Opinions

Professional wrestling is not enough; Saudi women must demand equality

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.’s “Greatest Royal Rumble” event was held at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Saudi Arabia on April 27.

For the first time in history, Saudi women are no longer prohibited from attending live American professional wrestling events that were previously considered to be too “indecent” for women to enjoy.

This event marks one of several cultural milestones that Saudi authorities have put forth in an effort to produce long awaited social change, in a society moored to its ancient religious traditions.

Some other notable changes for Saudi women include being allowed to attend live soccer matches or the ability to drive automobiles as of June this year. It appears that 2018 will be a watershed year in the history of Saudi Arabia with regard to the treatment of women.

Receiving the right to witness muscular men beat each other to a sweaty pulp is fine and dandy; however, there should not be much celebration of the country’s actions.

Women should have been able to attend these sporting events long ago, especially due to the fact that women in the West are already allowed to do so.

This begs the question as to why the current regime is suddenly so receptive to progressive change. The 32-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, current heir to the throne, has publicly expressed his desire to “modernize the kingdom.”

One would think that bin Salman’s positive sentiment toward reform is noble in its intention. On the contrary, Saudi authorities issued a statement indicating that the crown prince’s efforts should serve as a reflection of his attempt to make Saudi Arabia “less oil-dependent by building other industries, including an entertainment center that until now didn’t exist.”

The public statement contains no apology or sympathy toward the Saudi women who have been subjugated to gender inequality for decades. Instead, economic gain is the sole motivation behind the slew of cultural changes being made by the Saudi government this year. Righteous reform is being enacted for the wrong reasons.

As of right now, Saudi women are still restricted from wearing clothing of their choosing or makup that might “show off their beauty,” using public swimming pools, trying on clothing at shopping malls, making decisions without male permission and interacting with men from outside the family.

Religious police patrol enforces the laws listed above on Saudi streets.

If a woman were to potentially break any of these laws, she would be tried in Saudi court where her word is legally defined as having half the worth of a man’s. She would then be subjected to a capital punishment system which consists of public floggings, lashings, stonings and the death penalty depending on the degree of the offense.

Saudi Arabia is currently governed by Islamic Law, formally known as Sharia law, with the Quran serving as the constitution from which these laws are taken. A theocracy by definition, Saudi Arabia’s intolerance is no longer a question of religious expression but a question of law, which would mean it should be subject to as much criticism as any other legal system.

Saudi Arabia’s abhorrent policies are a byproduct of a regressive culture that values modesty more than it does the rights of individuals.

The lack of separation between church and state is at the root of the severe lack of social change, not just in Saudi Arabia but among the entirety of the Middle East. Secularism is the antidote necessary to extinguish the widespread oppression that women are still facing in the Muslim world.

Article 8 of Saudi Arabia’s Basic Law of Governance states that, “Governance in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on justice, shura (consultation) and equality according to Islamic Sharia.”

Language this laughably ironic has not been uttered since 1776, when Thomas Jefferson proclaimed “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, despite having slaves in his possession at the very moment he wrote those words.

The people of Saudi Arabia and more importantly the women of Saudi Arabia must now realize that being able to watch professional wrestling simply is not enough. They must spark their own revolution and dismantle the tyrannical theocratic government that continues to keep the free will of the people in shackles.

May 7, 2018

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Gavin Kowlessar


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