European security experts, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, confirmed reports in Italian and Turkish newspapers that large sums of money had been sent to havens outside the country from banks controlled by the Revolutionary Guards.
Who knew that defending a closeted Saudi traditionalism could sound so gay?
“If you want to know what your wife looks like, look at her brother,” Nader said in defending the practice of marrying someone he had seen only once, briefly, as a child.
What comes through so clearly in the Michael Slackman New York Times article is how alien Saudi society is. Yet Slackman demonstrates that the same human impulses are at work – lust, fear, hope – in Saudi society as our own.
Katherine Zoepf in her companion piece described the view of romance and youth from the point of view of young Saudi women. She describes evocatively how modern tools are being used to express the frustration inherent in such a cloistered society and how traditional wahabi interpretations of Islam are being interpreted anew in light of new technologies and timeless frustrations:
A woman can’t switch her phone’s Bluetooth feature on in a public place without receiving a barrage of the love poems and photos of flowers and small children which many Saudi men keep stored on their phones for purposes of flirtation. And last year, Al Arabiya television reported that some young Saudis have started buying special “electronic belts,” which use Bluetooth technology to discreetly beam the wearer’s cellphone number and e-mail address at passing members of the opposite sex.
Ms. Tukhaifi and Shaden know of girls in their college who have passionate friendships, possibly even love affairs, with other girls but they say that this, like the cross-dressing, is just a “game” born of frustration, something that will inevitably end when the girls in question become engaged. And they and their friends say that they find the experience of being chased by boys in cars to be frightening, and insist that they do not know any girl who has actually spoken to a boy who contacted her via Bluetooth.
“If your family found out you were talking to a man online, that’s not quite as bad as talking to him on the phone,” Ms. Tukhaifi explained. “With the phone, everyone can agree that is forbidden, because Islam forbids a stranger to hear your voice. Online he only sees your writing, so that’s slightly more open to interpretation.
“One test is that if you’re ashamed to tell your family something, then you know for sure it’s wrong,” Ms. Tukhaifi continued. “For a while I had Facebook friends who were boys — I didn’t e-mail with them or anything, but they asked me to ‘friend’ them and so I did. But then I thought about my family and I took them off the list.”