An Open letter to Guardian

Cultural relativism

My last blog was a rant on shit post modernists say, and I thought that would have just ended there, I had no intention of taking that any further. And then Guardian just published  this horrendous article, by Ahmed Abdel-Raheem, defending Saudi’s refusal to grant women the right to drive on cultural relativist grounds. I’m just lost for words here – the last time I had read a nearly dire article was a Tribune piece defending slavery. But this is Guardian, one of the most reputed papers in the UK, which published this – and that worries me so much more.

I just loathe cultural relativism. No amount of ‘genuine concerns‘ would take away the stink of cultural relativism. And when it comes to fundamental human rights, it’s just unacceptable for any reasonable person to support cultural relativist nonsense. This article precisely demonstrates why, and hits a whole new low by engaging in explicit cultural relativist apologia, and horrendously faulty reasoning.

Lets see what his arguments are:

Westerners should be wary of trying to impose their version of feminism on Saudi women. It’s not always welcome

Yes, how dare the western feminists shove basic human rights down our throats? It’s certainly problematic. Because whether women deserve basic human rights is now a “western feminist” concept. We are having none of that, surely.

The Saudi economic newspaper El-Iqtisadiah ran a front-page news story suggesting that women’s driving is just a luxury rather than a necessity and that protesters against the ban seek to undermine the kingdom’s stability and create sedition.

Seriously? Women having the right to drive is a luxury? And oh yeah, sure – those brave women who stood up and protest against were obviously conspiring against Saudi Kingdom’s so called “stability” which are well aware about.

That wasn’t just propaganda. I conducted a survey of my former Saudi female students at Al-Lith College for Girls (at Um al-Qura University, Mecca). They helped me distribute a large-scale questionnaire to their colleagues from different departments of the college and to their female relatives and friends. It wasn’t exactly scientific, but their responses are worth considering. I offered them anonymity in their answers, but even so, some wanted to be recognized.

As interesting the survey results might be, why does it matter? Having the right to drive doesn’t mean every woman is compelled to drive. Do we have to spell that out for you, if that wasn’t obvious? And of course, there is still peer pressure etc. to overcome for women who choose to drive, and all you care about this poll?

Also two words for you: Internalized Misogyny. They live in an oppressive regime which refuses to grant women their basic human rights, so why are you surprised that women have internalized this themselves?

Now this is where it really gets horrible and where I couldn’t make sure if this was a satire or an actual opinion piece:

To my surprise, 134 (out of 170) respondents said female driving is not a necessity and that it opens the door for sexual harassment and encourages women to not wear the niqab under the pretext that they cannot see the road when driving. Some also fear that it gives husbands a chance to betray and agree with the assertion that it creates sedition in society.

Mashaal El-Maliki, a housewife:

Female driving will destroy family life because it will give husbands a chance to know other women who (as drivers) will be free and without guardians.

Bedoor Elmaliki, a student:

In my point of view, female driving is not a necessity because in the country of the two holy mosques every woman is like a queen. There is (someone) who cares about her; and a woman needs nothing as long as there is a man who loves her and meets her needs; as for the current campaigns calling for women’s driving, they are not reasonable. Female driving is a matter of fun and amusement, let us be reasonable and thank God so much for the welfare we live in.

Maqbula El-Malawi, a student:

Honestly, I don’t like women to drive. This will create sedition … I agree that there are already different kinds of sedition we see every day, but the right place for a woman is her house; this will really save her from what is happening in the outside world.

A Saudi mother:

If they allow women to drive, there will be many negative effects on the whole society (eg, sexual harassment). Furthermore, there will be many things that don’t comply with our Islamic principles. This will open the door for women to imitate men in everything, and who knows … there would be calls for banning niqab. This way a woman will lose her femininity; and if a woman goes out without a guardian, she may lose her honor.

Banaader Elmaliki, a 4th year mathematics student:

[The driving movement is] just a crazy imitation of America, and doesn’t mean more liberation for women. It rather means liquidation of the society and inferiority of its moral values. The biggest evidence on this is the liquidation of American society; we don’t want this in our kingdom.

That’s right, he just quoted a bunch of horrible, bronze age misogynistic perspectives (albeit from women themselves), some of which  engages directly in victim blaming. Letting women drive “opens the door for sexual harassment” – oh yeah – lets shift the burden of not getting harassed on women now, totally. Because men have absolutely no role to play in it – so lets just deprave women of their fundamental rights they’re entitled to. That sounds just about perfect, because after all, we know that women are not people and are at best sub-human slaves, so makes sense.

