Saudi Reporter Decides To Leave KSA To Be With Her Canadian Husband

Hassna’a herself alerted me to the below article. When I first saw the email, her name seemed familiar and it dawned on me that in addition to having read her articles on Arab News, she had previously told her personal story on FHWS. At the time I did not put two and two together that she was a reporter masha’Allah. Not that it would have mattered as being a Muslim, I’m inclined to treat everyone who comes to FHWS equally regardless of their job position, nationality, race, religion, social/financial status or gender. An attitude that is sorely lacking amongst some Saudi government officials, in particular those charged with overseeing the Saudi marriage permission process between Saudi/non-Saudi couples. 

I hadn’t gotten through reading half of Hassna’a’s article and was livid. I asked my husband, why must it come to this? What do they want from us? He doesn’t know. If he knew, he’d be able to solve our problem. 

But I know this: my story, the story of Hassna’a and many other Saudi/non-Saudi couples like us is that our various dilemmas are a result of the stringent Saudi marriage permission rules which are not only unjust but oppressive. I consider it oppressive because they talk about safeguarding the rights of Saudi women and men and enforcing these strict marriage laws in the best interests of Saudis while making it difficult for them to marry non-Saudis. How are they safeguarding my husband’s rights by refusing to give us a new marriage certificate even though we have the official marriage permission from the MOI thus leaving me in limbo without an iqamah and my SAUDI son without a Saudi passport or Saudi national ID? How are they safeguarding the rights of Hassna’a by causing her to endure painful separations from her Canadian husband and making a heart-rending decision to leave Saudi Arabia and her son behind just to be with him? How are they safeguarding the rights of the female Saudi employee at the Marriage Licence Office by making her choose between her source of livelihood and a good husband? Good men are hard to find, Saudi or non-Saudi! How are they safeguarding my sister-in-law’s rights by telling her that her daughters (from a Syrian father) can not have Saudi passports and travel outside of Saudi Arabia but they can have the Saudi national ID? After all of that running around government offices, wasting her money and time! Oh but supposedly that’s how they “protect” their citizens from marrying non-Saudis. 

Hassna’a will go to Canada where she is not oppressed in regards to her marriage. Isn’t it such a shame that a Muslim country does not accept her and her husband’s marriage but a non-Muslim country does?

taraummomarsignature5

GOODBYE SAUDI ARABIA
By Hassna’a Mokhtar | Arab News
7 March 2010

The decision to leave my country came after I knocked on many doors of the Saudi bureaucracy, hoping in vain to obtain the God-given right to live with my Arab-Canadian husband in the country of my birth.

Instead of a residency permit, I was called names and degraded. Why? Because I, a Saudi, had chosen to marry a non-Saudi. Not only was I humiliated, I was also approached for bribes of up to SR40,000 (about $10,600) by people claiming to know how to manipulate the system. My husband was kicked out of Saudi Arabia twice because his temporary status had lapsed. At one point in this ridiculous process, an immigration official lost my husband’s Canadian passport.

It was at the end of this long, fruitless and humiliating journey that I realized giving up and moving to Canada was the best decision to make.

Living constantly in distress because my country refuses to grant my beloved husband legal status is infuriating.

I tied the knot in June 2008, but only after a year of frustration in order to obtain the Interior Ministry’s permission.

At one point in that process my father-my legal guardian-escorted me to the ministry to obtain legal recognition of my marriage. At the marriage license office, I interrogated the woman behind the desk.

“I see many women applying to get married to non-Saudis. Is the number increasing?” I asked. “Why is it so difficult to get the permit?”

“There are at least six or seven women applying every day,” she answered. “The country wants to protect you and grants you your rights.”

I refrained from scoffing at her reply.

“I have an 11-year-old son from my Saudi ex-husband,” I said sharply. “I can’t see my son whenever I want to.”

She paused for a minute and her look softened.

“You’re a reporter. You’ve got to write about the situation of women,” she said, almost pleading.

She then told me her story: That she too was planning to marry a non-Saudi, but that she had been told she would have to resign in order to get the permit.

“I don’t want to lose my job,” she said. “At the same time, he’s a really good man and I’m afraid of losing him.”

