Saudi Arabia recently removed two books related to Qutb from it’s school libraries. One is written by him, and one is apparently about him. Extremist ideas and deviant ideology is the given reason. IT’S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE PAID ATTENTION!!

Many Muslims consider Qutb’s writings  to be the bastion of Islam without care or worry. They encourage young impressionable minds to read certain books without regard to the content and the context. Banning his books (or any book for that matter) is not the solution; however Qutb’s books need to be read with a full understanding of the context and life circumstances of the author (which is true for all authors).

Some works are particularly insidious in today’s world. Written by authors who hate the “West” and broadly stereotype everything and everyone, persecuted in their own countries, these bitter individuals are/were trying to bring about change through the only means they had available, revolution. Their writings embed the seed of revolt and encourage action, even (especially) if violent. In today’s increasingly divided world, with “us vs them” mantras, disenfranchised masses, and easy access to improvised tools of destruction, violence is becoming the first option rather than the last.

Several years ago I spoke at a gathering of 700-800 people about the need to revise Islamic school curriculums in the US. I mentioned that we have to be aware when an author is writing for political objectives, regardless of how familiar we are with his writings. Some authors teach “hate the West” philosophies which are very problematic for our youth because they too are the West! We should not be encouraging self-hate. If we want our youth to learn about social activism we need to point them towards  Malcolm X, not Qutb. They need to accept who they are and work towards changing systems- not hate who they are and lash out against the world. Instead of always allocating blame we need to take responsibility for the places where we are deliberately or inadvertently part of the problem.

Not surprisingly I was the most controversial speaker on that panel. The responses and questions fell along a generational divide. Roughly speaking, immigrants forty and older disagreed with my critique of their favorite authors; first generation youth thirty and younger agreed with what I said.

Just don’t get me started on Ibn Tahmiyah 😀

Saudi Royalty- 2

Saudi nationals are very protective of their King and tend to treat the royalty with a lot of reverence. My disclaimer up front is that I am NOT doing any royal-bashing, I am simply trying to get a handle on the governance structure of this place (and history).

The next table lists the wives of King Abdulaziz al-Saud, and his kids (in no particular order). There were 22 declared wives, 48 legitimate sons and several others. He did not have more than 4 wives at a time. The info available is sketchy and incomplete and thus the table compiled below should not be considered accurate or reliable. The numbers are just for counting purposes, and do not specify the order in which the marriages took place. Many of the alliances were political, many from the same tribes. The Sudayri wife who bore more than 20 children (including the Sudayri 7) was considered one of his favorites.

Wife Children dates Kings
1 Wadhha bint Muhammad bin Burghush divorced
  1. (m) Turki
  2. (m) Saud
  3. (f) Nura
  4. (f) Munira
2. Saud
2 Tarfah bint Abdullah al-Shaikh Abdul-Wahab
  1. (m) Khaled
  2. (m) Faisal
  3. (m) Saad
  4. Nura
3. Faisal
3 Jawhara bint Musaid bin Jiluwi Al Jiluwi
  1. (m) Muhammad
  2. (m) Khalid
  3. (f) Anud
4. Khalid
4 bint Khalid bin Faysal Al Hithlayn
  1. (m) Jiluwi
5 Lajah bint Khalid bin Hithlayn divorced
  1. (f) Sara
6 Hassa bint Ahmad bin Muhammad Al Sudayri divorced
  1. m-Fahd
  2. m- Sultan
  3. f- Luluwah
  4. m- Abdur rahman
  5. m- Naif
  6. m- Turki
  7. m- Salman
  8. m- Ahmed
  9. f- Jawahir
  10. f- Lateefa
  11. f- Zameera
  12. Al-Takhi
  13. Mahtab ul Rashid
  14. f- Sameena
  15. m- Fahid
  16. m- Usman bin Abdullah
  17. m-Farhad Naifi
  18. m- Kamran Naifi
  19. f- Al Jawahir
  20. f- Moudhi
  21. f- Felwa



