Of Lawrence, Saudi Arabia, Arabs & the West

Saudi marriages_1.jpg
To read the story on ‘arranged marriages’ in a Saudi paper please click here.

We had interesting comments that followed two TMV posts – The Lessons of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ by Shaun Mullen, and my post on Myth of Muslim Support for Terror

A few comments came from Laura. In one of those Laura says: “We ought to be prejudice towards our own civilization because it is superior to islam, which is a misogynist culture that brutally oppresses women and is anathema to our western ideals of tolerance and freedom and so forth. Stop perpetuating the PC garbage that all cultures and civilizations are equally worthy. A civilization which sanctifies ‘honor killings’, practices beheadings, hangs homosexuals among other medieval, barbaric practices is not worthy of our respect. It amazes me how so many western liberals, claiming to champion the rights of women and gays, tolerates and defends such brutal fascism in the name of multiculturalism.

My reply was: “Laura has a point. But the issue here is different. We live in a world that has diversity – cultural, religious, economic and political. It is foolhardy to hope to change the people and their lifestyle overnight by invading countries. By doing that we create a climate of confrontation and violence. Change is inevitable.

We need peaceful campaigns not forcible conversions, especially when the other religion’s roots go back deep in history. If one studies Islam it has seen its glorious past as well as brutal past and present. There was a time in history when women enjoyed great respect in the Arab world.

The rise of Wahabis, or extreme conservatism, in Islam was owing to murderous factional fights between Arab tribes in recent times. Although this movement suppressed the intra-tribe violence and fights, there has been no powerful reformist movement to restore basic social/political freedoms.

So anger, hurt and retribution on the part of the West would not solve any problem. Please remember that the US has been supporting such Arab regimes in the recent past. This has complicated the issue because the Arab common people are not necessarily happy or support their rulers.

It is the common people (especially women and children) who are suffering the most, caught between their own rulers and now the might of the US and western forces.

I wish to add that from experience gained during my stint with the Saudi Gazette that it would not be right to believe that the Arab population fully believes/supports the stance of their rulers. As I said earlier their is enough dissent. But the Arab population, not much unlike the American/British population at present, is a helpless witness to the doings of their leaders/rulers.

I wish to give a few samples of visible dissent in a newspaper. Please click here for my earlier post.

Recently, I discovered that the Saudi Gazette has a web edition. I read an interesting discussion about ‘arranged marriages’. Remember this article appeared in ‘ultra conservative’ Saudi Arabia. To read it please click here. Then there is another article on drugs and teens.

I also recommend that those interested in the subject may also read my post on “Legendary Gertrude Bell of Iraq and Arabia”. Please click here..

Author: SWARAAJ CHAUHAN, International Columnist

Swaraaj Chauhan describes his two-decade-long stint as a full-time journalist as eventful, purposeful, and full of joy and excitement. In 1993 he could foresee a different work culture appearing on the horizon, and decided to devote full time to teaching journalism (also, partly, with a desire to give back to the community from where he had enriched himself so much.) Alongside, he worked for about a year in 1993 for the US State Department's SPAN magazine, a nearly five-decade-old art and culture monthly magazine promoting US-India relations. It gave him an excellent opportunity to learn about things American, plus the pleasure of playing tennis in the lavish American embassy compound in the heart of New Delhi. In !995 he joined WWF-India as a full-time media and environment education consultant and worked there for five years travelling a great deal, including to Husum in Germany as a part of the international team to formulate WWF's Eco-tourism policy. He taught journalism to honors students in a college affiliated to the University of Delhi, as also at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication where he lectured on "Development Journalism" to mid-career journalists/Information officers from the SAARC, African, East European and Latin American countries, for eight years. In 2004 the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) selected him as a Trainer/Mentor for India under a European Union project. In 2008/09 He completed another European Union-funded project for the BBC WST related to Disaster Management and media coverage in two eastern States in India --- West Bengal and Orissa. Last year, he spent a couple of months in Australia and enjoyed trekking, and also taught for a while at the University of South Australia. Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Board of Studies at Chitkara University in Chandigarh, a beautiful city in North India designed by the famous Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students there. He loves trekking, especially in the hills, and never misses an opportunity to play a game of tennis. The Western and Indian classical music are always within his reach for instant relaxation. And last, but not least, is his firm belief in the power of the positive thought to heal oneself and others.