Today I witnessed a glimpse of hope in a country that has done everything to portray Islam as an evil and oppressive religion. I'm speaking of Saudi Arabia's first ever anti-abuse ad, pictured below:
The King Khalid Foundation created this ad as part of their No More Abuse campaign. Their objective is to "achieve justice for all women and children exposed to abuse." The picture reads "SOME THINGS CAN’T BE COVERED: FIGHTING WOMEN’S ABUSE TOGETHER."
As this picture continues to be circulated on various social media sites, it is necessary to recognize that Saudi Arabia has a very long way to go when it comes to gender equality. I’m not one to use the word "backward" in describing a country's cultural or religious practices. After all, I believe every nation is entitled to free religious and cultural expression; however, this entitlement should never impede a citizen's right to choose whether or not she or he would like to participate in these religious or cultural practices. When it comes to Saudi Arabia no word describes this country better than "backward," and this is especially apparent in its treatment of women.
Saudi women are still prohibited from driving. Recently however, they were provided bicycle and motorbike “rights.” Of course, these new “rights” came with clear restrictions, including only being able to ride a bike in restricted areas like parks with the accompaniment of a male relative, and dressed in a head-to-toe abaya:
Yeah, because wearing a loose fitting dress while riding a bike is a piece of cake (I wish the men who enforce this outrageous law would try it). Many Saudi officials would probably argue that the country practices an extremely conservative interpretation of Islam. In this case, the word "interpretation" must mean "Ancient, oppressive rules that are non-existent in Islamic texts; made up by older men to control women."
Yet, despite the immensely large gender gap in Saudi Arabia, for once, in a long time, I am optimistic about the future of Saudi women. This ad gives me hope that the situation for women in Saudi Arabia can be, and one day will be, ameliorated.
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