April 27, 2005 Special Dispatch No. 899

Saudi Columnist: Saudi Education Ministry Has Extremist Reaction to Schoolgirls' Field Trip

April 27, 2005
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 899

In his column in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Saudi columnist Hussein Shubakshi criticized the Saudi Education Ministry's reaction to a schoolgirls' field trip to the Saudi Daily, Arab News, newspaper offices. The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

"Blood Need Not Be Spilled for a Particular Incident to Be Defined as Extremist"

"Extremism has many different faces. Blood need not be spilled for a particular incident to be defined as extremist. Recently, a [Saudi] administrative event took place for which the gentlest of terms can only be 'extremist.'

"A group of schoolgirls in one of the girls' schools in the city of Jeddah wanted to publish a school paper that would highlight [school] activities and present [the school's] achievements. Because the girls were imbued with enthusiasm but had no knowledge in the sphere of media, they had to acquire some journalistic experience.

"Therefore, the school administration drew up a plan for a field trip to the Arab News newspaper, so [the pupils] could meet with the female editors and with the newspaper staff, and also could get acquainted with the proper method of journalistic work.

"The field trip was planned only after explicit consent was obtained from the pupils' parents, and then they went to the newspaper office. The pupils were accompanied by four female teachers. They spent several hours in the various newspaper departments, so as to learn from up close about how things are run, and to ask about professional work methods.

"Then souvenir photos were taken with the paper's editor, who had explained and presented the journalistic work to them. The photos and a news item on the visit were published in the Arab News."

Schoolgirls Cursed, Reviled for Field Trip – in a Way Unconnected to Religion

"Then came an organized attack that had been planned in advance on the part of a few, who cursed, reviled, and harmed the schoolgirls in a way completely unconnected to religion, honor, or morality.

"But the greatest disaster was that the Education Ministry superintendent then came to the school that had sent the girls [on the field trip] in order to 'investigate' and then to 'settle accounts' for 'the school's deed' and for 'the girls' behavior.' This was done with the knowledge that no girl had been alone with any man [during the trip].

"Is it Permitted to Sow Fear and Harm Girls' Reputations – When Their Only Sin is a Desire for Learning and Development?"

"Is it permitted to sow fear and to harm the reputations of the girls of this country – when their only sin is a desire for learning and development for the sake of the homeland and the good of all? Religion is devoid of all this. It is bad enough that they are hijacking our religion by means of terrifying thoughts.

"The school paper project was canceled. The girls were disappointed, the school administration was in a state of shock, and the parents [of the pupils] were also in a state of shock.

"Can it be that the education administration knows what's good for the girls and cares for them better than their parents? Are we interested in 'reinventing' or 'rewriting' what is permitted and what is forbidden??..."


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 19, 2005.

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