Since I've beat up on Malaysia enough for its religious intolerance with my Malaysia Sucks series, it's time to focus on another Muslim shithole, Saudi Arabia.
Via Human Rights Watch comes this latest outrage from the desert kingdom that sets the standard for misogyny and male chauvinism.
An appeals court should overturn a Riyadh court’s decision to drop charges against the Saudi employer who abused Nour Miyati, an Indonesian domestic worker, so severely she required several surgeries, including amputation of her toes and fingers, Human Rights Watch said today. The judge awarded Nour Miyati 2,500 riyals as compensation, or approximately US$670, a small fraction of what such injuries would normally garner in Saudi Arabia.
In a previous ruling, all charges against Nour Miyati’s male employer were dropped. The female employer confessed to abusing Nour Miyati and was sentenced to 35 lashes. On Monday, a Riyadh general court judge reviewed the case and handed down a second verdict, ignoring compelling physical evidence and finding the female employer not guilty of abuse.
“This outrageous ruling sends a dangerous message to Saudi employers that they can beat domestic workers with impunity, and that victims have little hope of justice,” said Nisha Varia, senior researcher in the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. “Instead of instilling confidence among migrant workers that they can seek redress through the Saudi justice system, this decision shows that even a case involving egregious abuse, ample evidence, and intense public scrutiny has not been given fair treatment.”
Contrast the treatment of Indonesian maids in Saudi Arabia like Nour Miyati with how the justice system here in the United States deals with those who abuse their Indonesian maids.
One terrible irony in all of this is that over the last few years, Saudi Arabia has been spending large sums of money promoting its strict form of Islam in Indonesia, which is the world's most populous Muslim country where a generally more moderate form of the faith has traditionally prevailed. And yet while the Saudis seek to promote Wahabi Islam in Indonesia, they don't seem to mind abusing Muslim Indonesians who emigrate to Saudi Arabia to work. Why this hasn't sunk into the minds of the Muslims of Indonesia I cannot say. There is definitely a disconnect going on here.
The New York Times has an informative article here (registration required) about Saudi influence on Islamic education in Indonesia. Below is a salient excerpt from the article.
Until recently, Indonesia has been famously relaxed about its religion. But slowly Indonesians are becoming more devout and in the battle for the soul of Islam here the Saudis are playing an important though stealthy role, Indonesian scholars say.
But as the Indonesian state has become increasingly unable to look after basic needs -- the unemployment rate is about 20 percent -- growing numbers of Indonesians are finding some of the stricter tenets of Saudi Arabia's Islam more attractive.
The underlined portion is my emphasis, because as I have written several times before, one of the most important factors in the spread of fundamentalist Islam is the failure of secular governments to provide basic social services to its people. It leaves a vacuum that the fundamentalists cleverly exploit, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali described in the section of her book Infidel where she writes about her years in Nairobi, Kenya. Therefore, one of the best antidotes to Muslim fundamentalism is to try to deny it fertile ground in which to fluorish by promoting alternatives to faith based charities that serve as a means to give cover to religious proselytization. Unfortunately, that will not be easy to do with an administration here that seeks to funnel more tax dollars to faith based providers.
Another telling excerpt from The New York Times article is evidence of the disconnect in the minds of the Indonesian people:
Last month, [Please note this article dates from 2003] the Pew Global Attitudes Project, an international poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, showed striking support among Indonesians for the Saudi leader, Crown Prince Abdullah, whom Indonesians rated as one of the three leaders they trusted the most, and a huge drop in support for the United States.
My advice to the U.S. State Department, keep playing up how Saudi Arabia treats its Indonesian domestic workers and contrast it with the punishment the Sabhanis received in the United States for abusing their Indonesian maids.