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Kuwait Times on Morality Police

Wooo HOOOO on you, Jamie Etheridge; you bring grammar, tone and content to the Kuwait Times

Kuwait’s illegal morality police
Published Date: January 02, 2009
By Jamie Etheridge

Two female students were attacked by two youths this past week in Hawally, reportedly for not wearing the hijab. The girls were standing outside their school when two bearded young men jumped from an SUV, whacked them with a stick and then jumped back into their truck and took off. The incident sparked outrage and triggered discussions across Kuwait about the self-proclaimed morality police encouraged by a radical Islamist cleric Mubarak Al-Bathali.

In late December, Al-Bathali announced that he had established a voluntary committee for the “Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” along the lines of the dreaded Saudi mutaween. The mutaween are a sort of religious police that patrol the streets in the villages and cities of Saudi Arabia, ensuring that women are covered from head to toe, that men go to the mosque to pray and that unmarried men and women do not mix in public. They also enforce other important moral strictures, like no mixed dancing or playing rock and roll music.

Al-Bathali said that his ‘vice’ squad will patrol the Sulaibikhat area first and then slowly spread out to other areas. It’s not clear who was behind the attacks in Hawally. Some have argued that it might have been just a couple of youths having fun and playing a trick on the girls by whacking them like the mutaween in Saudi do.

Let’s hope it was a bad joke by bored teens. God help us if random groups of men suddenly start forming ‘morality’ patrols and beating women on the streets of Kuwait. A Kuwaiti mutaween would create a host of problems.

First, the morality police would be trying to enforce a brand of radical Islam and ideology many in Kuwait – both citizens and expats – do not follow. Many Muslim women in this country do not wear hijab and there are no laws that require them to do so – despite the best efforts of the fundamentalists in parliament.

Second, Kuwaitis are highly protective of their female family members and few are likely to accept strange men whacking their mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and aunts in public areas. Following the 1990-1991 Iraqi invasion and occupation, some radical Islamists tried to establish a religious police and had begun even stationing ‘officers’ outside the Co-ops in Jabriya, Surra and elsewhere.

These mullahs carried short sticks and would strike women coming out of the Co-ops who they deemed to be dressed inappropriately. The women, of course, immediately called their male relatives who then rushed to the Co-ops and attacked the mullahs for attacking the women. The resulting chaos led to the banning of the self proclaimed morality cops.

Third, an ad hoc security force running loose around the country poses a real and present danger to the forces of the Interior Minister and by extension, the stability and security of Kuwait as a whole.

Nearly 20 years later, the radicals have reemerged and wider popularity – as evidenced by the fundamentalists victory in parliamentary polls – has encouraged them to reassert their plans for greater social control.

Success for the mullahs will mean failure for Kuwait’s experiment with democracy. Unlike the rest of the Gulf Arab states, Kuwait isn’t just beginning this experiment. For nearly half a century, this diminutive Muslim country has balanced tribal mores and religious identity with the Islamic and democratic ideals of freedom, dignity and self respect. Allowing roving bands of self appointed religious police to patrol the streets of Kuwait will undermine all of the country’s efforts toward balancing tradition
and modernity.

January 3, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Free Speech, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, News, NonFiction, Political Issues, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 9 Comments

Some Forecasters See a Fast Economic Recovery

From today’s New York Times: Business:

Economics as the dismal science? Not in some quarters.

In the midst of the deepest recession in the experience of most Americans, many professional forecasters are optimistically heading into the new year declaring that the worst may soon be over.

For this rosy picture to play out, they are counting on the Obama administration and Congress to come through with a substantial stimulus package, at least $675 billion over two years.

They say that will get the economy moving again in the face of persistently weak spending by consumers and businesses, not to mention banks that are reluctant to extend credit.

If the dominoes fall the right way, the economy should bottom out and start growing again in small steps by July, according to the December survey of 50 professional forecasters by Blue Chip Economic Indicators. Investors seemed to be in a similarly optimistic mood on Friday, bidding up stocks by about 3 percent.

But in the absence of that government stimulus, the grim economic headlines of 2008 will probably continue for some time, these forecasters acknowledge.

Read the entire article HERE

January 3, 2009 Posted by | Financial Issues, Interconnected, Leadership, News, Political Issues, Social Issues, Statistics | 2 Comments