Back to Index

Islam: Women in Saudi Arabia

     A consul learns the realities of life in a foreign country. Tim Brown reports:
     I think that declarations of happiness in general, not just those made by Muslin women, are as often as not just for show. "How are you feeling?" "Great!" Yeah, right! One of the key points always to keep in mind when taking even the most random of sample surveys is how often people respond based not on what they really think but on what they think you want to hear and/or think is politically correct. To my knowledge, this is a universal characteristic of human beings, and is not Muslim female specific. [Jaqui is a really happy person! RH].
     As to the other side of the coin on women in the Middle East, my only experience was as a Consul in Israel in the 1960s. Some of our most difficult cases involved American women who had met and married men from traditional Middle Eastern families, often fellow college students in the US. This was as true of eastern Jews as of Muslims. When the couple arrived back in Israel, the wife often found out that their husbands reverted to cultural type once back within their own families, or even had a second Muslim wife. In several cases the American Citizen [AmCit as we called them] had their US passports taken from them by the husband's family, they became second wives, and even essentially no more than servants of the mother-in-law. When they had children, the children became extended family, not just nuclear family members, and so on. In my experience with such problems --how to get the AmCit out of what was in essence social bondage, and her children freed of extended family control - these were problems generated by culture clashes.
     In Israel at least the laws were essentially Western, the authorities usually sympathetic, and solutions usually could be found. But I gathered from colleagues that in the Muslim countries both laws and sympathies lay with the husband, making solutions either unavailable or very painful - flee leaving the children behind or whatever. I never had a case involving an America male marrying a Middle Eastern female, so can't address that variation.

Ronald Hilton - 10/23/99