September 8, 2014 Special Dispatch No. 5836

Saudi Journalist: The Oppressive Saudi Rigidity Causes Young People To Seek Happiness With The Virgins Of Paradise

September 8, 2014
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 5836

In an article in the Saudi government daily Al-Watan, journalist Idris Al-Dris pondered why so many suicide bombers were of Saudi origin. He argued that the reason was the ultra-conservative Saudi lifestyle, including the strict segregation of the sexes and the excessive modesty of dress, which, he said, cause Saudis to believe that a full and satisfying relationship with a woman is possible only in Paradise. He argued further that the strict indoctrination pushes Saudis to reject the religious teachings, as evident from the fact that many Saudi women shed their modest garments the minute they leave the country.

The following are translated excerpts from the article:[1]

Idris Al-Dris (image:

"I have long been asking myself why Saudis form the largest portion of those who sacrifice their lives for the 'Virgins of Paradise'... Perhaps the main reason for this is our conservative reality, which possibly involves over-strict gender segregation, [due to] the dominance of custom and traditions that are enforced without thought in the guise of religion...

"Our young children, both girls and boys, grow up naturally and become fond [of each other] as neighbors or relatives. And then, suddenly, a young boy finds himself completely excluded [from the presence of girls], to an extent that exceeds the requirements of religion, [for] the prevailing custom and tradition are at odds with religion. Women thus become [sacred] icons and objects of fear, with whom a normal, ongoing and full life [is possible] only in Paradise.

"Perhaps I am wrong, but I find that this fear is less prevalent among others [i.e., non-Saudis], since their social life is compatible with human nature. I am not calling for men and women to mix in ways that lead to transgressions, God forbid. I am only searching for something that can make us more moderate in our behavior, which presently tends to either one extreme or the other.

"The women's dress-code in this country usually reflects traditions and customs that have passed down from generation to generation. If you want to know how popular [the traditional dress-code] is, just look at how our women dress when abroad. [The destinations themselves] teach us something about the tourism preferences of some of our families: while conservative families choose to travel to Malasia or Austria, and in particular [to the Austrian town of] Zell am See [a resort popular with religious Muslims], liberal families usually travel to Switzerland, France and Spain. Both kinds [of families] travel to London. [While abroad,] some of the conservative families overdo their conservative [behavior] and dress, to the extent that they attract attention. Conversely, some of the liberal families overdo their openness... They attract the attention of us Saudis and puzzle us with their revealing clothes, which contrast with Islamic-style clothes that cover [the body]. I feel that the conservative among our women exaggerate their modesty when abroad, out of a desire to defy [the West] and emphasize that they are good Muslims, while the most liberal among our women go too far in rebelling against the oppression they experience [in Saudi Arabia].

"The openness exhibited by some of our girls [when abroad?], and their very Western way of dressing, remind me of Iranian women who wear a chador under pressure from the clerics, but fling it away along with their other modest garments the minute they leave Tehran. Women on flights leaving and entering our homeland present a very similar spectacle. The look of the passengers changes dramatically as they shed their veils and cloaks during outgoing flight and put them on again during the return flight.

"This phenomenon always embarrasses me. Perhaps the persuasion [methods] of the religious [authorities] are inadequate. Perhaps they use coercive and inflexible methods instead of causing people to like [the religion] and thereby prompting them [to observe it], which are the shortest and easiest ways to achieve a goal.

"I am not [trying to] issue a fatwa permitting or forbidding anything. I am not qualified to do so. But I am always embarrassed by our two-facedness and by the mental hypocrisy of the [Saudi] citizen, compared to others. I raise [this issue] here just to [encourage] us to have a solid identity that does not change depending on the patron [overseeing us], who here [in Saudi Arabia] is the father, the sheikh or the religious police."


[1] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), August 25, 2014.

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