In the Middle East there is a barrier – a totally impenetrable wall – about which nobody in the West protests.
A barrier that controls the movements of individuals, that prevents law-abiding citizens from going to their work-places, to their schools, to the shops.
A wall that prevents people from visiting their parents, relatives, friends.
A barrier that blocks what should be public roads accessible to everyone.
A wall with checkpoints everywhere, controlling who is allowed to pass.
A barrier whose armed police are notorious for their brutality and whose decisions cannot be appealed.
A wall that the Western world deliberately, totally and cravenly ignores.
A wall that is the very symbol of everything that is hated about the country’s daily oppression of its most ignored sector.
We’re talking about “al-mutaween” – the Saudi Arabian “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice”. Or, in plain English: men with fierce beards who are legally empowered to hit little girls and women who participate in such social sabotage as shopping, going to school, visiting friends and relatives, driving a car or – heaven forbid! – riding alone in a taxi.
Or who try to flee from a burning building in the middle of the night without being “virtuously clothed”. These poor schoolgirls were forced back into the inferno by the Saudi police as they tried to escape the flames engulfing their boarding school late one night. The reason for the Saudi police action? The girls were not clothed modestly enough to be seen in public. 15 young girls burned to death in the fire. The Saudi police preferred to see them burn alive rather than risk the girls showing their hair as they attempted to avoid being engulfed by the flames. The law is the law, and the law in the Islamic world is unimpeachable.
MA Khan, author of “Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery” and the person behind islam-watch.org, writes about how women – this second-class segment – are treated in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi women live behind high walls that surround their homes. And their progress is barred by equally high, equally impenetrable and usually invisible walls outside their homes.
Walls that prevent a woman from doing anything without the express permission of her male custodian. This custodian is usually her father, until the girl marries. Girls can be married off as young as 7 years of age – read here, here and here. Marrying off young girls to old men is common practice in large parts of the Islamic world – read here about one such case in the Yemen. After marriage, it is the husband who takes over custodianship of the girl. If the husband dies or is away travelling, ownership responsibility for the woman falls on one of the sons, even if that son is as young as 5 or 10 years old.
However, none of this is sufficient, according to the Saudi regime. Nowadays the Islamist regime uses the very latest advances in electronic technology to monitor the movement of women in the oil-rich state. If a woman goes to the airport, a text message is automatically sent to her husband. The state apparatus ensures that the male custodian always knows the exact location of his property. In Britain and the US, for instance, there is a similar system in use called the “Tracker” (there are other brands available too) but in Britain and the US this electronic Tracker device is only used to monitor the whereabouts of expensive cars in case they are stolen. In the enlightened West we tend to differentiate between stolen property, on the one hand, and human beings, on the other. It is not a distinction that the Islamist world appears to appreciate.
Yet the West maintains total silence regarding this devastating wall.
For two reasons.
- This wall is to be found in oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Nobody in the West wants any disruption in oil deliveries so principle, ethics, morals, sound common-sense and consideration for fellow human beings fall by the wayside.
- This wall is to be found in a Muslim country. It is not possible or permissible to criticise a Muslim or, worse still, an Islamist, society, leader or phenomenon. Criticism will lead to indescribable violence against the critic. It is far better to maintain a strategic and diplomatic silence and refer to “cultural differences”.
There is of course a third reason. A reason that is ignored just like one ignores the proverbial elephant in the room:
- This wall is not to be found in the Jewish state of Israel. It cannot be used to incite against Jews or Israelis, so there is by definition nothing to discuss. Just as there is nothing to discuss regarding the physical walls and terrorism-prevention security barriers built in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Pakistan, Morocco or Egypt, to name but a few.
The result is a barrier of silence built around the physical barriers that oppress Muslims in the Islamic world.
A barrier of Western collusion. A wall of Western silence.