1. There are two sets of laws
I am a Muslim who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. I lived most of my life in KSA and moved to Oman 7 years ago.
Now you should know that there are two separate police units that enforce Civil Laws and Shari’a Laws. The ones that enforce the latter are literally called The Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice whose main function is to limit secularization and westernization, i.e. making sure women wear hijab, people shut down there business places for Salah (Muslim prayer), segregation of opposite sexes, etc all of which you become habituated to when you grow up in a Muslim family.
We had separate schools for girls and boys. Once there was a fire in the girl’s block. The firefighters rushed to the scene but the rescue attempt was stopped by the Religious Police. Since the firefighters were men and the ones who needed help were of the opposite sex. Many students and teachers including my sister died from smoke inhalation and lack of an emergency rescue service. After the incident, the then Governor then lowered the authority of the religious police in the city.
My dad transferred to Oman the same year and we’ve been living here since. Though technically we still live under Shari’a Law in Oman, things are much better here. The people and the Government are much kinder and tolerant. Women can drive. The Waqf Board here not only allows the building of mosques but temples, churches, and buildings of other religious faiths as well. We don’t publicly and barbarically behead people.
Saudi Arabia was a bad experience for me and my family. The Government is oppressing, there is no freedom of speech, no freedom of expression, a lot of economic and racial discrimination between the Saudis and the expatriates and with the current ongoing Civil War in Yemen and their defense spendings, they are driving the entire country down the drain.
I still hope things get better one day because we are definitely better than this and we are definitely better than people who are currently representing us.
2. Homosexuals Are Killed
I lived in Riyadh for a few years while working with their military. My wife was with me for the first year, but I sent her back home because she was so fucking miserable and I didn’t want her to get assaulted. They are generally more respectful of western women who are escorted by Saudis since it indicates that there is some status there.
Anyway, here are a few points about living there…
- Executions happen on Friday. If you accidentally walk up to the crowd and look foreign, they will clear a way and push you to the front of the group. I don’t know why they do this. I asked one of my Saudi counterparts, and he said that it was to show how efficient their justice system is. I personally felt like it was more of an intimidation thing, but I can see both sides of the coin. I’m just glad I didn’t hurl in front of all those Saudis.
- My wife could not drive anywhere alone. Luckily, the Saudi’s provided my wife with a male escort. He was a chauffeur and translator. Once my wife left, she sent me a bunch of videos of her ecstatically driving once again. It had been over a year.
- Alcohol is strictly forbidden. I worked with a Saudi who was caught smuggling a couple bottles of alcohol in from Bahrain. He had to take leave (military vacation time) in order to get whipped. On the bright side, he had perfect posture when he got back because any bending of the back caused the scabs to start bleeding.
- The Saudis definitely were not welcoming hosts. I mean, I had a chauffeur, a great place to live, and a fat paycheck, but they make it very clear that they are “above” you. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like a servant status if you are a westerner working there.
- I almost forgot. Homosexuals 100% get killed there. It’s no joke. It reminded me of V for Vendetta. Just being accused of being a homosexual is a death sentence.
In summary, 0/10 would not recommend a visit to Riyadh.
3. A Saudi Who Left And Will Never Return
I’m a Saudi, was born and raised there. I can remember me as a child, I was not allowed to listen to music or watch movies because they were deemed morally corrupting and forbidden by the religion. The line of thinking goes this way: anything that may has a potential to lead to sex is haram. So people on TV kissing, any kind of affection could have the potential to mess with me. Apart from that. Not many restrictions in childhood iirc and no stark differences in treatment between males and females. Once I hit puberty, things took a turn for the worst. I was not allowed to socialize with the other sex. Any females I used to play with as a child, I could no longer treat them the way as before. I couldn’t talk to them or be alone with them. Otherwise, it would be assumed that I was after something sexual. I was basically treated as a horny animal who is not to be trusted around girls. And girls, pick up on this too and learn to be afraid of the other sex. Needless to say, you couldn’t date or get to know the other sex. Schools, government offices, restaurants, mosques were all segregated. Shops and malls were policed and at some point, young males were outright banned from entering malls. If you’re a Saudi single male, you’re constantly reminded of how undesirable you are. The country has nothing to offer for fun. No cinemas, of course, no bars or clubs. Nothing but dining and shopping and some other few things. And in most of these places you’re greeted with a sign telling you, you’re not welcome. For families only. I spent my teenage years driving with friends on the streets, smoking shisha and spending time in one of my friends’ house. I do realize that despite how shitty this was, women had it worse. At the very least I didn’t need permission to do most of this stuff and if I had messed up, my family wouldn’t have come down on me so hard. Nevertheless, it was still a shit life.
