Salon directed me to a series of articles at the New York Times on love, romance, marriage, and gender roles among young men and women in Saudi Arabia. It’s an interesting read, a real eye opener and I have to say quite scary too.
Also it makes me think that if you were subject to so much sheltering and insularity with regards to mingling with the opposite sex, surely it would lead to men treating women as objects and women treating men as objects — as beings who have certain qualities which can never be changed, cardboard copies that are cut from a mold you’ve only been told about by other people, beings that can only be worked around and not worked with.
Also, it makes me realize why the fanatical uber-Muslims in South Africa have the conservative, closed minded ideas that they have — it has very little to do with Islam as a school of thought to be explored, probed, questioned and understood, everything to do with spreading an Arab way of life, Arab ideals and Arab mores. My usual example of this is the way South African Muslims always give their children Arab names, despite the fact that Muslims from other parts of the world don’t do this and there is nothing in Islam which asks for it. (Try arguing that point with a middle aged Durbanite.)
Well, I am not an Arab and thank G_d for that.
Anyway, read the articles. They provide some interesting slice of life accounts on the difficulty of being a young person in Saudi Arabia. And the one very interesting point they make is how the Saudis have managed to merge Arab culture so completely with ideas of religion that the two can’t be separated.