American Bedu forwarded me the article, Saudi Arabia’s Reform “Offensive” which she later blogged about in a post, Western Womens’ Voices Give Saudi Arabia “Kosher” Approval?
As I scanned the first few paragraphs of Mr. Frantzman’s article, I saw the terms “sell reform”, “quietly recruited”, “Western cheerleaders” and then the URL address for FHWS. By the time I finished the article, I felt the writer had implicated me as a paid Western propagandist for the government of Saudi Arabia since they weren’t doing so well by themselves.
Let me get something straight, Mr. Frantzman, I am not a paid or unpaid propagandist for anyone. I am a simple American Muslimah who happens to be married to a Saudi and living in, excuse me, trying to survive in Saudi Arabia. I work on this blog alone to help non-Saudis decide whether they really want to marry a Saudi and live in Saudi Arabia. So Mr. Frantzman, I suggest that you reform your ideas about ME.
By the way, the URL address for Susie’s blog is http://susiesbigadventure.blogspot.com/ and the quote you used by her should be properly attributed to this FHWS post, http://taraummomar.blogspot.com/2010/03/non-saudi-wife-of-saudi-interview-susie.html
Sabria Jawhar wrote a rebuttal of Mr. Frantzman’s article in which she came to my defense. She is a Saudi female journalist with impressive credentials masha’Allah. On her blog, Sabria’s Out Of The Box, she declares that she “was named by the Dubai-based Arabian Business magazine as one of the “world’s most influential Arabs” in its 2010 “Power 100″ list. She is an IPhD Student at Newcastle Upon Tyne University, UK, and writes for the Huffington Post, Arabisto.com and the Saudi Gazette, an English-language daily newspaper based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She previously served as the Gazette’s Jeddah bureau chief and is one of the leading women journalists in the Kingdom. Her commentaries on terrorism, women’s rights and reform in Saudi Arabia also are carried by leading websites, blogs and print publications worldwide. She earned her bachelor’s of arts degree in English language and literature at the King Abdul Aziz University and a master’s degree in applied linguistics at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah. In the summer of 2005, she earned a Fellowship at the prestigious Korean Press Foundation and Yonsei Communication Research Institute in Seoul, South Korea. In June 2007 she participated as a panelist in the United Nation’s 15th International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East in Tokyo, Japan.”
I would personally like to thank Sabria but for now this honorable mention will just have to do. Keep up the good work Sabria!
By Sabria Jawhar
30 March 2010
The Jerusalem Post, in its infinite wisdom, published the other day an opinion column by Seth Frantzman who complained that reform in Saudi Arabia was “offensive.” Yes, reform is offensive to all good people.
No, wait. I got it wrong. Frantzman actually was whining about Saudi Arabia’s “reform offensive.” In other words, he says the Kingdom is waging a public relations battle in the West to demonstrate the advances Saudis have made in cultural and women’s rights reform.
Frantzman’s laments that dumb Westerners have jumped on the Saudi bandwagon to shout from the rooftops that the Kingdom is on its way reinventing itself. He pays particular attention to a Westerner he likely considers to be the dumbest of all, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. She wrote recently about some progressive steps taken by Saudi Arabia. Frantzman also singles out American bloggers living in Saudi Arabia like Tara Umm Omar and American Bedu for joining the diabolical Saudi conspiracy of disseminating good news.
Frantzman and I share something in common. He identifies himself as a Ph.d researcher at Hebrew University and I am a Ph.d researcher in the United Kingdom. Well, I’m embarrassed for my Ph.d brothers and sisters worldwide. He gives us a bad name. Apparently this researcher lives in a bubble and hasn’t noticed the Western press is convinced the all the evil in the world is sourced from Saudi Arabia.
Okay. I’m exaggerating, but for every one Western journalist who refuses to engage in Saudi stereotyping, there are 10 others who think that stereotyping is the “truth.” As a Ph.d researcher I’d expect some evidence that these Americans bloggers are dupes. The evidence I see is that Tara Umm Omar and American Bedu have intimate knowledge of Saudi Arabia that most American journalists could never begin to understand. These bloggers possess Western values by virtue of their upbringing but live a Saudi life. Their life experiences give their written observations credibility that Frantzman lacks.
The reality is that Frantzman may write about the Saudi reform offensive, but his real message is that Saudi reform is offensive. Saudi reform is offensive to him because it’s a stark contrast to Israel’s relentless desire to keep the status quo and to deflect criticism of its actions.
Frantzman and the Jerusalem Post attack changes in Saudi society, particularly when embraced by Western journalists and bloggers, because Israel is rapidly losing the goodwill of the international community by failing to help find a solution to its conflict with Palestinians. Rather, Israel seems to delight in stoking the fires of rage among Palestinians and now the Obama administration by building housing settlements in East Jerusalem and sending hit squads around the globe to assassinate people the Israeli government deems annoying.
Frantzman is so offended by Saudi reform he cites dialogue in an American movie. In the film, a police officer in the early 1960s American South says it’s “progress” that a black man is only whipped instead of hanged for stealing. I suppose he is talking about the snail’s pace of Saudi reform, but without considering for a moment that reform is indeed taking place. So when Maureen Dowd says some nice things about Saudi Arabia after spending a few days as a guest, people like Frantzman behave like an insecure younger sister living in the shadow of her prettier and brighter sibling. The insults fly.
Although the movie analogy is an example of lazy thinking, I must admit I am impatient with the pace of change in our society.
The Saudi judicial system’s recent decision to allow women lawyers to represent women clients in domestic and civil matters is a case in point. Severe restrictions will remain in place limiting a female lawyer’s access to judges and the right to practice criminal law. It’s almost as if the new rules were established to set up women lawyers for failure. Yet the Saudi government’s policy has always been to make incremental changes to reflect the sensibilities of Saudi society. These are the nuances that some Westerners get.
It’s also what the Jerusalem Post finds so offensive. It’s not that reform is slow, but that Saudi Arabia is willing to embark on the difficult, if not painful, path to reform while Israel isn’t.
Photo Credit: Sabria S. Jawhar