I went on to university away from my family. And suddenly I had full access to the internet, got to meet all kinds of different people and my shitty mindset and the way I used to view the world began to change. I still couldn’t speak freely and discuss these new stimulating ideas that I’ve just come across. The way Saudi society is structured makes it really hard to deviate from the norm. Individualism is highly discouraged. As I’m sure you’ve heard about all this arranged marriage business and how the guy’s family go picking his future wife. Of course, he has a say. And can refuse but it’s really hard to find a girl on your own and get to know her when you can barely talk and meet her. Anyways, since the future husband and wife have no clue what the other person is like and how good/bad they are. It falls to society (people around them) to determine that and give their input. The family of both parties would start contacting friends and acquaintances of the opposite side to get a feel of what they are like and if there’s any dirt on them.
So if I decide to voice my concerns about religion, become an atheist or do something in my past which is deemed immoral by society and the people around me, I’m pretty much fucked. Very few would be willing to entrust me with their daughter and risk themselves and her getting into trouble later on when/if the authorities decide to come knocking. This has to do with their image as well and how they are perceived by society. If word gets out, their girls may never find suitable husbands and their boys may never marry. Of course, it goes the other way. My sisters and brothers may have to bear my sins. So you keep your crazy thoughts to yourself. You question nothing in public and stay the line. Otherwise, people would fear associating with you and you’d be ostracized.
This is getting too long, so I must end it. Most people who say they have no problem with the system are people who are not affected by it. Mostly males. Mostly conservative. Or not, but deep down they have no problem living such a life and accept it. However, if you happen to have different opinions and views, are unhappy and want to change something or simply just wanna be left alone to do what you wish as long as you are not causing anybody any harm. You are shit out of luck.
I have to say though that things are changing. Albeit slowly. For instance, it’s more acceptable today to talk and be around the other sex. Although it depends on which part of the country you are in. However much of the restrictive laws are still there. Making matters worse is the fact that this slow progress could be simply overturned whenever those governing deem so.
I no longer live there. And hope that I never ever have to go back there, other than to visit family.
4. An Iranian On Daily Life
For me (29 male) the thing that bothers me the most is social freedoms. Like we don’t have bars and alcoholic beverages are not legal therefore expensive and hassle to come by. Also not having bars and clubs. Not beeing able to kiss your girlfriend in public or hug her (you can date her outside for dinner or coffee shop but nothing sexual). Mandatory Hijab which is very loose in Iran but still bothersome. Having to deal with social Islamic police.
5. No Way He Would Return
I lived in Bangladesh for a little while, and while it’s not quite Sharia, there are elements.
So there are 2 sets of law, criminal and civil law and then religious law. A lot of South/Southeast Asian countries with large Muslim populations do this. Generally, public criminal penalties and public civil disputes are handled according to one set of laws that apply to everyone, and private matters like inheritance, divorces are handled according to your religious law. So if you’re Muslim, it’s Islamic law. And you’re Muslim if your family is Muslim. Don’t believe it? Doesn’t matter. You’re Muslim. So I was Muslim. From what I understand it’s like this in India, Malaysia, and Singapore as well.
There are also elements of Islamic law in the public law as well, it being a majority Muslim country and all. So public criticism of any religion is outlawed (to protect Islam of course, nobody gets in trouble for talking about Hindus), the call to prayer is loud and proud throughout the city, sex before marriage is illegal, etc. All in all, I’m glad I lived in a technically secular country, and I lived there at a time when religious tension wasn’t all that bad, there’s no way I would live there now.
As a side note, I find it rather humorous to see people who spent time in the Arab world say “it wasn’t that bad” and then go on to talk about how South Asians were treated like slaves, and “whatever you do, don’t get raped.” That’s pretty fucking bad.
6. The Horrors Of Sharia Under The Taliban
I myself live in the UK but my parents are Pakistani. One time my elder brother went to rural Pakistan in the far north to meet some of his friend’s relatives. On the way, they stopped by a village which was previously Taliban territory and spoke to a guy who had his sister killed. When Taliban were in control, Sharia law was implemented (obviously) and things got violent quite quickly. He mentions how his sister was accused of cheating by her husband. Without question, she and a few other men who were accused of blasphemy (I’m not sure on the specifics in what they did) were taken to the centre of the village. On the rooftop of one of the houses which was used as an ‘outpost’ of sorts for the Taliban had multiple wooden plank structures with metal hooks nailed to the top. A rope was then looped through the metal hook and tied like a noose – I’m sure you could guess what would happen next. The whole village came out to watch these three people be hung with their bodies left on display for anyone who passed by to see. Although the brother didn’t have the “courage” (as he himself put it) to see his own sister die the father did. He described how his father saw her covered in a niqab be walked up to the noose as the Taliban member felt for her chin and tightened the noose under it. He detailed how he saw her feet struggling and her arms straining. When he came home, the brother said that his father did not speak for months. Sometime later, (I can’t remember how long) the village was liberated by the Pakistani military and things eventually went back to normal.
