Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Monday, January 19, 2004  

The Hidden and Sad Kingdom

The Saudi world is fascinating in a frightening sense -- that it is so far from a normal human society that it teaches us what severe repression can do. We knew this from the USSR, but this version is worth reading about in this New Yorker article of a reporter who got to live there and work in a Saudi newspaper.

He writes of his conversations with Saudis:

"Before I was born, in the thirties and forties men and women used to celebrate weddings together. Now bride and groom have separate wedding celebrations."

"Traditions say that eating alone with your female relatives is shameful," Raid Qusti, a journalist, wrote earlier this year in a daring column for the Arab News. Where in our religion does it say that sitting with your own family is forbidden?" Qusti complained that many Saudi men thought it was taboo to utter a woman's name in public. "Ask any Saudi male in the street what the names of his wife or daughters are, and you will either have embarrassed him or insulted him. Islamic? Not in any way. There are some parts of the country where a woman never unveils; her husband and children see her face only when she dies. Women will always be the core issue that will hinder any social progress in Saudi Arabia," Qusti wrote. "We limit their roles in public, ban them from public participation in decision making, we doubt them and confine them because we think they are the source of all seduction and evil in the world. And then we say proudly: "We are Muslims."

In the Gazette, Baswaid reported on a survey of more than two thousand students in Jeddah, aged thirteen to twenty-five, that was conducted by a researcher at King Abdul Aziz University. Sixty-five per cent of the boys and seventy-two per cent of the girls showed symptoms of depression; seven per cent of the girls admitted that they had attempted suicide (more than twice the rate of the boys). Drug use was nearly five per cent for both sexes, as was the rate of alcoholism. ?Five per cent alcoholism among intermediate and high-school students in an Islamic country is jarring to our ears,? Dr. Saud Hasan Mukhtar, a professor at the university, told Baswaid.

One afternoon, I went to the gym near my apartment and started doing yoga exercises. A Saudi man saw me doing a headstand; he walked over, bent down, and cranked his head sideways.

?Is that good for depression?? he asked.

?It might be,? I said.

?Can you show me how to do it??

I helped him up against a wall, and after a while he learned to hold the position. When I went back to the locker room, it was prayer time, and four men happened to be praying on the floor directly facing my locker. I waited for them to finish. One of them asked me afterward if I would start a yoga class. ?Maybe it will help relieve the stress,? he said.

Such polite entreaties caught me off guard. Before arriving in Saudi Arabia, I had expected loud confrontations that went on into the night, as I had experienced in Cairo in the spring of 2002. But there was little of the natural exuberance, humor, and mischief that are so much a part of the Egyptian character. What I found instead was quiet despair, an ominous emotional flatness.

Depression permeates the society as it did Russia and the Soviet bloc. This is the New World Order that the Left and the liberals have in mind for us all.

One would be hard pressed in the whole history of Christendom to find similar examples of mass depression induced by religious states or entities.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 2:30 PM |