Saudi Jeans on the Judicial System in KSA

Saudi Jeans is one of the most famous blogs in the the Arab blogosphere (AKA البلوغوسفير العربي) and he has some interesting comments on the state of the Saudi Judicial system. There are some hopeful stirrings. But hope in KSA is like water poured onto desert sand more often than not.

I mention the topic since there was so much discussion on the recent post about the eight year old girl and 47-year old man being married and then the little girl being denied a divorce requested by her mother.

Here is the whole post from Saudi Jeans:

Court of Embarrasment

Not so long ago, criticizing the judiciary was a taboo in this country. But with more people learning more about their rights and finding new outlets to express their dissatisfaction, they began to clearly show their impatience with the performance of the justice system. The system has become a battlefield between reformers who demanded change and conservatives who defended the judges fiercely, arguing that since their verdicts are based on Sharia then they should be unquestionable.

Luckily for the rest of us though, the complaints did not fall on deaf ears. In October 2007, King Abdullah announced a $2bn plan to overhaul the legal system. It is a large undertaking and it will certainly take a long time to see the effects of this plan. The resistance of the old guard in the system will only make this process slower and more difficult. But one of the good immediate effects of this plan is that it has placed the judges under increased scrutiny. The past two years have witnessed a number of high profile cases that attracted much attention from people and the media, not just in Saudi Arabia but around the world.

I think that last week’s case in Onaiza, where a court rejected a divorce petition filed by the mother of a an eight-year-old girl whose father married her to a 58-year-old man, should be seen in that context. Sure, the verdict is outrageous and unfair, but hey, this is the K of SA, a country where judges are not tied to written laws and justice is a subjective matter that pretty much depends on their whims. Does Sheikh Habib al-Habib know that his government has [signed] the international Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1996? I don’t think he does, and I think he does not care because such international laws are made by mere mortals while he probably believes that he is applying God’s laws.

Abdullah Al-Jutaili, the lawyer representing the girl’s divorced mother, said he was going to appeal the verdict. Let’s hope judges at the appeals court will be wiser than their colleague here when they deal with this case that not only exemplified the kind of injustices the people of this country have to go through when their [misfortune] leads them to a court, but also further tarnished the already distorted image of Saudi Arabia in the world.


Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
you stupid dumb fuck
Samuel said…
From cited blog: "But one of the good immediate effects of this plan is that it has placed the judges under increased scrutiny."

Is it the judges per se or rather the Islamic legal system itself (the judges' very guide) that is being subjected to increased scrutiny? I would certainly hope it is the latter (Muslim Sharia law), if not both. (Though, I understand that publically they can't come right out and say that or they would be assassinated.) It is unclear to me, at least up to this point, whether there is movement toward real change in Saudi legal system or simply appearances of change to pacify non-Muslim media.

The case of the 8 year old girl shows not much yet has been done (the blogger cited was himself frustrated at the very slow pace). And it seems that in view of the fact that their prophet Muhammad himself married Aisha when she was only 9 years of age (according to the Hadith), that he has set a dangerous precedent for his people to follow---which is often cited by them to legitimize older men to marry minors; in effect legalizing pedophilia.

I would consider it real change if women (half the Saudi population) are allowed to drive and not become subjected to laws that reduce them to second class citizens---not having to be chaperoned by their male relatives, not having half the witness of that of a man, not being subjected to honor murder over the least suspicion, and given much more equal rights. (And when there are laws that prohibit the marriage of girls before they reach the age of 16 or 18.)

It would be interesting if anything comes out of the appeal (in the case of the 8 year old girl), but I'm not optimistic.

PS--In that blog it says the man is 58, while the news media says 47.
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Samuel,

I made a similar point in the comment I left over at the the Saudi Jeans blog. Here is that comment:

[...]I believe that when KSA signs these accords (like the one on children) it does so with the proviso “insofar as they are not contrary to sharia.” And that is indeed the case in this child’s situation. The judge correctly interpreted the sharia, as far as I can tell.

The problem is not KSA, the problem is the sharia, IMHO. Salam.

Lucian: I think as secularists and atheists see more and more of Islam they will become more thankful for Christianity. That is certainly the case among ex-Muslims who have become totally a-religious. But it may be a case of too little too late. I suspect that much of Europe is just too far gone.
Samuel said…
Hi Daoud, thanks for letting me know; we think alike on this issue. Well said. So long as they don't change their Sharia law, no amount of reforms or rearrangements of their judges will make much of a difference.

That's a wonderful article by Matthew Parris. Not many atheists would say the things he generously said of Christian missions in Africa---and which are factually correct. The quality of life resulting from Christian teaching---and for myself at least, result from the love of Jesus---is first rate when compared, for instance, to those who convert to other faiths like Islam (where the education and quality of life far less effective).

There are a number of points in that article ("As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God") which I feel call for my elaboration. (Bold faced quotes are from Parris' article.)

"The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall."

This, and many similar observations that Parris made, are in fact quite similar to our American founding fathers and early pilgrims who came to the new world to escape persecution from the old world. It is the same Christian ingenuity that influenced the emergence of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, democracy, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, the search and curiosity of God's world thru the development and advancement of science (e.g., Newton and Galileo), ad infinitum. Thus, in short, the richness and dynamic spirit of Christianity that helped the Western world succeed is the very same one that we see in the successes in Africa---and elsewhere in the world, which is why in fact the rest of the world comes to us to grow (including Muslims, for example, who flee from Muslim countries to seek haven and a better quality of life in Christian lands).

"Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught."

True, since when other non-Christian missions attempt to do the same the result is not comparable, and some even lead Africans to worse conditions (and with the wrong un-modern kind of education). And by the way, much of what is referred to as 'secular' had in fact Christians and Jews behind it, and not necessarily contrary to the basic teachings of Christianity. Modern science was created in a Judeo-Christian environment. Many of the secular discoveries are in fact about the world that God has created, so need not be entirely 'un-Christian'. (E.g., Newton's theory of gravity may be considered 'secular' but Newton's purpose was to understand the workings of God's creation.) (Of course, these happened with many debates and disagreements among Christians, which was the usual process right from Christianity's, and Judaism's, earliest days: search the scriptures, search God's creation.)

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

That is why I would consider cultural relativism a failure. The very fact that one culture can grow more prosperous, healthy, educated, and more faith-filled than another is an indication that one culture can supersede another. (Even within Darwinian evolution there is a recognition that a species can evolve and develop to a more superior stage.) We too have grown up from our older ways, our older cultures, we learned from them, and adapted to newer values. The fact that Christianity, even in its diverse forms, has been a thriving force for growth and success (even if thru internal strife) for 2000 years, and still is today as strong as ever (among 2 billion of today's population) is a real testament to its spirit.

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