What to admire

The BBC says people in Saudi-family Arabia mostly don’t care about Michelle Obama’s daring to appear in public without her head bandaged.

Although some foreign media reported a big social media controversy, an Arabic hashtag that translates as “Michelle Obama with no headscarf” or “Michelle Obama immodesty” was in fact tweeted about 2,500 times – not a small number, but not overwhelming in a country with a relatively high Twitter following.

And significantly, this “backlash” was dwarfed by another tag related to the US President’s visit to the kingdom. “King Salman leaves Obama to pray” attracted more than 170,000 messages. Saudis used this slogan to show their warm admiration for new King Salman leaving during the Obamas’ visit to pray, as shown in a news report that was widely viewed on YouTube. “This is the man who left the leader of the most important country in the world to pray,” a Saudi tweeted.

Yes, because it’s just so admirable to interrupt everything five times a day to talk to someone who isn’t there.

Mind you, the phrasing is ambiguous – it could mean the dictator king left Obama alone so that Obama could pray. But that’s not a likely scenario, to put it mildly, so I’ll assume it’s the other meaning. The dictator interrupted serious business to talk to his imaginary friend. It’s not something to admire.

You know what would be something to admire? The dictator-king putting Raif Badawi on a plane bound for Montreal.

BBC Monitoring, which was tracking the criticism of Michelle Obama, said most tweeters from the Arab world using Michelle Obama with no headscarf” were making fun of the situation and of conservative Saudi regulations. Some were sharing pictures of a Michelle Obama wearing a headscarf during a trip to Malaysia in 2010, while others used the tag to call for more freedoms in the kingdom.

Far fewer voices were angry at the first lady’s uncovered head, and a huge number of tweets came from US users slamming Saudi traditions. In fact only 37% of the tweets using the “Michelle Obama with no headscarf” tag came from Saudi at all.

Nothing about what Barack Obama was wearing?


  1. iknklast says

    Nothing about what Barack Obama was wearing?

    Oh, come on, Ophelia. You know that would be ridiculous to question what a person is wearing. And Obama is a person. But MIchelle? She’s a woman, not a person, so she has to be monitored constantly. (That seems to be the same over here in the USA, where the media seem obsessed with what Michelle Obama is wearing).

    The truth is, Michelle has hair. If that fact disturbs males, and makes them want to rape the nearest woman they see, they are the ones with the problem.

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