‘Feminist’ king is dead, women grieve

‘Feminist’ king is dead, women grieve

Among the fawning tributes paid to the dead King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was buried today in an unmarked grave in the capital Riyadh, was this from Christine Lagarde, below, the first woman to head the IMF:

Very saddened by his death, I had met him several times and he’s going to leave a big legacy but a big loss as well. He was a great leader implemented lots of reforms at home and in a very discreet way he was a strong advocate of women, it was very gradual, appropriately so probably for the country.


This was too much for Anne Perkins of the Guardian:

This is almost certainly not what she thinks. She even hedged her remarks about with qualifiers like “discreet” and “appropriate”. There are constraints of diplomacy and obligations of leadership and navigating between them can be fraught. But this time there was only one thing to say. Abdullah led a country that abuses women’s rights, and indeed all human rights, in a way that places it beyond normal diplomacy.

The constraints and restrictions on Saudi women are too notorious and too numerous to itemise. Right now, two women are in prison for the offence of trying to drive over the border in to Saudi Arabia. It is not just the ban on driving. There is also the ban on going out alone, the ban on voting, the death penalty for adultery, and the total obliteration of public personality – almost of a sense of existence – by the obligatory veil.

And there are the terrible punishments meted out to those who infringe these rules that are not written down but “interpreted” – Islam mediated through the conventions of a deeply conservative people.

Lagarde is right. King Abdullah did introduce reforms. Women can now work almost anywhere they want, although their husband brother or father will have to drive them there (and the children to school). They can now not just study law but practise as lawyers. There are women on the Sharia council and it was through their efforts that domestic violence has been criminalised. But enforcement is in the hands of courts that do not necessarily recognise the change. These look like reforms with all the substance of a Potemkin village, a flimsy structure to impress foreign opinion.

And she concluded:

… Beyond Saudi’s borders, it is surely the duty of everyone who really does believe in equality and human rights to shout and finger point and criticise at every opportunity. Failing to do so is what makes Christine Lagarde’s remarks a betrayal of the women who literally risk everything to try to bring about change in the oppressive patriarchy in which they live.

They are typical of the desire not to offend the world’s biggest oil producer and the west’s key Middle Eastern ally, a self-censorship that allows the Saudis to claim they respect human rights while breaching every known norm of behaviour.

Until people like Lagarde abandon the relativist talk that allowed her to claim that Abdullah was a strong advocate for women ‘in a very discreet way’, or laud the benefits of ‘gradual’ change that is ‘appropriate’ for the country, and simply condemn what should be condemned, millions of women will go on living and dying for want of the most basic rights.

Another pass-the-sick-bucket quote came from UK Prime Minister David Cameron:

I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abd Al Aziz Al Saud.

He will be remembered for his long years of service to the Kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Saudi Royal Family and the people of the Kingdom at this sad time.

I sincerely hope that the long and deep ties between our two Kingdoms will continue and that we can continue to work together to strengthen peace and prosperity in the world.


And former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, above, said:

I am very sad indeed to hear of the passing of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. I knew him well and admired him greatly. Despite the turmoil of events in the region around him, he remained a stable and sound ally, was a patient and skilful moderniser of his country leading it step by step into the future.

Far less reverence for the Abdullah is apparent on social networking sites, where people in their thousands are expressing outrage over the fact that the British flag is being flown at half-mast for the dead tyrant –  even at Westminster Abbey, which offered this excuse:

We always fly a flag. It is at half-mast because the government has decided to fly their flags at half-mast today.

For us not to fly at half-mast would be to make a noticeably aggressive comment on the death of the king of a country to which the UK is allied in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

Nor would it have done anything to support the desperately oppressed Christian communities of the Middle East for whom we pray constantly and publicly.

15 responses to “‘Feminist’ king is dead, women grieve”

  1. Rob Andrews says:

    Well I glad the 21 century is making small incursions into the heart of Islam. But meanwhile the middle ages seems to be having major victories in many European cities. everybody need to check out this website.

    Sign at the Saudi Arabian border: Welcome to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 1300 years of tradition unimpeded by progress. :-))

  2. AgentCormac says:

    I have a feeling Raif Badawi won’t be shedding any tears over Abdullah bin Abd Al Aziz Al Saud’s demise and and wouldn’t consider him to be the ‘moderniser’ Blair says he is.