5. Fahd
7 Bint Ahmad al-Dhukayr divorced
  1. f- Jawhara
8 Bazza
  1. m- Nasir
9 Jawhara bint Saad bin Abd al-Muhsin Al Sudayri
  1. m- Saad
  2. f- Hussa
  3. m- Musaid
  4. m- Abdul Muhsin
  5. f- Al Bandari
10 Bazza
  1. m- Bandar
  2. m- Fawwaz
11 Shahida
  1. m- Mansur
  2. m- Mishal
  3. f- Qumasha
  4. m- Mutib
  5. m- Salman
12 Nura bint Hamud divorced
  1. m- Nayif
13 Fahda bint al Asi bin Shuraim
  1. m- Abdullah
  2. f- Nur
  3. f- Sita
1924- 6. Abdullah
14 Munayir
  1. m- Talal
  2. m- Talal
  3. f- Mishari
  4. m Nawwaf
15 Haya bint Saad bin Abd al-Muhsin Al Sudayri 1913-2003
  1. f- Nura
  2. m- Badr
  3. m- Badr
  4. m- Abdullah
  5. m- Abdul Majid
  6. f- Hussa
  7. f- Mishayl
16 Dalal
  1. m- Thamir
17 Mudhi Al Sudayri
  1. m- Majid
  2. f- Sultana
  3. f- Haya
  4. f- Jawza
  5. m- Majid
  6. m- Sattam
18 Nuf bint Nawwaf bin Nuri Al Sha’lan
  1. m- Thamir
  2. m- Mamduh
  3. m- Mashur
19 Saida al Yamaniyah
  1. f- Abta
  2. m- Hihlul
20 Baraka al Yamaniyah
  1. m- Mugran
22 Aisha
  1. f- Tarfa
23 Futayma
  1. m- Hammad
24 Khadra
  1. m- Abdus Salam
25 Bushra
  1. m-Mishari
26 Hussa bint Minahi al-Sur divorced
  1. f- Sultana
27 ?
  1. m- Jiluwi
  2. f- Dalil
  3. f- Salwa
28 ?
  1. (m) Khalid
29 ?
  1. (m) Muhammad
30 ?
  1. (m) Abdullah
31 ?
  1. m- Fahd
32 ? divorced
  1. m- Fahd
  2. f- ?
33 ?
  1. f- Shaykha
34 ?
  1. m- Badr
35 Al- Jazi bint Muhammad bin Hazzam Hithlayn divorced
36 Jawahir bint Muhammad bin Talal Al Rashid divorce?
37 Sarah bint Abdullah bin Faisal Al Saud divorced
38 Bint Figri
39 Wasmiyah al-Damir
40 Kalthum bint Ibrahim bin Ufaysan divorced
41 Hussa bint Sahan bin Zayd al Mutluq divorced
42 Dahha
43 Hussa bint Bandar bin Watban Mutayr


Saudi Royalty – 1

Saudi nationals are very protective of their King and tend to treat the royalty with a lot of reverence. My disclaimer up front is that I am NOT doing any royal-bashing, I am simply trying to get a handle on the governance structure of this place.

As far as I have found, since the foundation of the modern country, the kingdom has been ruled by the founder, followed by his sons. All the sons are in their 70s to 80s and the remaining members are not very healthy.

What I recently found out was that there is an Allegiance Institute that has been formed in 2006 to decide who will be the next ruler, smoothly.

Saudi kings (you can get a detailed family tree here or on Wiki):

  King: relation Mother rule
1 Abdulaziz al-Saud
founder Sara bint Ahmad al-Kabir bin Muhammad Al Sudayri 1932-1953
2 Saud bin AbdulAziz
son Wadhha bint Muhammad bin Burghush 1953-1964
3 Faisal bin Abdulaziz
son Tarfah bint Abdullah al-Shaikh Abdul-Wahab 1964-1975
4 Khalid bin Abdulaziz
(died of natutal causes)
son Jauhara bint Musa’d Al Saud 1975-1982
5 Fahd bin Abdulaziz
(died of natural causes)
son Hassa bint Ahmad al-Sudairi 1982-2005
6 Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
son Fahda bint Asi al-Shuraim 2005-
7 Crown Prince:
Sultan bin Abdulaziz
son Hassa bint Ahmad al-Sudairi next in line

What is more interesting are the tribal lines and the sheer number of kids that everyone around here knows about and consider you a tad slow if you do not realize they exist 🙂

I was planning on adding the table of the wives and kids of the founding king however the numbers are a little more than I had realized (the count of his kids ranges from 60+ to 90+) and different sources give different info. It’ll try to reconcile the info and it should show up in another post!

Saudi embassy website

The Saudi embassy web-site is really quite helpful. There is a wealth of info about the Kingdom embedded in it – the side menu changes sometimes and new links open up that were not there before. I am guessing that they have updated their web-site navigation several times but the changes were not propagated well resulting in hidden tidbits that pop up once in a while.

