Goodness knows whether Maureen Dowd’s latest column — a noxious propaganda brew on behalf of the Kingdom of Saud and its foreign minister’s ludicrous moral relativism — was born of abject ignorance or whether she was sent trolling for Saudi money to help her employer’s bottom line. Or maybe she’s trying to out-Friedman her colleague when it comes to ingratiating herself with despotic abusers of human rights. Doesn’t really matter. From Dowd we hear unfiltered this argument:
The Middle Eastern foreign minister was talking about enlightened “liberal” trends in his country, contrasting that with the benighted “extreme” conservative religious movement in a neighboring state.
But the wild thing was that the minister was Prince Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia — an absolute Muslim monarchy ruling over one of the most religiously and socially intolerant places on earth — and the country he deemed too “religiously determined” and regressive was the democracy of Israel.
“We are breaking away from the shackles of the past,” the prince said, sitting in his sprawling, glinting ranch house with its stable of Arabian horses and one oversized white bunny. “We are moving in the direction of a liberal society. What is happening in Israel is the opposite; you are moving into a more religiously oriented culture and into a more religiously determined politics and to a very extreme sense of nationhood,” which was coming “to a boiling point.”
She gets in her swipe at Israel, sniffing that it is “growing less secular with religious militants and the chief rabbinate that would like to impose a harsh and exclusive interpretation of Judaism upon the entire society” and hissing that in “Orthodox synagogues, some men still say a morning prayer thanking God for not making them a woman.” And then she proceeds to assure us that while Gloria Steinem wouldn’t applaud Saudi Arabia as a feminist paradise, “I can confirm that, at their own galactically glacial pace, they are chipping away at gender apartheid and cultural repression.”
Oh really? Perhaps she had not heard about or was not permitted a peak at the real Saudi Arabia. From a more discerning eye, another perspective is in order:
Saudi Arabia, modern-day: A man finds his daughter exchanging messages with a male friend on Facebook and murders her. A young woman caught sitting in a car with a man who is not her relative gets gang-raped, is then sentenced to 90 lashes (or 200, depending on which news report you read) for having appeared thus in public, and is later beaten by her brother for bringing shame on the family.
Same place, same time: The marriage of an eight-year-old girl to a 48-year-old man is upheld by a judge despite her mother’s attempts to have the marriage annulled. A death-row inmate sells his 15-year-old daughter in marriage to a fellow prisoner to pay off some debts. The marriage is consummated. “It is incorrect to say that it’s not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger,” says Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom’s grand mufti. “A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she’s too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her.”
Dowd’s hosts seem not to have given her the full story. There was much more to learn if she had strayed from her handlers or picked up a news account or two. She might then have asked:
Who, exactly, is it the misogyny-frenzied brutes in charge of administering “justice” to the Saudi distaff side are protecting—and from what? When they condemn a woman who’s been gang-raped to 200 lashes for “having sex outside marriage,” or give a destitute 75-year-old widow 40 lashes for engaging in “prohibited mingling” by receiving charity from two young male relatives, or, in the most recent (known) instance, sentence a 13-year-old girl to 90 lashes—to be delivered in front of her classmates—for bringing a cell phone to school—what do they believe they are doing?
Any of that going on in Israel? Which is the “regressive” locale — the nation with women political leaders and a functioning court system that protects women and girls from abuse or the land of child brides and lashings? It boggles the mind that Dowd would entertain and abet the attempt to equate the two. But then again, Dowd was never one to get bogged down in facts or let reality interfere with a column or, for that matter, a swank sojourn on someone else’s dime.