religion will die naturally (and peacefully) of attrition.

  37. #37 Gregory Greenwood
    May 17, 2010

    Heather Clemenceau @ 32;

    Abdul Hamid Bin Hussain Bin Moustafa al-Fakki (of Sudan) is still sentenced to death after he was accused of producing a spell that would lead to the reconciliation of his client?s divorced parents.

    It is hard to believe that any modern society is still at the level of ‘burn the witch!’ That is just depressing.

    Still, I suppose that as a Brit I cannot be too superior. The last Witchcraft trial in the UK was held in the 1930s. Admittedly, the death penalty was not on cards, but still…

  38. #38 Dr.FabulousShoes
    May 17, 2010

    Thank you tsg, I was having a bad day, and that mental image made my day. Of course, now my boss thinks I’m a nutter for laughing to myself, but thank you for that.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen so many excuses for why women like to wear a burqa: I don’t have to do my hair; I don’t have to worry about fashion; I can wear comfortable shoes; I can stare at people without them noticing me; men don’t bother me. It is about making the person invisible – to me it’s just tremendously f-ed up that someone prefers to be invisible.

  39. #39 Molly, NYC
    May 17, 2010

    The eight years it took before Saudi firemen could be allowed to simply do their jobs without the Sex Police micromanaging them is appalling but not surprising.

    Occasionally, I look at a blog called Saudiwoman’s Weblog. Her riff on the amount of work it would take just to get things so Saudi women could drive their cars without being hassled or worse is just jawdropping.

  40. #40 Bride of Shrek OM
    May 17, 2010

    tsg

    I don’t care if I’m wearing a crotchless pink tutu, clown shoes and rubber gloves,

    … I was unaware we had Republican Senators lurking on Pharyngula.

  41. #41 TheTransitionalForm
    May 17, 2010

    If my place burns down I will probably end up running outside wearing a pink bath robe, caring nothing but my purse, and maybe my laptop. I will probably leave any indispensable artwork I own in the place. Whether or not I remember my keys or cellphones will depend on whether they are in my purse. I am guessing I would be a tad bit more concerned by the fact that my place was burning down then by how I would look.

  42. #42 superheadcat
    May 17, 2010

    jcmartz.myopenid.com @ 35

    Wow, that certainly deserve a separate thread on this blog (PZ?)

    Let’s see how people here in US handle xeno-/muslim- phobia.

  43. #43 MadScientist
    May 17, 2010

    Ah, the Morals Squad. Just think: if we let religion dictate our laws, we too could have such government-approved assholes roaming our streets. I would be more impressed if the authorities in Saudi Arabia rounded up the people in that morals squad and gave ‘em a good ol’ beheading – it will be a small improvement to society.

    Far far away from the Arabian peninsula, Malaysia has morals squads as well. It seems to be a peculiar arrangement though; the squads only have authority over muslims. So how do they tell a muslim from a non-muslim? Easy, these assholes are your neighbors. I’ll have to ask someone though if they have their religion identified on IDs as well.

  44. #44 KOPD
    May 17, 2010

    a crotchless pink tutu, clown shoes and rubber gloves

    You know, on my way to work I walked past a discarded pair of rubber gloves in an alley. They’re probably from the salon three doors down, but now I can’t help but picture a clown in a crotchless tutu skulking around behind my office and disappearing into the sewer.

  45. #45 ursulamajor
    May 17, 2010

    Well, the girls simply had to go back in. Those poor men would have been honor bound to rape them, and that would have been gross what with the 3rd degree burns and all.

  46. #46 Hirnlego
    May 17, 2010

    Here’s a story not to miss:

    Saudi woman beats up virtue cop
    http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=175779

  47. #47 Tim Harris
    May 17, 2010

    Read the great anti-Catholic Irish poet Austin Clarke’s poem on an Irish bishop’s response to a conflagration at a death-trap of a Catholic orphanage in which most of the orphans died. The response was along the lines that we could all take comfort from the thought that they had died before committing a great many sins (including of course, if they were pre-pubertal, the mortal sin of masturbation). What strikes me about these religious police and that other religious policeman, the American bishop who excommunicated a nun for agreeing that an abortion was in order, is how they have successfully stunned any natural human moral sense with the bludgeon of dogma. It’s a sort of top-down, deductive approach to morality, not a natural response to a situation. ‘Should I or should I not torture this child before me?’ Back to first principles! God said ‘x’ and then down through a chain of deductive logic to arrive at the conclusion that, no, I shouldn’t torture the child; or, perhaps, that, yes, I should… There’s no immediate, felt response to such a situation, and no feeling for the moral complexity of some situations. You just apply absolute, and absolutely stupid and insensitive, principles.

  48. #48 https://me.yahoo.com/a/SaqGVG0xvJEQVwURVamS3DTCdvov0BLhXK1jOsYPPJQ-#b4893
    May 17, 2010

    #42: You should read what Debbie Schlussel has been saying about the Rima Fakih “affair” on her blog.

    I didn’t think even she could sink that low, but by the hallucination of Abraham, she has.

    She’s engaging in pure character assasination, and I hope her publisher fires her. If I were her publisher (I’m not in that business), I would.