The Golden Triad: Power, Money, Religion

Q: Where does power come from in today’s world?

A: Depend on where you are.

In the US we have a nominal separation of church and state. What does that really mean? As is, religious values are deeply embedded within the judicial system and now are creeping up all over. Prop 8 is a great example. The Margaret and Helen blog stated the dilemma very succinctly : “If marriage is an institution supported by this country then it must be made available to all of its citizens according to the law.  If however, it is strictly a religious institution then a constitutional amendment determining who can and cannot have access to it is sort of missing the point.  Religious freedom except for people who are not religious is a mutually exclusive concept.” For those that did not follow the issue, the Mormon Church was HUGELY influential regarding the passage of prop 8.

Before I digress too much…the separation of church and state really means that the church (religious institutions as a whole) do not have an automatic claim on power. The have to resort to the same tactics as every other special interest group: MONEY. Basically, power can be bought by the highest bidder and it’s an equal opportunity auction. The bottom line: everyone wants/needs money (money and power have a closed loop that is reinforcing)

Europe is slightly different in the way it separates secular and religious, with immigration from northern Africa and Turkey forcing lines to be drawn. Basically, religion is officially not supposed to exist in the public arena. It clearly does not have any power based on itself, and it cannot use money in the same way as in North America. The bottom line: power needs money, and religion needs power  (note that the circle is not complete and all 3 institutions are getting weaker).

Saudi Arabia is a different animal altogether. If you look at the history of the Saud empire, and how the country was actually formed (pre discovery of oil), religion legitimized power through an alliance. Today, power has acquired money yet it still needs the nod from religion. This creates a unique dynamic where power cannot just do what it wants and continues to need to negotiate with religion. Religion on the other hand does not need money and already has power through proxy. The bottom line: religion and power feed off each other.

where do women go?

Once again, the options for where women can go by themselves is very limited. Some places women cannot go even if they are accompanied by a male relative. Here are some favorite spots that I have observed:

  • SHOPPING- at the end of the day (also in the beginning and the middle) there is not much to do other than shopping. Women collect in hordes and are usually laden with bags.
  • Banks- these are one of the few employers for women. Several banks have women-only branches. Others have permission from the Ministry of Labor to allow women to work in regular buildings but with special provisions for segregation
  • Hospitals and medical facilities- these are the only truly mixed work environments in the Kingdom. The vast majority of the women employed here are expats (e.g. all the nurses, majority of the drs). There is a sprinkling of Saudi female doctors and a few Saudi women at reception desks at the Ob/Gyn counters- the rest are ALL expats.
  • Women-owned businesses- there is a growing number of women who own their own small-businesses. As they cannot be employed by anyone else, they have started their own organizations to overcome the social hurdles.
  • Charities and non-profits- several women have started their own charities or work at them.
  • Coffee mornings and social events
  • Women-only spas/shops- there is a very small percentage of these available and they hire women
  • Schools and other educational institutions- all classes are separated by gender (with the exception of some of the expat schools) and so are all teachers. A lot of expat women are teaching. There is a growing number of educated Saudi women in teaching and administrative positions at higher-education institutions.
  • Amusements parks, “toylands”- women are often seen here with lots of children.
  • Public parks- women are seen here but usually as families, accompanied by at least one male.

At the end of the day, women are sadly under-represented in the workforce and are almost non-existent in the service sector. Some show a lot of spirit and try to beat the odds. The vast majority do nothing.

how do women get around?

One of the responses I received on my Women’s driving post was the question of how women get around here. The simple answer is “they don’t” – hehhee, just kidding. Let me list the constraints and the options:

  • Women cannot drive themselves
  • There is no public transportation

So what do they actually do?

  • They have personal chauffeurs
  • Their fathers/husbands/brothers/sons/uncles act as chauffeurs
  • They use taxis (preferably driven by non-saudis)
  • They use limo services with scheduled drop-offs and pick-ups (preferably driven by non-saudis)
  • They use shuttle buses with designated routes, drop-offs and pick-ups if they live on compounds
  • Some educational institutions have their own bus services that pick up and drop-off students.
  • They carpool and travel in “packs”

As you might have realized, if a woman comes from a wealthy family, or is an expat wife, she has easy options through hired help. If from a middle-class family, she has to fight for limited resources with the rest of her family. As for the lower income households, they really do not have many options for getting around.

Of course the next question is, where could they do even if they could travel freely?