This goes against everything I have learned about Islam. I am no scholar, but as I understand it, for a Muslim woman to marry, the requirements are: The consent of both parties, for the groom to be a Muslim, dowry to be paid by the groom to his bride, witnesses and a public announcement.

I don’t see anywhere in these rules a nationality test for marriage. It is not written in Saudi law, either. But the reality on the ground is that the bureaucracy throws up roadblocks for Saudi women who want to marry an outsider.

I was taught in school that in Islam an Arab is not superior to a non-Arab or vice versa, just as a white person is not superior to a black person or vice versa. What matters are piety, moral standing and the content of one’s character and soul. Islam teaches us that these are the only requirements for marriage.

Why is my husband denied residency? Is it because I am a woman?

This most certainly is the case.

If a Saudi man desires to marry a non-Saudi or two (or three or four) he is automatically issued a residency visa with the marriage certificate. Not only that, but after a few years and a couple of children, the non-Saudi wife is granted Saudi nationality. Their children are also Saudi by birth whether they are born in Saudi Arabia or on Mars.

The same does not apply to a Saudi woman.

In addition to the unwritten bureaucratic hurdles, a Saudi woman married to a non-Saudi does not have inheritance rights and her children are not considered citizens., While I am writing this, my husband is filling out the application to sponsor me as a permanent resident in Canada. He downloaded the applications from the Internet, gathered the required documents and followed simple, printed instructions. The request could be accepted or it could be rejected, but the process is simple, straightforward and easy to comprehend. Nobody asks for bribes, and Canadian officials aren’t offended by the fact that a Canadian wants to marry a non-Canadian.

So while I say goodbye to Saudi Arabia and hello to Canada, I would also like to express my hope that the situation will improve for Saudi women in their own country.

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Published by

Tara Umm Omar

American married to a Saudi.

51 thoughts on “Saudi Reporter Decides To Leave KSA To Be With Her Canadian Husband”

  1. >@Hassna Mokhtar,so sad to read what you are saying, one of my family member she found the love of her life, he was not Saudi took almost 4 years to get the permit.I must assure you it's not only females have the problem, I myself was denied.she is non Saudi, and Arab came to Saudi at young age, all her brothers and sister born in the kingdom. I was denied.every time it's new excuse, Your first marriage can't do it, she was not born in Saudi can't do it, she is older then you can't do it.you see it's not only females, but I was asked to pay SR50K and someone would do it, some even said we can get you a paper stating you are sick with something and no Saudi family would let you marry o.Othat is how bad it is,I had many chances to leave Saudi and be somewhere else, but to tell you the truth I love Saudi very much, and I feel I can make a change, might be small or slow but it would happen.I wish you all the best

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  2. >Majid- So maybe by the time you're 35 they will tell you yes? As far as the bribery, have you ever thought this is like they are asking you to pay them the mahr to get married? Because that's how much the usual asking rate is to marry a Saudi woman. Its a joke really. May Allah help you change KSA for the better ameen.

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  3. >This is so sad, unfortunate and unnecessary. Are there any other countries in the world that have such unfair restrictions on marrying outsiders? I certainly don't understand that the gov't is "protecting" ANYbody here. Hassna'a – I wish you all the best and a very long, prosperous and happy marriage to the man of your choice, as it should be. It's too bad your own gov't can't wish you the same.

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  4. >Orchidthief- Oh well it is KSA's loss. Canada is gaining a very talented Saudi woman masha'Allah…she can speak out from there. Waiting for that day when KSA realizes that they are running their people away with these marriage laws.

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  5. >I know some, that has moved or will move,sad, I was thinking of moving myself, but if we all moved who would stay?lets hope that our voice will be heard ^.^ and change would be soon.cheers

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  6. >me running away, that might sound ideal, but maybe if I stay something would change. but by the time change would come i might be 6 feet under, based on what I see.in truth nothing really,other then where should I go in the first place.money is always an issue, but i know I would manage ^.^I thinking moving would do me good.cheers

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  7. >I am the other side of the story – the maleMuslim westerner wanting to marry a local. She agrees to marry me and we have strong compatibility and understanding of eachother. In our situation, it is the male family members refusing to even meet me, interview me or discuss anything about me or marriage – strictly because I am not Saudi. They approved of everything about me until the word non-saudi was spoken – then it was World War 3. This is the only reason to be refused and no further discussions can take place until I am Saudi. This feat is impossible to do according to MOI criteria.So, before we can even get to the government level of hardship we have to get through this level of impossible hardship first.Enshallah, we will be married whether it be here or outside as Hassna'a – soon!