7. A hesitance to comment
I really wanna write about this but I live in Saudi so if something were to happen they can dig it up and find this and I ain’t about that. Already been arrested once for being drunk.
8. Saudia Sharia Is Barbaric And Slanted Against Women
Ah, as someone who is a Muslim has lived in Saudi Arabia, Jeddah all of my life and unlike most here still do, so I can give a very present idea. I am an Indian national who moved to Jeddah at a very young age due to my dad’s job. I even have cousins who attained citizenship here. In India despite all news you would read about Muslims and Hindus fighting, Most Hindus and Muslims get along. Used to an environment of co-existence, Saudi Arabia was definitely a shock. There is a big divide between the communities, Pakistanis and Saudis mostly get along because they both think no other religious community should get any rights to practice their religion as it somehow becomes a threat to Islam (Most Saudis and Pakistanis not all). Us Muslim Indians and other South East Asian expats (mostly from the Philippines) largely disagree with this as we practice secularism successfully back in our home countries.
The Sharia rulings I grew up reading have always made me sick in my stomach as they always had in some way been heavily against the women and the absolutely barbaric punishments, I would mention a few if anyone is interested. I once wrote an opinion post criticizing the Sharia Law and other religious legislation but the platform removed it and the moderator personally messaged me to talk about a Syrian woman who “disappeared” after writing a similar post, I soon found that no publication would ever take the risk.
I have many incidents but one always sticks out in particular to me. My sister had recently come back from Toronto where she went for college. We decided to go for breakfast and took an Uber to a restaurant. We were eating together when this guy wearing traditional Saudi clothing comes up and asks us very aggressively how we were related to each other. I looked at him in disbelief then just turned and asked him in Arabic why he would like to know. He just went red and started screaming, my sister started to get frightened so I got up and confronted the guy when he started screaming that my sister had not “covered” herself properly, basically according to the Sharia and how it was clear that we were just youngsters trying to date. I just told him we were siblings and sat back down. He yelled in Arabic about how something like this would not pass on his watch and put his hands on my sister’s shoulder and told her to show her ID.
I didn’t really wait for her to and punched that guy, grabbed his collar and told him to leave. He left but came back with a few policemen who forced both of us to show our IDs, which we did and after they made sure we weren’t two youngsters out on a date they then proceeded to detain me for punching a Saudi national and escorted my sister home.
My sister was seriously traumatized after watching me being tackled and beaten when I had shown absolutely no resistance. I spent a day in jail before being released after several warnings about messing with Saudi nationals. Of course, this doesn’t make me hate Saudi nationals but left a very sour taste in my mouth. The law has been more lax regarding Sharia in recent times though with changes in the royal family. I am leaving soon for my college studies as well, not really planning to return ever though, hoping to go somewhere where I can advocate for a Sharia-free Islam without fearing for my life.
9. If You’re Raped You’ll Probably Go To Jail
I lived for six years in Dubai as a western expat. Dubai seems very “modernized” but the law is still Sharia, and if they want to come down on you like ton of bricks, they can and they will.
It’s always much tougher for South and East Asian migrant workers who are treated like slaves. Westerners do get an easier experience, kind of like expats in Jeddah on compounds where life can be pretty “free” compared to the streets of Riyadh.
In Dubai, a lot of westerners took stupid risks, like drugs and so on. Basically, if recreational drugs are part of your lifestyle, a posting in the Gulf is not for you. Likewise, if you’re an alcoholic, or someone of Muslim heritage who drinks (Muslims will get prosecuted in certain situations for alcohol whereas westerners won’t).
You could get away with living with a partner unmarried, but you needed to keep the bills and rent in one person’s name and live discreetly. Most landlords will turn a blind eye but if neighbors complain, they’re obliged to act.
The main issue is getting raped, particularly by a local. If you are sexually assaulted by an Emirati, just leave the country. Cut your losses, get the medical help and counseling you need in your home country, but don’t bother pursuing it. Because the perpetrators will almost certainly get off scot-free and you (as a woman) may get imprisoned for sex before marriage. As a raped man it may even be worse if you got charged with homosexuality, even if you were straight.
Always remember that it’s one rule for locals and one rule for expats, and literally no one – the UAE or your own government – gives a shit about you if you’re Chinese or Indian.
10. Good Luck Getting Divorced If You’re A Woman And Not A Muslim
My father is an offshore oil and gas superintendent so our little family moved around a lot. Around 10ish years ago we did a longish stint in Malaysia which has both Sharia and Civil Law. My parents had a pretty rough marriage at the time and they were constantly fighting so they decided that they would get remarried in Malaysia to remedy the whole situation (they got married in Malaysia 20 years earlier too). After all was said and done they threw a huge party to celebrate and unfortunately during this party my mother got a phone call from the Sharia courts that my father had actually gotten married to a Muslim woman behind her back and that my mother had 30 days to convert to Islam before their marriage was considered null and void (Muslims are apparently allowed four wives legally).