Now one would have thought someone would have used these quotes to merely demonstrate the horrible state that Saudi is in, to highlight how much misogyny women themselves have internalized. But oh no, he apparently thinks this supports his “argument” in some way, while it merely demonstrates the dire need of addressing the misogyny.

Whether or not women have the right to choice that men already have is not open to debate. Period. I find it quite baffling that a person with half a brain would have any difficulty in grasping this exceedingly simply premise, you don’t have to be a feminist to know that. You have to a total misogynist douchebag to not only remain oblivious to it, but also defend the oppressive laws that refuses to grant women the choice that they already should have.

What is most baffling is how Guardian thought it was somehow a good idea to publish this drivel. This is cultural relativism at it’s worst, and giving a person platform to spew his half-brained apologist nonsense is a massive fail of some basic journalist ethics on your part, let alone a massive fall in your credibility. Sort your shit out, pretty please. Being the “liberal” variant of Fox News or Daily Mail is not a good way to stand up against prejudice against Muslims or racism. To quote Nietzsche here: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.

Women”s rights are human rights, and not a matter of debate. If you stand against it, or promote views that stands against it, then you’ve lost perspective (to put it mildly), regardless of your “intentions“.  Get that into your thick skulls please. Thank you very much.

14 responses to “An Open letter to Guardian

  1. Great post. I was just sickened by the article.
    I totally agree with you about internalized misogyny. Oftentimes women are the biggest supporters of patriarchy and the oppressors of other women themselves – out of fear, fear of the unknown, fear of harnessing their own empowerment, out of not knowing any better….etc.
    One of my favorite quotes is: ““What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heel print upon another woman’s face?”~ Audre Lorde”
    Recently I also read that in Saudi Arabia, rape VICTIMS can be charged for their rapes. Unbelievable. Victim-blaming runs deep.

  2. Also, here he is on a conservative website saying that Saudi women won’t want the right to drive because of their neurologically determined irrationality. Note he also conforms to the line of the publication here and implies he would like for Saudi women to feel differently but it will be a long struggle to bring them round. Such a cultural imperialist!

    • I wouldn’t personally say they’reworse but I don’t know in what sense of the word you’re using it here. As in “it sucks that females are themselves internalizing misogyny” kind of way, I hope?

      • Yes man something like that.

        I know one of my aunts who believes that women should be educated, go to work or be given freedom as it raises her arrogance.
        She said all women are born to serve men. Yes a woman said that..
        It is sad too. Her daughter married at 19 years. She simply orders her daughter in law to obey her husbands regardless of her protest or please. Yes it is sad seriously dude.

        Many muslim and Brahmin from my school. women themselves hates to go to college or work. that’s how they are trained I guess.
        One girl in my spoke up about female foeticide and that she don’t like to raise girls. Yes she said that. Proof that this generation is being f&%#ed as well

  3. Thank you for writing this! The Guardian has hit a new low with the publishing of this anti-woman piece. Any shred of respect they may still have had, has vanished. I would love to follow you on Twitter, are you on there?

  4. I’m glad you wrote this open letter. I too have my problems with cultural relativism. These self righteous arguments that come from the ‘grass roots’ leave me stumped, chastened and seething.Unless the point made is ridiculous. For example, – “Mashaal El-Maliki, a housewife: Female driving will destroy family life because it will give husbands a chance to know other women who (as drivers) will be free and without guardians. ” Do you think The Guardian was being satirical?
    Isn’t that the point exactly – the freedom of women? Look at the deep-rooted bias – the belief that women need to be guarded against their own baser instincts.

  5. Sadly, the Western world has or tries to forget the harsh, but necessary steps it took to separate religion from politics and limit it to personal choice. All the protests and struggle made by the earliest feminists and women rights activists to alleviate women’s status in society and necessary changes in the law regarding equal rights – all these were possible only by realizing ugly truths and harsh realities. Had it been for political correctness, none of the change would have been possible.

  6. Why are we all being so politically correct here? And refusing to acknowledge the fact that some societies are truly more sub-human and ridiculous in their existence than others? I’m not for cultural imperialism at all, but some things are just true. We can dance around them, but they are.

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