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  8. >Basco- Welcome to FHWS and thanks for commenting. It can be an uphill battle but stick to your guns if that's what you really want. May Allah help you both ameen. Read about the struggles of the other three FHWS non-Saudi male contributors wanting to marry Saudis (if you haven't already)…http://taraummomar.blogspot.com/2009/07/saudi-womans-father-wont-let-her-marry.htmlhttp://taraummomar.blogspot.com/2010/01/german-fiance-of-saudi-woman-all-we.htmlhttp://taraummomar.blogspot.com/2009/06/saudi-father-repeatedly-rejects-non.htmlYou may also find more stories here…http://taraummomar.blogspot.com/search/label/Saudi%20Women%20Married%20To%20Non-Saudis%2FForeignersInsha'Allah one day you will submit your own story to FHWS (anonymously if you like)!

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  9. >Thank you for your words or encouragement.After reading the posts from others, I find myself even more concerned for any timely solution from family or government.Do you know if there are any government 'exemptions' if the Saudi woman is a Doctora? I have heard it is easier if she is – but don't know if that is just an urban legend – Arabia style.Allah is merciful.

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  10. >Basco- You're welcome. The time is all up to Allah. Interesting, I've never heard of that exemption. I would think that its the opposite, a Saudi woman who is a doctor is most wanted by a Saudi man who doesn't care if his wife works. Or maybe that would make her very undesirable to most Saudi men who don't like for their wives to work…much less work as a doctor which can be time consuming! I'll ask around and get back to you insha'Allah.

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  11. >Hi TaraI am Basco's finacee`Soba. He and I are going in our 6th year of trying to be married. We struggle just to keep our rights to chose who we marry and who we chose for our lives.Here it is just a matter of traditions and cultures in the view of the men – not for females or her personal life. Telling my family about marriage to Basco was the beginning of World War 3.I was threatened to be killed if I talk about this again.That was a year ago and We are still looking for hope to be legally married in front of God like any other couple in this world. They did say if he were to become Saudi citizen – they would allow an interview – but we know that is impossible for him to do that.I dont want to marry anyone else beside him. Basco and I have made our decisions and commitments to eachother.

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  12. >Soba- Welcome to FHWS and thanks for commenting. Six years?! SubhanAllahu wa bihamdihi. You two must be really committed to each other masha'Allah. I can't believe your own flesh and blood threatened to kill you over this, that is trifling and against Islam. Please be careful! May Allah protect you from their evil ameen. If they feel so strongly about Basco being Saudi then they should get a wasta and make it happen. If only to see you happy. But I've learned that individual happiness is not possible in some Saudi families and dissent on your right to marry who you choose is strongly discouraged. Either you do what the family think is best or be miserable. If it wasn't for putting your life in danger, I would advise you, as a Saudi woman, to write about your story anonymously so that it can be documented. I think there are other Saudi woman in your situation that would come out of the woodwork once its published wallahu 3alim. I wish I could do more to help. You have my support and welcome to use FHWS as a platform to speak out about your case. May Allah rectify your affairs ameen.

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  13. >Assalam Alaykum. What you said about the family feeling so strongly for me to be Saudi… (from what I have read on the MoI website about immigration) this situation is impossible to achieve, I feel the family realizes this. Nevertheless, my papers requesting genseea (nationality) were submitted to the MoI and I have had difficulty finding any status. I think that there is a possibility that they were immediately placed in file 13.I have tried to go the wasta route, but most people I have met with wasta are holding their wasta cards close to thier chest and don't seriously intend to assist – although they tell me "Wallahi they will do their best."So, here we stand – side by side, seeking any means available to us to be legally married as a respectful and pious Muslim couple. If the elements that joyfully control the lives of their women (regardless of the relation or gender of those elements) would rather have their women seeking 'illegal' relationships over accepting what Allah and our Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) have guided directed – then it is these elements who will bear the full and terrible punishment of Allah's wrath on the Judgement Day.