    (Link omitted intentionally. You’re going to have to Google this one on your own.)

    MikeM

  49. #49 Kirk
    May 17, 2010

    “Scratch that, all religions need to grow up and start treating women with some measure of respect”

    No, no, no. Totally wrong. No growing of any kind. All religions should be destroyed, forbidden and banished for ever – at least religions like Christianity and Islam. Die, monster, die!

    I agree with bertilow.

    It’s similar to the argument that a particular christian denomination would be better if they let homosexuals (or women) be ordained.

    I understand the “fighting against discrimination” thing, but the point is that you don’t make a fundamentally unsound organization sound by changing the wording on one of the by-laws.

    It’s as if somebody argued that the KKK would be a better organization if they’d just have a black person as president (or Grand Poobah, or whatever they call it).

    No, the right thing for all religious organizations to do is to make a statement like: “Sorry, we’ve been wrong all these years. It’s just a made up story. A bad made up story. We’re shutting the thing down. Again, our apologies.”

  50. #50 MadScientist
    May 17, 2010

    @Mattheath #9: Let’s see – Pol Pot’s Cambodia (but they’re improving at a sub-glacial pace), then of course there’s Burma. I’m not sure if I should throw in that paragon of Libertarianism – Somalia. But yes, there are far worse places to be than Saudi Arabia – of course that also depends a bit on your specific circumstances.

  51. #51 Peter H
    May 17, 2010

    After 8 years Muslims stop burning young girls. It took the various, multifarious & sundry xian sects how long to stop burning witches?

  52. #52 MadScientist
    May 17, 2010

    @Mattheath #9: I forgot to say, Saudi Arabia in general is not an unpleasant place to be at all; many people still don’t lock their doors because they see no reason to fear the rest of the world. They do have their share of thieves and murderers, and of course these bizarre ideas which lead to horrible things like what happened to those girls, but I would never imagine the place as being generally backward (it certainly isn’t) or an evil place. Just a few ass-backward notions which I hope the population would reject in time.

  53. #53 Zoot Capri
    May 17, 2010

    Are you kidding? Any country that thinks half it’s humans are NOT human IS BACKWARD and EVIL! Sorry, but they hate and fear and loathe and what ever women. I kind of take that personally being a woman.

  54. #54 paulmurray
    May 17, 2010

    @10 “Plus there’s always Somalia, whose major source of foreign revenue seems to be piracy.”

    Well, what’s one man’s pirate is another mans volunteer coastguard who, in the absence of a functioning government, levies a fee for offshore dumping in Somalia’s territorial waters.

  55. #55 Deluded Creodont
    May 17, 2010

    It is hard to believe that any modern society is still at the level of ‘burn the witch!’ That is just depressing.

    If they’re burning witches, they ain’t a modern society.

    Also, I’d like to point out that, in fact, it has not taken Saudi Arabia 8 years to get rid of this problem. It’s taken them far longer than that. We’ve only been aware of the problem for 8 years, but it’s been a law for decades.

  56. #56 maco.myopenid.com
    May 18, 2010

    #38:

    On the other hand, I’ve seen so many excuses for why women like to wear a burqa: I don’t have to do my hair; I don’t have to worry about fashion; I can wear comfortable shoes; I can stare at people without them noticing me; men don’t bother me. It is about making the person invisible – to me it’s just tremendously f-ed up that someone prefers to be invisible.

    Not to me. I wore ill-fitting, black men’s t-shirts and loose pants for years because androgyny and dullness were the best assurance I had of receiving little-to-no unwanted (and trust me, most of it is unwanted) male attention. And I could be “one of the guys” (or an “honourary guy”…if you believe that’s possible) to get away with being treated as an equal.

    Freedom from having to fend off men’s advances gave me time to build enough expertise and confidence that now I can dress in nice-fitting tops and swishy skirts (still knee-length or longer though–they swish better) and simply scare away men who don’t know how to treat women as equals–because those sorts don’t know how to deal with it when a woman outdoes them.

    Basically, I “passed” invisibly through ManLand until I was strong enough to turn around and say “I PWN BOYS.”

  57. #57 Haley
    May 18, 2010

    My mother always made me clear a path to my bed and wear underwear under my nightgown in case the firefighters had to come rescue me in the middle of the night.

    My floor is now an obstacle course designed to keep me on my toes and I sleep naked. I still expect to be rescued if there’s a fire.

  58. #58 a.human.ape
    May 18, 2010

    In 2002, 15 young girls burned to death in a school fire because firemen were not allowed by their religion to enter and rescue females who might not be covered head-to-toe in concealing clothing. In fact, religious police had actively hindered the escape of the girls, with reports that they were hitting them and pushing them back into the building, because they were trying to run out without putting their head coverings on first.

    Cowardly religious extremists murdering girls because they weren’t wearing burkas. It’s impossible to be more insane. Even the most moderate Muslims (if it’s possible to call an idiot “moderate”) are at least partly responsible for this atrocity. If they had any moral values at all they would throw out their idiot religion. Which is the same thing I say to “moderate” Christians. They are all part of the problem and they should be ashamed of themselves.

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