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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sitting in Saudi Arabia Sans Berka: Condoleezza Rice

People who follow fashion and haute couture will get a fright-night scare by checking out this webpage: ttp://www.alhannah.com/cgi-bin/avg?a;niqab. Thankfully, our United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was not interested in the latest Riyadh designs for the all concealing "berka" or Islam veil when she sat side by side with her hosts and Arab peers during a recent televised visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Congratulations and a heart felt "thank you", Madame Secreatary, for making a magnificent presence in Riyadh sans berka.

In my opinion, the berka is symbolic of everything that is wrong with the Islam culture and prevents me from understanding how any good can come of this world dominant and growing religious faith. Can the Islam civilization be considered civilized when, by religious custom and via the writings of its founder Mohamed, women are required to hide themselves? We are talking about at least 50 percent of the Islam population who are required to put themselves behind scarves. This custom or practice defies modesty. It is plain suppression.

Suppressed women cannot contribute to the conversation at any level. Therefore, I submit, the Islam nations of the world are only hearing from half their constituents.

I expect Condoleezza Rice was not shown on Saudi Arabian television sitting next to her peers without wearing a berka. No doubt, this news was either ignored altogether or heavily censored, at best. Indeed, I suspect the snippets we saw on American television were clandestinely filmed. Did anybody notice Condoleezza Rice without a berka? It is a very big deal for a woman not to cover her head in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, it's even a much bigger deal to sit at the big guys table without any veil. Berka, indeed! Madame Secretary, you looked magnificent. Although your statements were muted in the report I saw, you actually didn't have to speak at all. Your presence sans berka was enough for me. You are a liberating image to women who must, at times, wonder why most of the world finds the berka to be repressive, disrespectful and a symbol of violent sexual oppression, based entirely upon the fact that a human being happens to be born a female.

Although I've never publsihed a prophecy in my life, my first attempt at this mystic concept is this: When Islam women shed the berka, we will see peace in the Middle East.

Thank you Madame Secretary Condoleezza Rice for going to Saudi Arabia sans berka.

Post Script: March 4, 2007 - BBC News: "Iran Women Arrested After Protest"
(Seventy people were arrested at last June's demonstration)

Iran's authorities arrested more than 32 women activists protesting outside a courthouse in Tehran. The protesters were showing solidarity with five women on trial for organising a protest last June against laws they say discriminate against women.

The five were charged with endangering national security, propaganda against the state and taking part in an illegal gathering.

US pressure group, Human Rights Watch, urged an end to the prosecution.

It said the women were exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The five are organisers of a demonstration last June which was violently broken up by the police and led to the arrest of 70 people, many of them innocent bystanders.

'Intimidation'

The BBC's Frances Harrison, reporting from the demonstration, says almost all the leaders of Iran's women's movement were arrested.

The women held up banners outside the revolutionary court, saying: "We have the right to hold peaceful protests".

The aim of the women is to draw attention to discriminatory Islamic laws on polygamy and child custody that often cause great suffering to women, our correspondent says.

When the five women on trial left the court building they were arrested again, along with their lawyer.

Parveen Adalan, one of those on trial, said her lawyer had not yet seen any of the evidence against her, although she has been questioned five times by the intelligence agencies.

"They didn't give them our documents to read, so we don't know what's happening," she told the BBC.

One of the women demonstrators, Nahid Mirhaj, accused the police of trying to intimidate them.

She said the police chief was "using obscene words and describing us as 'misfits'".

Our correspondent says police and plain-clothes security men chased away journalists and onlookers and then loaded the women onto a curtained minibus and drove them away.

The women believe the authorities are trying to intimidate them to prevent any kind of protest during International Women's Day on 8 March.

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