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  14. >Basco- Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh. Some of the women married to Saudis who have been living here for years have had to wait a while to get their Saudi citizenship. One Western sister who is married to a non-Saudi that was born here and fulfills all the points for Saudi citizenship has never gotten it. So don't feel bad. What is file 13?People don't freely extend their wastas because they may need them for themselves or their family members. Actually this whole wasta system should be done away with! It causes inequality and resentment. Just remember that Allah is your only real wasta.

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  15. >Thank you again for your words again.'File 13' is the most common file cabinet in the world – the trash can.Unfortuntely for our situation, the wagon is ahead of the horse – instead of getting married and then filing for citizenship later -we are forced to look at get citizenship THEN get a interview (with no guarantees for the result of that interview).Bosco

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  16. >Basco or Bosco…which one is it?I didn't know that's what File 13 meant, learned something new today. Out of the many things we tried, we never considered applying for me to get Saudi citizenship before the permission. You have an unusual circumstance, gotta exhaust all of your options.

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  17. >dear tara;you never and you won't ever get through this becouse you marry saudi man,not a saudi woman.the life here is like hell for being a woman,and all the good options for saudi woman,in home,work and marrige all are blocked with red wax as long as the gender is female.i don't need basco to be saudi,just i want to marry him regardless for all the circumstancis.Iam not welcomed in my own country so better to be somewhere else like hassna.

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  18. >Soba- Being married to a Saudi man does not mean you will have a smooth sailing when getting the marriage permission. We got ours within 3 years but even so, my iqamah situation has never been resolved. I do empathize with what you're going through. You can read about my situation here, nothing has changed until now alhamdulillah…http://taraummomar.blogspot.com/2008/08/my-situation.htmlHave you ever found a sympathetic mahram in your family that agrees to marry you to Basco?According to the 3ulema, when the primary male mahram doesn't agree to the marriage then it passes on to the next mahram you can marry you. If you can't find ANY mahram to marry you then you have to complain to the judge. There is one who married a Saudi women to her non-Saudi husbands against the protests of her family. I can't remember his name or the city his court is located in but the article is somewhere on this blog. Did you hear that this coming Saturday insha'Allah Saudi women can travel to other GCC countries with an ID card that doesn't require permission from the male guardian…http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article38061.eceI have mixed feelings about this new law, I think overall it is a progress for Saudi women. Saudi women won't need a male guardian to get this ID card which is good. And they can travel to one of the GCC countries without a mahram which is good but Islamically not ideal since a woman should not travel a day and night without a mahram. Now what I don't get is they can only travel to the other GCC countries but not international? Its like they are giving women freedom but still holding them on a leash, they just lengthened the leash a little bit. They are releasing the control over women slowly.

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  19. >Tara,The permission is for women to obtain this ID card without a guardian. Women will still require male guardian's permission to travel.

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  20. >How is giving a Saudi woman this GPS tracked, fingerprint embedded card help the woman's self-esteem? Who needs this card more – the Saudi male who "vacations" in Bahrain, Morocco, Indonesia or Thailand (via other countries of course) while leaving his Muslima wife and children at her parents home OR a Saudi female wanting to improve her life, career and future?A prisoner on a little longer chain (equipped with GPS tracking) is still a prisoner on a chain!! http://www.arabianbusiness.com/585145

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  21. >Add/Basco- So this card is only good for those Saudi women whose male guardians give the ok to travel without them. I should have known it was too good to be true. And GPS tracking? Reminds me of the ankle bands that people have to wear who are on probation or house arrest. But I can see how a Saudi woman could still fool the system or a male guardian thats tracking her movements. Once she gets to the GCC country, she can hand the card over to another person she trusts and then go where ever she wants within the country without her movements being tracked. The person who has the card will be tracked instead. But don't let me instigate something illegal 🙂

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  22. >The card allows the women to travel within the GCC region without the need for the guardian approval letter. To travel outside the GCC – a guardian letter is required. The women are 'legal' so long as they stay in the sphere of the GCC.Reminds me of a story when I was growing up in Canada.An old farmer in Northern Alberta shot a black bear which had a government tracking collar around it's neck.The next day, the game wardens were shocked to find that the bear had migrated 300 miles over night!As it turns out, the farmer removed the collar and attached it to a Greyhound Bus destined for Edmonton!Could be that many of these cards find themselves attached to the proverbial Greyhound Bus destined for somewhere in the world!This whole scenario almost sounds like some Sci-Fi movie.(In my humble and non-instigating opinion)