You could imagine how livid my mother was and of course, it caused a huge fight between them; effectively ending their marriage. I remember my mother going to the lawyers and none of them could help her because Sharia law superseded Civil law and she wasn’t a Muslim. Basically, because my mum and I didn’t convert we were wiped off my father’s records and that’s the story of how my dad stranded us in Malaysia with nothing. My mum had to sell all the gold and life insurances before being able to move is all back up to Canada.
11. A Man Literally Dictates A Woman’s Life
I lived in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Born and raised Saudi actually. Growing, I thought the way of our life was “normal”. There was strict segregation of the sexes. Cafes and restaurants have 2 sections: single (for single men) and family (for women and families). Everyone was covered up. Most women wore niqab and you only saw their eyes. Schools taught 5 religion classes and not in an unbiased way. We were taught Islam, sharia, that this is the one true religion. We learned the evils of capitalism, socialism, and communism. We learned about the evils of Zionism.
We learned to hate the nonmuslims and that jihad was the holiest most important thing. We were terrorized as kids, in elementary school and middle school on the horrors of death, the grave, hellfire, and all sorts of stories of what happens to nonbelievers or girls that don’t wear hijab, etc. In school, girls are required to wear abaya and hijab in 3rd grade. By the time 7th grade comes, they are required to cover their faces too. It is mandated by the government for all girl’s schools. A legal guardian is required for all women, regardless of age. A legal guardian is always male, usually a father or husband. He literally dictates a woman’s life. Her education, work, marriage, and travel.
Saudi Arabia is modern. It has huge shopping malls and many men that want to see the women in their families succeed. But the government is shit. Blasphemy and hate speech is punishable by imprisonment and carries the death penalty. Speaking against the judicial system will land you in jail. Speaking against the monarch will get you jailed, too.
I left after my father began to threaten to pull me out of work and lock me up at home. As my legal guardian, he had full authority to do that. Fuck that country. I’m so glad I’m an atheist. Islam is such a horrible religion.
12. Life Is Horrible But Livable
I’m a Saudi Arabian citizen and have lived my whole life here, I can tell you about the phases and levels of Sharia law here in Riyadh, the true origin of terrorism. They teach you from a young age in mandatory subjects from the first grade that the infidels are there for the purpose of stripping you away from all of your “righteousness and angelic traits”.
All infidels deserve to be killed, you hate every other religion out there and especially the Jews **they took our beloved Palestine away so they deserve to be killed in the most creative ugly way possible, you are all soldiers for Allah and the Muslim people will basically “jihad” all over the world one day and gain it back.
The Salafi-Sunni-terrorist phase started around the 1970’s, we Arab people call it “Al Sahwah” as in the awakening when the religious police actually became a thing lol, that’s when the Saud government started using Islam in a way to further silence the people, basic politics there! But it all went downhill after the religious people started having too much influence on the people for the Saud government to handle so they decided to join it rather than to fight it since the religious cancer has spread too much to be cured. That’s when the terrorist Islamic state started.
They only stripped mosques of their right to talk politics a couple of years ago. Before that, every fucking lecture they gave was either about killing the Jews or killing the Jews, sometimes both.
You asked about life? It’s horrible but livable. Yeah risking your life over something as simple and as human as sex can be troubling at times but I stopped caring about it, guess that’s my way of dealing with it but let’s not make this too personal. The people here are fucking psychotic, they can actually diagnose themselves and be diagnosed by fucking doctors with “envy” and “witchcraft”. Therapy doesn’t exist because every fucking therapist here gives you “verses of Quran” as a way to treat your Biploar disorder, also schizophrenia and autism can be a demon that’s possessing you. Just thought I’d share some of the fuckedupness this country is living.
I for myself plan to use the free education and get the fuck out of here, if it’s not for my little sisters I’d probably be either dead or ran the fuck outta here, almost all the people are dumb fucks believing in a fairy god and a fairy life. Almost everyone is hypocritically good, but in fact, no one is. The country is slowly evolving, just a few days ago they reached the 1700’s and one day they’ll reach whatever phase we’re in right now, just not fast enough for me to waste my life waiting for this shithole. Like I said it’s livable just not a life worth living. Sorry for the rant but thought I’d share this I’d happily answer specific questions if you any wanted anything.
13. If You’re A Woman In Saudi Arabia Then Get Out
I lived in Saudi Arabia most of my life. Not Saudi myself, and am a woman and left Islam. I hate that place with a passion.
I had to wear a headscarf at the age of nine, lived a segregated lifestyle and in fear of half of the population. I was deprived of my own childhood, and the moment I started wearing a headscarf was the moment I stopped going outside to play because other kids and local imams and religious police would give me shit when they saw a girl in a headscarf at the playground or in the street rollerblading. That’s also when my depression started.
