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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 11 May 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Woman’s Issues As well As Identity Crisis in Saudi Arabia

By Dr. Fowziya Al-Bakr

May 11, 2016

If we follow the debates inside Saudi intellectual circles we can see that it is centred on woman’s issues as well as the identity crisis of some citizens. Both issues are historically related to the extremist exclusionary ideology.

The first issue is based on the thinking that women have mental and physical shortcomings compared to men and that both men and women are not equal. This concept required enacting of special laws to deal with women.

On the other hand, the identity issue was caused because of the thinking of some people that their affiliation to the modern state contradicts with their belief in the Islamic state, which cannot be implemented as it was during the time of the righteous Caliphs because of the complexity of modern world with its demographic, economic, political and other changes.

Saudi women have achieved remarkable progress over the years in terms of education, training and job. Efforts must be made to change the faulty and inhuman thinking that women are naturally backward compared to their male counterparts in order to improve their situation.

The existing rules and concepts have denied women their due rights and suppressed her capabilities. I would like to mention a few examples reported by the local press.

Authorities would not give citizenship to the husband and children of a Saudi woman if she is married to a foreigner and they consider her as the sponsor of her husband and children. This system treats her husband like a foreign driver. Is this reasonable and acceptable?

At the same time the foreign wife will get citizenship after five years or after delivering a baby.

Shariah describes marriage as one of the honourable institutions. Consequently, the government must support both parties of this sacred contract to have a happy and stable married life irrespective of their nationality. This is the outlook of Shariah and the whole world.

Only recently authorities issued an order allowing women to get a copy of her marriage contract. What was the reason for this long delay? Is it not a woman’s right to get a copy being a party of the contract? This marginalization shows that getting a copy of land purchase agreement would be easier than getting a copy of the marriage contract. This is ridiculous.

Even today a Saudi woman is not allowed to join an educational institution for studies or a company for job without the permission of her male guardian (father or brother or husband, etc.). This means a woman will not be able to complete her education or get a good job without the permission of a male guardian as if they are not responsible or incapable of determining their future.

O God, please shower your mercy on those women who are under the mercy of their male guardians, who are either uneducated or mentally ill. Who knows the difficulties and suffering of these women? Who will be able to help them while the Executive Bylaw stands against them?

Here comes the need to consider women issues as an intellectual and cultural problem in the first place in order to eradicate this racist outlook from the minds of people.

We should understand that citizenship is the right of all people, irrespective of their sex and colour or ideology and region. Women are the victims of these differences as well as the racist legal system. When will the women in our country be liberated?

Identity crisis is another complicated issue. It is quite reasonable that modern citizens should express their support and affiliation to the modern state as they live on its land, study at its school and their mothers and wives deliver their babies at its hospital. They receive civilian IDs and children’s birth certificates from its institutions. They will not be able to travel or get anything done except through its modern mechanisms.

Even after enjoying the various services being provided by the state, some people are still doubtful whether their allegiance should be toward this state or the Islamic state of the past. Young men aged between 16 and 20 go to the regions of violence and take part in battles. They fight against the Kingdom while holding its nationality and passport.

Saudi Arabia witnessed more than 30 terrorist operations during the past one year, according to a statement made by the interior minister, which was published by Al-Hayat newspaper on May 2, 2016. This means a terrorist operation took place after every 12 days. This is happening because there are people who are still doubtful about their national affiliation and commitment.

So far we have failed to discuss this identity crisis and its reasons in public as well as the role being played by cultural and educational systems in creating such a situation. It’s high time we eradicate the root causes of religious extremism to strengthen national unity and security.