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  23. >Basco- Oh wow what a story lol. Now you made me wonder if the Saudi woman wants to go outside of the GCC, then will that particular GCC country's immigration officer request only her passport or her passport AND Saudi ID card? I'm assuming that all of the GCC countries are cooperating with Saudi authorities. Furthermore, will Saudi immigration be tipped off to her trying to exit the GCC country for international travel? Things that make you go hmmmm

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  24. >Hello Tara. The emotion that you wrote of that it makes you go hmmmmm – isn't accurate. The feeling is one that causes an aching in the soul for sincere, legal, honest and proper application of our religion! We have approached the wasta route again this week and was told that it is impossible to get nationality – even from the highest level in the Kingdom. My personal contract is up in May (although I can stay if I desire too) – I think the best option is to return home and see what happens from there.My beloved is here – absolutely trapped by what I call 'cultural Islam' – which isn't Sunni, Shi'a or Sufi – but up to the mood, anger or even whim of the Saudi male of the house – regardless of the Quran, Prophet Mohammed's teachings and Hadith's.***The ID card issue just furthers the sadness in our hearts – knowing that the watchers are probably patching all the holes in the net as we speak – waiting for the fish to try and swim thru.I wonder if those who test the net will make it into the Arab News the next day….Basco

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  25. >Basco- I'm sorry to hear that the wasta couldn't help you. Have you considered writing a petition to King Abdullah? My understanding of that Saudi ID card is that it changes nothing for the Saudi women who can't get their guardians' permission to travel in the first place.

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  26. >Yes, I have on two occasions. But on each scheduled meeting – the Saudi men who had arranged the meetings gave me horribly lame excuses that it was cancelled for some bizarre reason. But to be honest, I don't trust anyone to fully represent me in this situation except Soba. And to have her go with me would land us both in jail and probably a scheduled meeting with the lashing cane then the wrath of her male family members!

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  27. >Basco- Ok never mind their reasons its qadrAllah after all. It is important that you tried regardless of the result. We got our marriage permission approved by Prince Muhammad ibn Na'if who is compassionate in his dealings and understanding of non-Saudi/Saudi marriages masha'Allah. Recently, my husband was able to go to see his secretary at the Ministry of Interior so maybe you should try him too. He is located in the Civil Affairs department of the MOI building. Doesn't hurt to try one more time and you have nothing to lose insha'Allah.

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  28. >Hi again.I guess we got our topics mixed up. I tried to meet King Abdullah for requesting nationality, not for marriage approval. If I got nationality – then at least I could get an interview with the family. There was no promise of guaranteed approval or acceptance, just an approval to meet.The problem that comes to my mind about meeting Amir Mohammed ibn Nayef (or anyone in upper government) in requesting permission to marry – is once again back to getting the family consent. I doubt anyone would give permission without atleast first checking with the 'guardian' of the female – even if it was just a courtesy inquiry.If this male 'guardian' (or any of the males in the family) got word that Soba is attempting to go around his/their 'supreme authority' and trying to get approval behind their backs – perhaps the promise of killing her will become pleasingly justifiable in their narrow eyes and closed minds.Soba is everything in my existence and to lose her is to lose everything.And she, my dear Tara, is something I never want to risk losing.

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  29. >Basco and Soba, what a story ! I'm very sorry that you are going through all of this just to be together , and I'm sorry that I have nothing to do but to pray that Soba's family will realize that her happiness is what should matter the most.

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  30. >Hello Noor.Unfortunately, it is the happiness of the males in charge that matter most in our situation. The power rush of screaming and succeeding in enforcing his own will (despite the teachings of Islam) – is what happiness means.The woman desiring marry and live in a legitimate way – has no right to want happiness. Only wanting to see the glory of the "guardian" shine from over the villa walls for all men to see should bring women happiness and fulfilment.(Excerpt from 'Idiots guide be a Barbarian in the 21st century' by Basco)

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  31. >Basco, I hate to be a downer , but I guess since the family are not approving bcz you are non-Saudi , obtaining the citizenship won't help much bcz in their eyes you will not be a "pure" Saudi. Plus, obtaining the Saudi citizenship requires the renunciation of your nationality which could be hard.Nonetheless, your commitment to each other is so impressive and I hope it will be rewarded someday.