I had to have my male guardian’s permission to get an education, get a job and even get paid for my job. For my BA I wanted to major in graphic design, which wasn’t available in Saudi Arabia. I told my parents that I wanted to go study abroad where my brother was. My papers were ready for submission, but my father went ahead and got me admitted into a public university while I was prepared to study abroad. Neither my permission nor presence were needed. I was at least luckier than two of my friends whose parents didn’t allow to go to uni and forced them to marry men twice their age.
I really struggled with freedom of movement. We didn’t have a driver, and my brother hated driving me around, so I ended up not leaving the house for months at a time except for school, uni or work. When I started saving up and later earning money, I would take taxis after I kept going late to work because of my brother. I got sexually harassed by a taxi driver a few times, and I always made sure I’d write down the car plate number, registration number, and if possible the driver’s name and phone number. One time was pretty bad that I called the police and told them what had happened. I told them I knew the driver’s details, but all I was given was “for your own sake, keep this to yourself.” I later made the mistake of telling my mom what happened, minus the police incident and that I had the driver’s details. I made her promise not to tell any of my brothers, but she went ahead and told them. They treated me like a gullible idiot for not taking down the driver’s details, and ever since then, I wasn’t allowed to take taxis or be with a driver by myself, which resulted in my forced isolation at home again. Thing is, I didn’t give them the driver’s details because I knew they would have just gone and beat him up, and I didn’t want that bullshit, but I dug my own grave by trusting my mother.
I was even more and more isolated because I wasn’t religious and couldn’t relate to people around me or even my friends, but I had to pretend to be religious because atheism is treated as terrorism and a threat to national security, and is punishable by death. I couldn’t talk about it even to my closest friends.
There was one time when I was in court, and I see a mother with at least 7 children. She came to me for help because she was illiterate and wanted me to fill out a complaint form for her. Her complaint? Her husband married a second wife and made them live in the same house together, and he beat her in front of her children and second wife. Her problem? In order to file a lawsuit, she needs consent from her male guardian, who also happens to be her abuser. She had no other male guardians alive.
So yeah, Saudi Arabia is a shit place for women, but whenever I protested to the people I knew, I was accused of being too westernized or that I was some oversensitive special snowflake and didn’t know my place.
As sad as it sounds, my father’s death was my ticket out of there. I worked for 4 years, hardly spent anything so I can afford to do my master’s abroad, got my admission letters, then told my family. My mom tried to accompany me and my brothers tried to push for that, but because of her visa status, she couldn’t come, so I got really lucky. I’ve been married to an amazing ex-Muslim for a couple of years now and was living with him before we got married. My family thinks he’s Muslim, and they don’t know we were in a relationship before that, and every time I forget my rights and start doubting my self-worth as a human being, he’s there to remind me of what I’m worth.
If you’re a woman in Saudi Arabia or any similar place, I hope with all my heart you’ll find your ticket out of there.
14. Literally Everything Is Segregated By Gender
Both of my parents are doctors and have moved to Saudi Arabia from another Arab country. I was born here and lived my whole life in the country so I’ve been under sharia law since I was born(I’m currently 17).
Starting off, everything closes during prayer time and opens up 20 or so minutes after. Shops, malls, you name it. There are no movie theaters in the country. A friend who had let his hair grow for a long time was forced to cut it by the religious police before(probably because he’s “imitating women” or some similar bullshit reason), although I’ve heard they don’t do that anymore. All women wear black trash bags on them so sometimes it’s really hard to find you mom when she’s identical to every moving black ghost in the area.
Pornographic sites are blocked and so are anti-Islamic ones. Everything is segregated by gender. Queuing to order from a fast food restaurant in a mall? Separated by gender. A standalone restaurant? Restaurant is separated into two parts, for singles(read: males only) and for family(read: family and females). Also, no mixing of genders in the workplace which limits the number and type of jobs women can get. Oh, and schools are segregated by gender too.
Having partners(outside of marriage) is not allowed and so is displaying public acts of affection. Never had a crush on anyone because I’ve almost never interacted with a girl my age.
Honestly, the whole country is boring. There isn’t much fun to be had and I’m naturally anti-social so all I do is just stay at home play steam games, watch YouTube or do whatever I’m basically on my PC 24/7 since it’s the summer vacation. I’ll also read a book or two every once in a while. There’s an incredible lack of science books in bookstores but I was able to find “Physics of the Impossible” by Michio Kaku which I’m currently reading. My parents? They don’t mind any of the stuff imposed by Sharia law. Most people here don’t. They never felt what’s it like to have freedoms that people in more socially liberal countries take for granted. Despite being raised as a Muslim and living my whole life under Sharia law, I’ve become an atheist for almost 2 years now.
15. Had To Go To Church In Secret
I lived in Saudi Arabia for 4 years when I was a young child and then my parents lived there again later when I was in college.
