Fat Uncle Saudi and the outrageous uproar over an unveiled news anchor

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What the anger over a Saudi newsreader without hijab says about the state of the world. By Elest Ali.

Summer 2014 has been rife with mostly distressing news from the Muslim world. The latest headline emerging from Saudi Arabia this week comes as a kind of anticlimactic cherry on top, adding insult to indignity.

Outrage erupted when a female news anchor for Al Ekhbariya appeared on national TV without her hijab. Apparently, in previous instances, she’d reported the news in a headscarf. Now, she was sitting there with her scandalous Saudi locks free-flowing for all to see.

Unveiled women aren’t an uncommon sight on state-run Saudi TV, so one wonders what all the outrage was over exactly.

Yet there must have been enough of it because even the Independent picked up on the incident, taking the opportunity to remind us, lest we forget, of the grisly end which awaits Saudi women who misbehave. But here’s where it gets really rich. A spokesperson for Saudi Radio and Television is reported to have said that the newsreader was at the time acting as correspondent from their studio in London. Thus, her unveiling did not take place on Saudi soil.

This will make perfect sense to you if you’ve ever been on a flight from Saudi or a Gulf Arab country headed for Europe. As the airplane readies itself for landing and passengers start fastening seat-belts and folding away tray tables, you’ll notice another kind of preparation underway. All the sheilas and abayas start coming off in a less than subtle manner. I personally know a few Saudi and Emirati women who take their hijab seriously no matter what part of the world they’re in, so I hate to generalise. However, the practice of dejabbing overseas among Saudi women is regrettably common.

But that is not what this article is about. That insult I mentioned earlier, which has been served atop our sundae of indignity, is as follows:

It is the 21st century.

Our Palestinian brothers and sisters are being mowed down by US-funded weapons, which one would argue is made possible through Saudi alliance and oil.

There are rumours about Saudi Arabia bankrolling the anti-Iran operations of Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency.

Bashar al-Assad is still cutting down his own people as the world sits idly by.

Islamic State is setting the Middle East ablaze with the unprecedented terror of their self-proclaimed jihad.

Meanwhile, one of the wealthiest Muslim countries in the world (which is host to the Islamic holy lands) only has the inclination to show backbone when women are involved.

Naturally the media puts an “Islam oppresses women” spin on it, even though there’s barely any news worthy of reporting here. Trust me, I’ve interrogated Google and no one’s been beheaded or fired over this yet.

Are we surprised though? No, we’re not surprised. If the Muslim world were a dysfunctional family, then Saudi would be that embarrassing, fat uncle who’s a closet pervert with double standards and a gambling addiction. This “outrage” demonstrates everything that’s wrong with Saudi Arabia’s hypocritical implementation of Sharia law. Their faith and religious honour, it would seem, rests solely on the oppressed shoulders of their women.

Yes, hijab is an Islamic obligation. But its practice can no more be enforced than prayer or fasting. Pinning a man to a prayer mat or depriving him of food for half a day doesn’t give you a religious adherent. It gives you an angry man. Enforcing religion only breeds anti-religious feeling and the kind of apathy which makes airplane dejabbing scenes and Al Ekhbariya’s apparent slip-up so plausible.

Then again, I’ve never run a country before, so I might be completely wrong.

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