This came as an email to me this morning with the request to spread the word. I'm doing my part...
A very thoughtful and eloquent response to that pending Saudi atrocity.
The God of Abraham was a god of vengeance, a demanding God who asked
Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac- as a test of faith; but at the last
minute, God stayed Abraham's harsh hand, thus showing that he was also a
God of compassion and mercy.
Some people who profess to act in the name of the God of Abraham; and to
uphold the Abrahamic traditions, instead of staying the hand of the
harsh court that sentenced a woman to be flogged for allowing herself to
be gang-raped; has tripled her sentence to 200 lashes! This was the
recent decision of the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
meted out to a young woman of nineteen/twenty.
A more barbaric act, in modern times, done in the name of my God, is
hard to imagine. It trumps the decision of the Sharia Court of Northern
Nigeria, three years ago, when they condemned a divorced woman, who had
a child, to be stoned to death. Italy offered asylum to that woman.
Who will rescue this young woman from the dastardly acts of a woman
hating cult that is the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia? Would the
country's oil, for which the west is drooling, overshadow this barbaric
act of injustice?
What would two hundred lashes across her back and buttocks do to the
body of a young woman? Each lash, I hear them in the memory of my slave
ancestors' screams, tears out the flesh, sometimes ripping it into
shreds. Scars open on the buttocks through which bloody white fat can be
seen. Individual drops if blood mingle and course down, mixed with sweat
and tears, and the lashes go on, an on, until the back is reduced to
hamburger meat, the pale parts of unlacerated skin looking strangely
untouched. It is hard to imagine that there is sufficient back space on
a nineteen year old woman for two hundred lashes to fit neatly across
her skin, so she will be getting lash upon lash, whip tearing already
torn flesh, pulpifying it into something like a carapace that she will
carry on her back for the rest of her life, to match the tearing and
pain of the gang-rape, and the metal scars that left. She will be
branded for life as unsuitable as marriage material, branded by the very
people who profess to the world that they want to protect her purity.
Hogwash. They want to act as the Gods of Vengeance because she dared to
appeal, dared to have the case reported in the papers, dared to go
outside her house, dared to be with a young man in a car, who was not a
relative. Daring has to be whipped out of her forever, and symbolically
through her, out of all other women who do not toe the line. Reducing
her back to hamburgered human flesh has to terrify all other young women
to stay in line, a line set by a series of old men who feel themselves
having to retreat in the face of modern young people.The fates of
Islamic women all over the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, India,
the Caribbean, Malaysia and Indonesia could be shaped by that of this
The whipping of humans has long been a barbaric custom practiced by
people trying to hold on to power, upon those they wish to terrify. It
was used during slavery in the Americas from the USA to Brazil, and in
the Caribbean. It was used in India, in Burma, Africa and in the
metropolitan countries that gave us the slave states of the third world.
Recently, we saw another Islamic country, Pakistan, publicly whipping
lawyers dressed in business suits, who dared to question the
over-reaching military powers of its dictator president and commander in
chief.That this has survived in Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan and
Singapore as forms of legal punishment, in state and schools, attest to
its capacity to terrify little people into submission.
Would it not be kinder to shoot her, one bullet to the head, and be
200 lashes is torture; and had she been foreign-born and living in
Saudi Arabia, the international community would have been more outraged
than we seem to be over this. Now we are outraged, but are we thinking;
well Saudi barbarism on Saudi citizens is less barbaric than renditions
to allegedly get information about terrorism? This sentence is an act of
terrorism against a young woman, and through her, against all women.
Saudi Arabia has put itself into the category of Barbaric State where
old men mutilate young women for vengeance, and to create fear. It is
not the picture of Saudi Arabia that I want to remember from my visit
there three years ago.
In planning the visit, sponsored by the Saudi Armco Company of Houston,
and Dhahran; I and other educators, had asked to look at the status of
women in The Kingdom. We toured woman's colleges, girls' high schools,
hospitals, aspects of the oil production, and both elementary and middle
schools. Everywhere we were met with enthusiasm. We met young female
doctors from Britain as well as Saudi, petroleum engineers, college
professors, museum directors, and princesses of the realm who were
businesswomen. We were interviewed by newspapers and television persons,
and published in the papers. We had a grand lunch in Jeddah sponsored by
the Chamber of Commerce, where we sat and talked with Saudi women.We had
dinner in Riyadh with eminent persons. I felt it was a major opening for
women, and there was hope. One of the princes of the Royal family even
spoke of changes that allowed women to work in offices with men.
The generosity and warm heartedness, of all the people we met, touched
us al ll very deeply. We saw veiled women of every sort, including those
who eyes were the only things visible.
We went to places where only men worked, like Shayba, and asked
questions of them in meetings, like equals. Some female Saudi Aramco
employees accompanied us on these trips. We felt that we were helping to
move the society forward just a little bit..
Everywhere we went, people were glad that we came, as foreigners were
leaving Saudi Arabia in droves after the bombing near Dhahran, at the
Oasis complex, a couple of days before our visit.
As a free woman of African heritage, it was my right and privilege to
speak with all the men I met, including the President and CEO of Saudi
Aramco, his Vice President, Prince Turki of the Ministry of Mines, and a
number of men in high places, One prince, in our meeting with him, was
quite concerned about the children of privilege, including his own, not
learning the value of work, so his kids had to help with household
chores, although they had many servants. Their allowances were tied to
helping around the house.
We came away positively impressed that this ancient country, but new
kingdom, has a vision for its future including educating and advancement
All of these memories, the picture files, the souvenirs, the visit of
the poet Ni'mah Nawwab to my school on Feb. 1, 2005, have taken on a
taint. Its the taint of double bloodshed. The bloodshed of gang-rape
mixed with the blood of 200 lashes on the back of a young woman not yet
In my mend's eye, the scars crisscrossing her back would be like
graffiti on the pristine walls of a mosque, temple or cathedral, put
there by vandals who had already stolen the sacred treasures from inside
the holy place, but wanted to show off their contempt for the place. In
this case the burglars are the rapists and the vandals spraying graffiti
are the judges of the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia.
A woman's body, the sacred housing of her soul, should not be desecrated
by the same courts that proclaim to the world that the head of their
country is the guardian of the Holy Places of Islam. Yet this is what
the court has done in sentencing that her back be ripped to shreds, to
be used to continue to terrify all women into subjection.
I, who support the idea of dialogue between the People of the Book as
set forth in A Common Word, scream in anger and agony, that we cannot
make common dialogue when a symbolic Mary, The Mother of Christ; is
given 200 lashes as punishment for a crime committed against her person.
I ask all who read this to forward it to Christians, Jews and Muslims
everywhere, as well as the other faiths committed to work for a kinder
more just world for all of God's children.
Linda E. Edwards
Educator and Writer
Supporter of the rights of women to be human beings.