Overall as a kid in pre 9/11 Saudi Arabia, I loved it. We had a 4 wheel drive and would go out in the desert all the time and camp near the sand dunes and out to other cool spots. We had a small boat about would go out to small islands in the Persian Gulf. It was a lot of fun.
My mother had to wear an abaya which is just the black cloak when we were in public. She stuck out pretty badly with red hair and blue eyes. My dad always had to carry a pair of pull on sweat pants in the car in case he wanted to in public.
Sharia Law made my family a lot closer. We basically all had to go places together. My mom couldn’t drive or go out “unsupervised”.
We had to eat at the “family” section of restaurants. There were “single” sections for males by themselves. Booths in places like Wendy’s or McDonald’s had blinds on them for privacy.
My family went to church in secret. We met at each other’s homes. There was a black market for bibles and hymnals and stuff.
There are mutawa which are religious police and go around making sure people are following the religious laws. We were yelled once or twice by them.
What really stands out to me though wasn’t necessarily the religious stuff. In Saudi Arabia, there are huge populations of workers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and others. They are all male. Most of them are working in SA and sending money home to their families. They live in terrible work camps and ride around in buses with dead eyes.
When I visited my parents when I was older a lot had changed. My parents lived in a compound now with armed guards everywhere. Nobody went out to the desert or ocean anymore. My parents rarely went outside of the compound, maybe once or twice a month. One thing they would do was go to Bahrain at least once a month which is much more western than SA and is basically a party island for all the naughty Saudis. The buses full of men with dead eyes were still there.
16. Limbs Cut Off in Public every friday
I lived in a 4-star hotel I Jeddah for four months. As a woman ( on business) I was unable to leave the hotel without a co-worker. There are no movie theaters, no bookstores. Women can go to one of many opulent malls, gold tiles inside but be aware that in the restrooms you will be holding up your abaya or burka and hovering over a hole in the floor to pee. The Internet is censored, I could not access “Ravelry” to view knitting patterns but had full access toYou tube. One night at midnight the desk clerk phoned my room to summon me to the front desk and told me to bring my passport. The mutawa ( sharia police) were waiting for me, pretty sure that I saw smoke coming from his flared nostrils.My crime was that I allowed a group of adult students ( mostly Filipinos in their 20s) to take the stairs one flight up to the conference room instead of waiting for the elevator.They were unsupervised, single men and women.
When he saw that my visa indicated that I was there as a guest of the ministry of health I was released. One of my students was a Saudi 24 yr old social worker. She went through my training but, in the end, her father decided not to allow her to work.
The “chop block” operates in a big parking lot ( think Walmart) on Fridays after the weekly Muslim service. It’s very well attended, people stand on car hoods for a better view. When the offending body part ( head/ arm) does hit the ground everyone cheers as if a soccer goal was scored.
If you are a non-Saudi they subtly make it clear to you that you are “less” and despite your position or business you are a servant to them.
17. Tyranny Of The Majority
Non Muslim living in Malaysia.
Firstly like to address that in our country there are 4 main ethnic races – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Orang Asli (aborigine). This is important because:
Constitution – Malay and aborigine are given Bumiputera privileges), which is a form of affirmative action but for the majority race. There is also a different class of bumi for Muslims and non-Muslims.
Malay are constitutionally deemed to be born into Islam, don’t get any choice, have to be circumcised, have to fast before Raya and pray 5 times a day. Naturally, there are 2 courts in our country, the Shariah court which takes precedence over the Civil court if you are Muslim.
Rest of us got the chance to choose our religion, but converting into Islam is almost 99% a one-way street, can’t go back unless in extremely special circumstances. This is not so prevalent in Borneo because the two states (minus Labuan) is mostly Christian and we have special rules there. Okay, so Shariah is not so enforced there.
Speaking as a non-Muslim, Chinese, living in Kuala Lumpur, life is good. Okay, it could be better but looking at most of the other Muslim countries, it could be a hell lot worse. Depends on how you look at things. Chinese still form the economic backbone of our country, there is just an enforced “bumi privilege” layer where certain Malay elite with political connections are used to obtain contracts. But even these guys give their contracts to Chinese as we are perceived to be hardworking and able to deliver as promised. If you know how to work around this layer, I’d say you stand a greater chance to be affluent as a Chinese, rather than as a Malay. Also, since the Sharia law doesn’t apply to us (except when we deal with Malay), we are allowed to have quite a hedonistic lifestyle. We can consume alcohol. We can have pre-marital sex. We aren’t forced to pray or fast or give zakat. We have freedom of religion. We can be gay or lesbian without fear of being kidnapped and sent to re-education camps.
The biggest complaint is that our taxes are used to prop up the Bumiputera privileges. But honestly, if there were no more Bumi rights then there would be a massive overhaul of our constitution (Malay would no longer be mandatory Muslim) and that’s never gonna happen.
18. You Have To Constantly watch yourself
I was born and lived most of my life in Iran. I am male, which means that my experience was not nearly as bad as others.
