We all know that Islam’s modern face is tarnished by the spectre of extremism and apologetics who cover for the extremists. We know that the good in Islam is being poisoned by the bad and that real progress cannot take place without Muslims willingly ostracising their fundamentalists. Right now, the biggest threat to Islam is not Atheists or Modern life but Islam itself.
And this can be seen in Saudi Arabia.
Salma Al-Shuhab lives in a land where women cannot drive. They can learn to drive on the sly, but they cannot take the car out of the house. You see, the Wahaabism that drives the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) believes that a woman should not drive lest it lead her and men astray. I assume there was some confusion about fast women and loose cars that led to this ban.
Salma woke up with a migrane and needed to go see a doctor. She did what many women in the KSA do, she called an ambulance. And when the call centre found out she lived alone, they said “no”. They said “no” because she had no man in the house. She could not just go out into the street at 4:00 AM as she may get arrested for being out without a guardian.
And it wasn’t once but twice, the first was the phone employee. After she asked him to call his manager, he returned with the same message.
That she could not be helped because she was alone. She demanded to know if they leave women to die and after a fifteen minute search she was able to find a driver.
The Red Crescent claims to provide a service that is in sync with International Standards and provides an ambulance service regardless of race or gender around the clock. They will launch an investigation into the call logs that day.
But is this humane? We have seen such idiocy in the past where the exposure of women to the public was less desirable than protecting them from a massive fire. When religion is inhumane then religion must change. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the heart of Islam and what the core of your religion does is what you aspire to.
Is this what we must aspire to? Base inhumanity, the inability to understand real issues?
Okay so two events don’t make a trend. There are routine events like this where male paramedics (and face it, they are mainly male because many Saudi women do not have great opportunities for such work) are hindered and harassed by the KSA’s Mutaween Religious Police. Including one case in 2014 where a young lady at a university died while the Paramedics argued with people who were more interested in her body than the paramedics.
The Mutaween insult men but harm women. To them a man is an uncontrolled force of nature, incapable of controlling their actions around an unveiled woman. And this means women must sacrifice their comfort, dignity and even safety for men to remain free of temptation.
And this is the problem with religion. It doesn’t make you moral. It justifies a moral stance. Your religion has ideals that are considered moral. So this can be things we NOW consider immoral such as Slavery, Cannibalism, Human Sacrifice, Violence, Sexism…
And the point is religion has grown and progressed and become more moral as time goes by because humans change and analyse the world around them and change how they think about morality. We move forwards and try to adhere to a code that does the least harm to others and treats others the way we wish to be treated.
But with religious fundamentalists they are sure that their action is completely defensible.
In this case? Denying women the opportunity to go to a hospital is better in their minds than helping her. The sum total benefit of letting these women burn to death or die without paramedic cover or just suffer poor medical care… is worse than contact between genders. That to them there is a tangible benefit to this.
Lets get this straight, this story is from the Arab Times and is being treated as a horrid incident by people in Saudi Arabia. Muslims think this is unacceptable behaviour from the Mutaween.
So how long are they going to stand by and be ruled by them? The people harming Islam and holding Muslims down are not the people who are progressive. Islam is not harmed by accepting women and GLBT as equals. Islam is not harmed by religious freedom. Islam is not harmed by liberalisation.
Islam is harmed by fundamentalists who think that the ideal way to live is a throwback to a less moral time because that’s what Mohammed lived in. Rather than think that they can do better, they think that all the progress we have made in treating humans better and more humane is anti-Islamic.
So Saudi must decide for it’s own safety and future whether it keeps kowtowing to the Mutaween and the Wahabbists or pushes for a brighter future for Muslims. If the centre of Islam is fundamentalist, what hope do the faithful have in overthrowing the shackles of extremism? The man held as an ideal is a fundie, and so more Muslims grow up to aspire to that ideal.
Humanity does not come out of the kit morality of religion but by careful analysis of actions. And Muslims would do well to realise that lest they fall into the trap of Wahabbism.