“Meet Zainab al-Khatam, the winner of Saudi Arabia’s second annual pageant celebrating “spiritual and filial beauty”. Each contestant reportedly underwent training in “psychology, culture and law in Islam; family relations, public rights, social skills, health knowledge, volunteering … as well as cosmetics”” Nesrine Malik – guardian.co.uk,
Map of Saudi Arabia
The Saudi ‘inner beauty’ contest, really is nothing but a veiled celebration of female submission. It was set up last year and does more than merely imply criticism of western pageants but encourages the warped view of feminine subservience as a virtue. This is but one of many nations which conditions women to think of their circumstances in terms of positive attributes and in an “I can bear more oppression and subjugation than the others” and they do this not behind a mask of religious dogma but because of that dogma. In a ‘world’ where any form of female vanity is not only disapproved of but punished severely, the mind boggles as to what the organisers of those ‘women’s groups’ were thinking when this plan was conceived. It does nothing but cow-tow to the patriarchal Islamic authority. These women have been forcibly conditioned to accept their circumstances by forbidding them access to any alternatives.
“This year’s winner is a blind 24-year-old woman who had managed to exhibit superlative “respect for her family, parents and society” – by staying at home after she had finished her studies, in order to take care of her family. She suffered in dignity and accepted her lot, her martyrdom becoming all the more poignant because of her disability. She is a stark contrast to another Saudi woman, Samar Badawi, who was sent to jail for disobeying her father.”
'Spirit of compliance' – female submission is nothing to celebrate. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
“Al-sutra” is an approbative term meaning to cover or conceal in order to preserve dignity and is one of the most highly prized and pernicious values in Sudanese society. It applies to both men and women and involves summoning up one’s reserves of strength and endurance. It requires that both men and women put up with all hardships in silence. If somebody in your family wrongs you, then you bear it. You do not chase family members who owe you money. More importantly, the misery of an unhappy marriage is to be kept between that couple. The ability to be seen as a doormat to the world is deemed a sign of good breeding in women and thus the burden of sutra is all the heavier for them.
“This is by no means exclusive to Sudanese or Arab societies. It is a hallmark of conservatism and slavery to traditional values. Lady Chatterley and Out of Africa’s Isak Dinesen were both ostracised for not maintaining a stiff upper lip, and there is a universal human regard for martyrdom and comely suffering victims.“
Khadra al-Mubarak, left, showing potential contestants brochures of the _Miss Beautiful Morals_ contest at her office in Safwa in the eastern province, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, May 5, 2009.
It has been told that women hold informal contests of their own in which the prize may be marriage to an eligible bachelor who has heard through the female grapevine that the winning candidate dropped out of school to take care of her ailing mother, or willingly ‘gave away‘ her inheritance to build her family a new home. These are not feats of selflessness, but dis-empowering. These women have been conditioned to be compliant, ensuring that no matter how far afield the body travels, the mind is subjugated. According to Islamic law, daughters are entitled to only half of the inheritance of their brothers (Qur’an 4:11). If there are only daughters, more than two should share 2/3 between them but if there is one then she is only entitled to half of what is left after bequests and debts are paid.
“Unlike others conned into suffering in silence in order to score social brownie points, she realised that in deliberately embracing her position, she transcended it.”
What they’re looking for in the quest for “Miss Beautiful Morals” is the contestant who shows the most devotion and respect for her parents. The women, who despite great hardship can revel in her suffering with what can almost be described as euphoria due to what that suffering represents. Their suffering and subjugation may be noticed but not lamented. But doesn’t this pride in their ability to lay down and be their family’s doormat, without complaint, verge on vanity? (Qur’an 4:36)
Veiled women in downtown Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Islam is possibly the most inhuman(e) of the three Abrahamic religions. It is geared to favour men in every aspect. The Qur’an is, in a large part (Chapter 4 is a fair example.), designated to the repression and subjugation of their women. This includes instructions to beat rebellious and disobedient wives (Qur’an 4:35), a promise of reward for those who die as martyrs (4:74-76), how to deal with unbelievers who; “would dearly like you to reject faith, as they have done, to be like them. So do not take them as allies until they migrate [to Medina] for god’s cause. If they turn [on you] then seize and kill them wherever you encounter them. Take none of them as an ally or supporter…We give you clear authority against such people.“, and condemning those who do not ‘commit themselves and their possessions to striving in God’s way‘ as deficient and beneath those who do (Qur’an 4:89-91, 115). This contest does nothing more than legitimise the religious oppression of women. Rather than celebrate this contest we should mourn it as it shows exactly how deeply their inculcation has gone.
“Zainab’s morals may be beautiful, but society’s reasons for celebrating them are very ugly indeed.”