Technically, Iran is not under sharia law, but most agree that it is civil law only in name and it sucks. You have to be constantly watching what you’re doing, especially as someone who doesn’t know many of the rules of Islam. However, from what I know, Iran is not nearly as strict in its religious laws, not because the laws don’t exist, but just because the government knows that their throne is already rather shaky, and so they don’t try to enforce them. The religious police was disbanded a couple years ago. All of this leads to some hilarious situations where the plastic models used to model clothes are wearing lingerie and are also wearing a headdress.
But things get a lot worse when you are dealing directly with the government. If you want any kind of government position, you have to either be a devout muslim or be really good at pretending. That’s not because there’s a law stating so, but just because you’ll get fired otherwise. That is a theme in Iranian laws. Theoretically, they are rather modern, and someone with little knowledge of the country would think that they were very reasonable laws, but they are implemented in a way that still restricts the freedom of the people. Because of this, the government can turn around and say that their country is very free, while firing everyone who doesnt make sizable donations to their corrupt mosques.
About six months ago, I traveled back to iran with my mother. We live in Canada, which has no Iranian embassy, and my mother needed to renew her passport, so we though that we could use the trip to also renew her passport. Four days before our flight back, we went to some government agency and just asked to renew the passport. They told us that they couldnt, because, and I quote, “A woman shouldn’t be traveling without her husband anyway.” Then, we contacted one of my mother’s friends, who worked at some other government agency, and he introduced us to some other government official, who introduced us to someone else. Finally, we sat down with this guy to see what he could do, only for him to turn around and tell us that not only could he not renew the passport, we also were not legally allowed to leave the country. Why? because my mother did not have my father’s permission. Now, my mother and father have no issues, and he had actually written a simple letter giving my mother the right to sign for him in any situation, but they didnt accept it and basically said that we shouldnt want to leave this great country anyway.
So the next three days were just the two of us frantically running to badly managed offices where we had to wait hours for some person to write us a couple words and then running that letter to some other agency only for them to tell us to go to yet another agency…while my muslim grandmother preached to us about how great it was that the legal system protected the rights of the husband. Talk about a ruined vacation.
19. You are not free to love who you want
I’m a Malaysian Malay woman and really, it is not fun. I studied in the US for four years and I was enlightened by just the very fact that when I was in the US, I can do whatever I want as long as it is bound by the law. However since I got back I’ve been having a really hard time of fitting in just because I’m a non-practicing Muslim now and it’s just very super fucking tiring to explain to people why I no longer wear hijab or why I wear nail polish during Ramadhan if I’m fasting cuz supposedly water can’t reach to your nails so you’re impure so your prayers and your fast will not be accepted by God – what the fuck.
Example: During Eid, my little niece asked me out loud why I’m no longer wearing my hijab? I said cuz I no longer want to. She replied, “but you are sinning!” She’s nine years old for fucks sake. Some other parents even force their daughters as young as 4 to wear hijab. Hell, I even saw one malay woman pushed her daughter’s hijab onto her head even though she complained that it was hot. I was not happy when I saw that.
To clarify, I was raised super conservatively. I went to an all Malay boarding school – which was supposed to be elite but really just full of entitled Malay brats who think the Chinese and Jews are out there to get them. And I was one of them! Was. It sucks. Even getting married under Sharia law is barbaric. I have to be given away by males of my dad’s side or if I don’t have any male relatives left – a male judge would have to give me away. What the f is that shit? I am an adult woman who owns her own properties and drives her own car. What year are we living in?
I was in love with a man while I was abroad and after I got back our relationship didn’t make it. And I can’t help but wonder if one of the reasons why we didn’t make it is because of the Sharia law system in this country. In which it says that if I were to marry a man outside of my religion, he has to convert and be circumcised. I don’t fucking care if he’s a Muslim or not as long as I get to spend my life with him. But guess what? If he didn’t convert and if we did get married I assure you the news of me will get viral and strangers around the country would condemn me just because I marry an infidel. And it would not be recognized as a marriage anyway. And it’s not like I can denounce my religion: I was born with it. So I am supposed to remain a Muslim till I die whether I like it or not. And the punishment to denounce religion if you’re a Muslim in this country? They believe it’s Death. I don’t think it has ever been enforced though.
20. Sharia Law Varies From Country To Country
Firstly there isn’t any monolithic shariah law. Different countries ascribe to different strands of jurisprudence law (fiqh), which go beyond the Sunni-Shia divide.
As a woman who lives under a legal regime that is a mixture of English civil law, Hanafi fiqh personal law, and mishmashes of new things to keep laws current and parliamentarians in power, here’s my perspective:
- Murder: if I were to murder someone, I can pay blood money to the family as recompense instead of going to jail. Alternatively, they could forgive me, or worst case, kill me (eye for an eye). Not something I have personal experience with.
