Women in Power Signals Slide for Islamists

I have been enveloped in dreams about Saudi Arabia since I began reading this compelling book about an American woman doctor who lived there. I just finished a chapter in which the dreaded Mutawaeen are tipped off to a bunch of doctors and westerners having a dinner at a local restaurant. Men and women sitting together enjoying conviviality. But these brown-robed Wahabi fanatics will have none of it, threatening and lecturing at the diners, and are only held back by a phone call placed to a high-ranking Saud prince.

Her hatred and resentment of these overbearing nosy ‘morality police’ seethes in her account as does the anger shown by the women in their abbayas. Again and again, someone tips off these self-appointed cops who then barge in and yell obnoxiously at their frightened captors.

I was encouraged to read tonight in the WSJ that in Kuwait a woman named Rola Dashti has won a hard-fought seat in Parliament, despite some attributes that some would see as weaknesses. She speaks Arabic with a Lebanese accent, was educated in the US, and doesn’t wear a headscarf. And she remains unmarried. Kuwait recently voted to send Dashti and three other women to parliament, which is a blow to Wahabis and strict fundamentalists across the region.