Female Saudi Activist To Face Terror Charges
This year’s G20 summit—made up of the European Union and 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States—virtually hosted by Saudi Arabia, discussed the coronavirus pandemic, environmental issues and the world’s economy.
As with practically every single encounter the richest nations of the world have with Saudi Arabia, or for that matter any Islamic country that adheres to the sharia, the issue of human rights violations are never center stage, as with the recent case of Loujain al-Hathloul.
On Wednesday Saudi Arabia announced that it will put women’s rights activist Hathloul on trial after being detained for more than 900 days after she was arrested. She was detained with nine other women’s rights advocates in May 2018, months before women were finally granted the right to drive, something she and other detained activists had long pushed for. She is now to be tried for terrorism.
Hathloul is on hunger strike to protest her prison conditions for nearly a month. A UN women’s rights committee recently expressed alarm about her failing health. Her sister, Lina al-Hathloul, is concerned that Loujain is being psychologically and physically pressured into giving false confessions that could be used against her in court.
“I am extremely worried and anxious about this trial. Everything about her case is illegal and unjust,” Lina told The Guardian, pointing out that the family had only been given one day’s notice of the court date. She “looked weak” and “her body was shaking uncontrollably and that her voice was faint and shaky,” according to Loujain’s sister.
Her family, including her sister, claim she has been tortured. At least five of those arrested remain in jail.
Hathoul and the detained activists are also demanding an end to the kingdom’s male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain the consent of a male relative for major decisions. Some rules have been eased but that system is yet to be removed.
Inequality of Women in the Islamic world
The treatment of Loujain al-Hathloul and the other female activists should be of no surprise since sharia tenets in the Islamic world consider a woman unequal to a man, and thereby are to be treated as property:
- “The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females.” — Sura 4, 11
- “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.” — Sura 4, 34
- “[Muhammad] said, ‘Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?’ They replied in the affirmative. He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her intelligence.’” — Sahih al-Bukhari 6, 301
Since a male is believed to possess a superior intellect, meaning females cannot decipher for themselves, it is only logical that they need to be under the custody of their husbands. Under this rationale, with respect to marriage, a man can have up to four wives but not vice versa:
And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those [which] your right hand possesses [slaves]. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]. — Sura 4, 3
The G20’s Response
International rights groups had called for the G20 countries to boycott the event, demanding that the Saudis release pro-democracy dissidents and women’s rights activists who have been unjustly detained.
While members of the European Parliament last month called on the EU to downgrade its attendance at the summit in Riyadh over ongoing human rights violations in the country, the European Commission and the European Council defended the decision to participate in the G20 summit.
The case presents an early test of President-elect Joe Biden’s promise to reassess the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia and protect the rights of pro-democracy activists (throughout the world) to speak freely, especially after President Trump stood by Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in the face of accusations that he ordered the 2018 killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Nine Democratic senators and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on Monday called for the women to be released “on the merits of their case, but today…on health and humanitarian grounds.” The Trump administration, however, has been more interested in harnessing a normalization of relations between the kingdom and Israel as a means to combat Iran. Yet MBS must prepare for potential pushback when Joe Biden is sworn in as the next U.S. president in January.
It is a pity that the leaders of the G20 nations are not in Saudi Arabia experiencing the same torments that Hathloul and the other pro-democracy activists have suffered — French President Emmanuel Macron has already taken action against the rise of political Islam in his country. Perhaps they would stop praising Saudi Arabia and ceased their hypocritical politically correct positions. Their financial objectives, however, seem to take precedence. And they should be ashamed of themselves for it!
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is also author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.