- Legal testimony: in personal law matters, my giving of evidence is equal to half of a man’s. So if you are required to have 2 believing man witness to something, that’s 4 women.
- Inheritance: this is where I get screwed. The Hanafi view on daughters is that they get half of what a son gets from a father’s estate. And if there is no son, daughters can only get 50% or less of the total. There are a lot of considerations here- inheritance law is a beast. The rights of adopted children are also not considered for inheritance. Wills can only be used to give away about 30% of your estate. That’s why a lot of people declare themselves Shia for personal law matters (their rules are different). The law recognises that someone may ascribe to a different fiqh and all you need to do is make a legal declaration to that end.
- Marriage: I cannot be married to more than one man at a time, and he must be Muslim. The bigamy clause is to establish children’s legitimacy. They want to make sure there is only one legal baby-daddy. As for him being Muslim, there are tons of atheists who are Muslim on paper. That’s an actual concern for both men and women. When they marry, people will hide it until after the honeymoon is over. Lots of conversions as well when women marry white men from the US/UK. Men can marry any woman of the book don’t have to convert (Christian, Jewish, and I think also Parsi, but not sure on that last one). I have a right to divorce or to take an annulment. I also receive a marriage settlement as consideration for marrying the man. Sometimes this amount is very small- that’s the letter of the law, not the spirit of it. Also, by law, any money I earn if I work is MINE. He must pay for household expenses and also pay me maintenance (an allowance). Must also pay for kids. So I can be a stay at home mom or an astronaut- don’t have to contribute to household finances. This also means I do have to answer to him. I’ll ask permission for things (like working after marriage) but a lot of people end up hashing these things out before they get married.
- A mehram: typically this is a male family member who is there to safeguard a woman. Can be a father, brother, son, grandfather, husband, and first uncle’s (parent’s brother). These are men you cannot marry. You needed a mehram to travel in the olden days, to accompany you when you went out into public. I drive myself and will take a guy cousin or someone along if I have to visit a government office (cultural thing- sends a signal that I have male protection so don’t mess around with me). Women live very successful lives without any male stewardship, but it’s nice to have some firepower sometimes.
All of the above are simply some of the rules and how they could affect my life. Actual implementation varies depending on cultural norms, socioeconomic status, and personal temperament.
The country is Pakistan.
21. Sexual Consent Is completely different
Had a rather enlightening experience on this. I very nearly married a Muslim girl, specifically from Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan does not so much have Sharia Law as law guided by Sharia, but it gave me a greater understanding of the differences.
As others have noted, local law takes priority especially where local law is more restrictive. The biggest understanding to have is that while the outside world largely views Sharia as a set of punishments, for the most part Sharia is viewed as personal governance. This means that they largely expect to be punished according to Sharia and local laws, but expect others to be punished by only local laws.
This impacted us several ways.
Sex before marriage was strictly forbidden. Duh.
I (as the man) was absolutely in charge. This was particularly frustrating on occasion because we were discussing her having someplace that is purely hers (traditionally this has been the kitchen but I enjoy cooking so we were going to have a second bedroom that was specifically hers). Getting past her thinking I could simply decide what was in her space took a lot of talking.
There was no requirement that I be a practicing Muslim, for the most part, but I would have to verbally convert to marry as she is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.
Pork was a discussed issue, as it is a common meat here in the US. I’m not a pork person anyway, so it was simply easier to give it up (I have largely maintained this and only have pork products about once a year).
She actually wanted permission and forgiveness from me to allow her to work, I as the man had the option. Interestingly, while Sharia requires she have my permission that this marriage would happen in the US means I might not have had the right to refuse.
Consent to sex is completely different in concept. The marriage itself gives right to her body, and the concept of pleasure in it for her was largely limited to the arbitrary requirement that I have sex with her at least twice a year. This was completely open to discussion because our laws are more restrictive on me and less restrictive on her, we decided on a default yes approach (could say no if desired, but should avoid it, she could also initiate and while I could say no I should avoid it).
Use of prostitutes was discussed. Under her views, I could engage the services of one or multiple if I ever chose but I had to make sure this would never impact our family. In theory, I could also have a personal servant that was, for lack of a less graphic term, full access. This is a modernization of the allowance for a husband to maintain slaves and make use of them in any way.
Knowing there was a strong potential for divorce, we discussed what to do about it. The exact split we decide on is irrelevant, but it was determined that if we chose divorce I would repeat talaq three times to complete the religious divorce as well.
We had to build our own interpretation of the women must dress modestly. We determined that this meant she needed to dress in a way that did not draw unearned attention. Here in the US wearing a veil will draw attention in most places, exactly the opposite of the modesty requirement. Instead, we decided this meant that if we go to the beach, she wears a bikini as that will not draw unearned attention. This would require her to dress largely American. This was acceptable because I (as the man and therefore absolutely in charge) told her to.