    I would urge you all to please sign Amnesty’s petition to get Badawi released here:

  3. L.Long says:

    Yes the women can now slave away for the husband or father but still can’t go outside or expose any skin to the sun. As man I would not want to live there as a woman I would have to be insane to go there.

  4. Brammah539 says:

    And who supplies the dirty money to support the stealthy invasive islamic fundamentalism into the west. The only thing of value they have is oil. They contribute nothing else…technology…no… … no…….literature …no….music….no…..humanism…no…engineering….no….no……no….nothing. Time for the west to wean itself off oil and to use its collective intellectual technological scientific capability to harness the energy of the sun in real time and fusion technology. Then we will see how cocky the islamists are…let them preside over failed hell on earth primitive caliphates with no income from oil nor anything else of any worth or interest to the modern world. Let them beg for the benefits of a modern secular inclusive advanced technological society….we may let them join in when they give up their filthy outmoded inhuman intolerant arrogant murderous idealogy.

  5. zombiehunter says:

    I never thought I’d say this and chances are I probably never will say this again so enjoy this rare moment

    I agree with Scottish tory leader Ruth Davidson

  6. Trevor Blake says:

    “To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?” – Kevin Strom

    I am not a follower of Mr. Strom but this quote (often misattributed to Voltaire) is worthy of repearting.

  7. barriejohn says:

    The Saudi ambassador had the nerve to march in support of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, even though his country was in the process of flogging a critical blogger and now says that it deplores the continued “mocking of Islam”:

    “The kingdom does not find any justification for such deliberate abuse against Islam, which insults the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world,” the source said.

    Freedom of opinion and expression do not justify “insulting religious beliefs,” the source added.

    Meanwhile, Saudi scholars have successfully squared the circle, believed six impossible things before breakfast, and discovered that Aristotle got all his ideas from an old Arab whom he met in Athens one day.

  8. andym says:

    I heard an ex-ambassador on the radio- Green I think the fuckwit’s name was- saying that this tyrant gave the people what they wanted and that they weren’t interested in human rights. As there is no way of demonstrating for these things, how would he know? It seems to be that the complacent arsehole has spoken to a few minor royals at various events and thought he’d gauged the mood of a nation.

  9. kenstor says:

    Lot of hypocrisy here and in general, especially the media. You condemn their human rights record, but gladly buy and use their means of power. Same with the Chinese and their even worse record of savagery. Either stop buying their goods, or stop girning about their actions.

  10. EJ says:

    “gladly buy and use their means of power”

    Who the fuck says I’m glad to buy and use anything, much less petrol?
    You talk as if everyone had an orgasm every time they bought overpriced BS they had no choice about buying?

    Who the fuck are you to say, “Either stop buying their goods, or stop girning about their actions.”

    You don’t get it, that much is clear. Another clueless fuck.
    And I bet you typed that on a chinese-made keyboard, right?

    So much cluelessness despite all the information that’s out there. It’s like you live in a big plastic bubble or summat.

    Give me a choice or have a big helping of shut the fuck up.

  11. EJ says:

    kenstor, your argument would condemn a slave in chains for wearing those chains, claiming that the slave was wearing the chains…on purpose.

    That’s your argument? Don’t allow slaves to complain and how dare they wear their chains?

    Blaming victims can be done only in ignorance or malice.
    What’s your excuse?

  12. barriejohn says:

    Let’s stop buying ANY goods from shops, as it all gets there using Saudi oil. And we mustn’t buy food from farm shops either, as the farmers use oil to drive their tractors and machinery. Only when we are all self-sufficient, growing our own crops, making our clothes with wool from our own sheep, and using wood and peat as fuel again, will we have the right to criticize the Saudi government!

  13. Cali Ron says:

    Missing from all these condolences for the king (“He will be remembered for his long years of service to the Kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths”) is the fact that Saudi Arabia practices the most extreme form of islam and the gov and it’s wealthy leaders are major financial supporters of islamic terror groups. Yeah, Al Qaeda and the other extremists they support are really working overtime on “strengthening understanding between faiths”, as in: understand, islam wants to wipe out all other religions. Politics makes for not only strange bedfellows, but for hating, murderous ones as well! The king was a tyrant and despot, all pols only really give a shit about is the oil.

  14. dennis says:

    compromise leave a bad taste in your mouth.