The culture gap between us and them – the West and the East – in this part of the world is sometimes unimaginably wide. Interfaith dialogue is all fine and dandy, provided both parties belong to the same species. For someone who would probably enjoy living in a cave, the Saudi cleric Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak has an impressive ability to occasionally make news headlines with his eye-poppingly mediaeval fatwas which it would seem ‘conservatives’ here – that puts a new spin on David Cameron – actually pay attention to, in an Orwellian kind of way.
The latest pronouncement from the gentleman, who, it would seem, has trouble smiling, concerns the evils of fraternisation. He comments that ‘mixing of genders at the workplace or in education “as advocated by modernisers” is prohibited because it allows “sight of what is forbidden, and forbidden talk between men and women” ‘. Ah. OK. No chatting each other up round the water fountain, then…And, since most women are covered with a tarpaulin, it’s hard to figure out what’s actually there, never mind what’s forbidden.
“All of this leads to whatever ensues…. whoever allows this mixing … allows forbidden things, and whoever allows them is an infidel and this means defection from Islam … Either he retracts or he must be killed … because he disavows and does not observe the Sharia.” Barrak said. Lots of $50 phrasing there, it seems, and rather a high price to pay for a bit of a fumble behind the bike-sheds.
And furthermore..”Anyone who accepts that his daughter, sister or wife works with men or attend mixed-gender schooling cares little about his honour and this is a type of pimping”. Yeah. Just a little bit lost in translation, I think.
His website does not translate well from Arabic – but one anxious reader did feel emboldened to ask him..’Is pulling the penis after urinating heresy?’ The reply was long and detailed…
The image is from Summerhill School, A S Neill’s radical educational experiment, and the oldest democratic freedom school in the world. It probably wouldn’t go down too well in Riyadh.