Tortured Headline of the Year has got to be:
"Young Saudis, Vexed and Entranced by Love's Rules in Islamic World."
"Vexed" and "entranced"? These marvelously quaint adjectives may sound like something out of a lecture on Victorian romantic poetry, but they are instead a part of the New York Times' attempt to put a hearts-and-flowers frame around a strikingly and revealingly intime feature depicting (whether the reporter realized it) the barbaric lack of male self-control in Islamic society that, at root, governs the relationship (if you can call it that) between Saudi men and their female chattel.
While the word "romance" appears in the piece 9 times; "romantic" 5 times, and "love" 9 times, the words "misogynistic," "nasty" and "brutish" are nowhere to be found. These words might have come in handy, for example, in this particularly "entrancing" bit:
Three days later, in a nearby restaurant, Nader and Enad were concentrating on eating with utensils, feeling a bit awkward since they normally eat with their right hands.
Suddenly, the young men stopped focusing on their food. A woman had entered the restaurant, alone. She was completely draped in a black abaya, her face covered by a black veil, her hair and ears covered by a black cloth pulled tight.
“Look at the batman,” Nader said derisively, snickering.
Enad pretended to toss his burning cigarette at the woman, who by now had been seated at a table. The glaring young men unnerved her, as though her parents had caught her doing something wrong.
“She is alone, without a man,” Enad said, explaining why they were disgusted, not just with her, but with her male relatives, too, wherever they were.
When a man joined her at the table — someone they assumed was her husband — she removed her face veil, which fueled Enad and Nader’s hostility. They continued to make mocking hand gestures and comments until the couple changed tables. Even then, the woman was so flustered she held the cloth self-consciously over her face throughout her meal.
“Thank God our women are at home,” Enad said.
Yes, Heaven Forbid they go to a restaurant in a burlap bag with their husbands.
More interesting was what came next:
Nader and Enad pray five times a day, often stopping whatever they are doing to traipse off with their cousins to the nearest mosque.
Prayer is mandatory in the kingdom, and the religious police force all shops to shut during prayer times. But it is also casual, as routine for Nader and Enad as taking a coffee break.
To Nader and Enad, prayer is essential. In Enad’s view, jihad is, too, not the more moderate approach that emphasizes doing good deeds, but the idea of picking up a weapon and fighting in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Jihad is not a crime; it is a duty,” Enad said in casual conversation.
Guess no one sent him the Bush administration's New Lexicon. How vexing!
“If someone comes into your house, will you stand there or will you fight them?” Enad said, leaning forward, his short, thick hands resting on his knees. “Arab or Muslim lands are like one house.”
Would he go fight?
“I would need permission from my parents,” he said.
Nader, though, said, “Don’t ask me. I am afraid of the government.”
The concept is such a fundamental principle, so embedded in their psyches, that they do not see any conflict between their belief in armed jihad and their work as security agents of the state.
Could that be, maybe, possibly, because the Saudi state itself, in its confusing-to-Westerners-way, is part of the jihad, too? Maybe that would make a nice topic next time for the New York Times. And just think, these are the people (and the Democratic Congress) controlling our energy destiny .