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  32. >Noor, reality is never guaranteed to be happy. You are right about not being 'pure' saudi. The guardian has already refused one of the elder sisters from engagement with a man from a big (pure) family in saudi… so what about a new saudi with no family ties, no tribe, no sheep even – anywhere in kingdom…Soba is a strong woman to endure all of this hypocracy from her male guardians (I think the term should be called 'overlords'). I admire her for her faith in Allah and her courage.About renunciation – it is a lengthy process, as we have already checked the requirements. But if that is what is takes to be legally married (according to Islam and the overlords here), I would renunciate in a heartbeat. Soba is worth very word of the process to me.

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  33. >Is it possible, that in the birthplace of Islam, the home of Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him), the place which should "logically" be the most accurate in adherence and interpetation of Islam in the world – to find someone in true authority who can make a ruling on a Muslima's rights to choose her husband?Or is the Saudi culture the deciding factor on a Muslima's rights in her selection or agreement in marriage to a Muslim man?If it is the culture that has priority – then isn't that a direct admission to thier disbelief in Islam? Islam encompasses every aspect of ones life – it is our guide in this short time on earth.How can something as basic and clearly stated as a woman's rights in choosing a husband be so blatantly distorted without it being a confession of the weakness of Islam???? I don't think that the courts would vary much from the general (cultural) consensus on the entitlment of a Saudi woman to marry a non-Saudi man (Muslim of course) – despite what is written in the Quran.I pray that those who select Saudi culture over Allah's direct word and those of his Prophet(s) will someday embrace Islam and ask for Allah's forgiveness.But until then day, Soba and I will look for someone, someway or someplace that will marry a Muslim couple so that we are not forced to live in a haram way.

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  34. >So, at what point is it culturally acceptable when THEY disregard direct words of Allah or Prophet Mohammed for THEIR own cultural whims?Perhaps ignore ramadan or hajj? Perhaps culturally disregard zakat?? Perhaps make salat only once per day…. THEY WILL SAY "NEVER – THAT IS ISLAM!!"Prophet Mohammed warned the male guardians about not allowing the women of the family to marry who the women thought fit… If they can disregard that direct warning – what else can they ignore that less or equal to that…. I don't know Tara.I am a kawaja with only a little time left in the kingdom and Soba is a local with only a lifetime left in the kingdom.

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  35. >Basco- In my humble opinion, its not even religiously acceptable. I can understand your bitterness but if you expect all Muslims to adhere to the Qur'an and Sunnah 100% then you are going to be severely disappointed. Islam is perfect, Muslims aren't.

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  36. >Your humble opinion is duly noted.I will keep my anger-strained ramblings between Soba and myself. Step back and allow others to tell brighter, cheerier and more positive experiences in this forum.

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  37. >Basco,In Saudi Arabia, the matter of Saudis (male or female) marrying a non-Saudi depends on the family. Some families would have no problems at all when their daughters marrying a foreigner , but other families would refuse marrying from a different tribe let alone a non-Saudi.I'm sorry that Soba's family seem to be one of the latter.And to share a brighter story with you : I know this friend who wanted to marry a co-worker who was non-Saudi. Her family was so against it as they only marry from their tribe(male and female). Her father told her he'd rather she stays single her whole life. She never gave up or lose hope but the family and especially the father were not giving in to her continues pleas. A couple of years later the father finally agreed. Now , not only they are happily married with a beautiful son but the two families are getting along so well despite the cultural differences. I wish you and Soba a similar ending.

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  38. >We know if Soba's father were alive, we would not have faced these difficulties. He was a honorable and balanced man – in both his life and his Islam.But the overlord sons are polar opposite. With them contolling our future – there won't be a similar ending.

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  39. >Lenka- Your husband should try to visit Prince Naif ibn Muhammad's secretary in the Civil Affairs office of the MOI. So many people have been burned by giving reshwa. Unless you are rich, it is not worth it. Scratch that, bribery is haram in Islam to begin with.

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