Women Who Wed the Wrong Wahhabi

Ilana Mercer, June 19, 2003

Just when I thought American victim politics could metastasize no further, Pat Roush appears on the scene. Talk about making the personal political. Roush, a woman whose personal errors have resulted in an international political incident, is asking President Bush to intensify the pressure on Saudi Arabia to rectify the marital mistakes of other American women. She describes her constituents as women who


“…have married Saudi nationals who were sent to the United States to study in our colleges and universities. Once they accompanied their Saudi husbands back to Saudi Arabia, they soon found out that they lost all civil rights and became prisoners. Their children fall into that same category of slavery and are denied even the basic human rights.”


Despite the use of a highly charged word like “slavery,” the women she describes were not coerced into wedlock. They were not gulled into romantic entanglements with Saudi men; they entered into the relationships willingly. Like most self-indulgent American females, the women were probably just following their highest calling—their hormones.


Saudi Arabians are adherents of the strictest form of Islam, Wahhabism, which is as austere as the religion the Taliban practiced. A woman who takes up with a man, especially a Wahhabi Muslim, is ultimately responsible for investigating the type of belief system he espouses. What did these gals think he was doing each time he took out the prayer mat and faced Mecca? Yoga? Did these women not give a dried camel’s hump when their men let slip with the inevitable insult to Christians, Jews or non-Wahhabi Muslims?


The alternative, and more likely, explanation is that the women simply chose to believe that they’d housetrain their pet Muslim extremist. In the tradition of American insularity, the women Roush speaks for were probably convinced they would turn their Wahhabi paramours into sensitive Westerners, who share the housework, carry the newborn in a papoose, and dutifully grind away at the wife’s G-spot at night, just like Cosmo Magazine instructs.


To feel sympathy for these women, one would have to believe that not until they were ‘lured’ to Saudi Arabia, Land of the Moderates, did their Saudi husbands reveal any of their founding beliefs. Put it this way, back in the days when Pat Roush was experimenting with an Arabian lifestyle, she’d have been far better off taking up with a Ba’athist moderate and emigrating to the secular, pro-woman, and booze-friendly Iraq than to Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t get much worse than Saudi Arabia, where uttering a loud Hail Mary can get you in trouble with the authorities. 


Why didn’t the women now entombed in Saudi Arabia case the country before moving there? A trip to the library is all it takes to find out about the dismal status of women in Saudi society. I certainly think I would have noticed if the country I was headed to enforced a state religion, and had in tow an energetic religious police, or Mutawaa’in. In one incident, the Saudi Mutawaa’in caused the death by fire of a number of schoolgirls. The devout cops refused to allow the girls to escape because their heads were immodestly uncovered (the fire, presumably, had incinerated their headgear). A responsible woman doesn’t tether the future of her tykes to such a place.


My now grown-up girl only just survived the perils of the public school system in Canada. Energetic parental vigilance and awareness were key. To detect the corrosive elements of the public school curriculum in North America, a mother has to take pains to educate herself. That’s not necessary in Saudi Arabia. Plain for all to see in a Saudi ninth grader’s readings is a tract entitled The Victory of Muslims Over Jews. It’s a hadith—a statement ascribed to the Prophet Mohammed—and it reads as follows:


“The last hour won’t come before the Muslims would fight the Jews and the Muslims will kill them so Jews would hide behind rocks and trees. Then the rocks and trees would call: oh Muslim, oh servant of God! There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him…”

The very pabulum that nourished bin Laden and other extremists before him is compulsory for all Saudi students. At least 35 percent of school studies there are devoted to this kind of religious education.


Some things are facts of life: (1) Saudi Arabia is a ruthless medieval theocracy. It has been for a very long time. (2) The U.S. government will rarely protect its citizens in international disputes. (3) There is no such thing as the Right Wahhabi Guy.


As sad and as hard for a mother to live with as it is, the truth is that wannabe Wahhabi western women who bind the future of their children to Wahhabi men are first and foremost responsible for what becomes of their children.



©2003 By Ilana Mercer

   A version of this column was published by The Hudson Institute

   June 19

CATEGORIES: Feminism, Gender Issues, Islam

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