An interesting essay by Badria al-Bishr on Al Arabiya’s website. In it, she looks at the role of international media in reporting on social issues in Saudi Arabia and how those efforts are perceived.
Taking the recent case of a 90-year-old Saudi man’s marriage to a 15-year-old girl, as her primary cause, she notes that Saudi learned about the issue and were upset by it before international media took it up. But it wasn’t until the international media focused on it that it became a big scandal. Until then, it was just a little scandal that Saudis might bitch about, but had little possibility (or so they thought) of doing anything about it. CNN did not create the scandal, but it did magnify its visibility.
Al-Bishr thinks that it’s entirely appropriate for Saudis to use that visibility to leverage the issue, to use it to gain momentum in their own efforts to change the way things work. There are always those who will try to find ways to stop change. They play dirty when they play the “religion card”, asserting that to do something that is not explicitly addressed in the Quran is akin to heresy. Saudi society needs to understand the tactic and not fall prey to it.
Maybe it’s ‘CNN’ who exposed us!
It irritates some people to see foreign media tackling Saudi social issues. They believe that foreign media only aims to humiliate us, as it falls within the western conspiracy against Arabs and Muslims.
This is what I personally heard when the American CNN channel talked about a 90-year-old Saudi man’s marriage to a 15-year-old girl, despite the fact that such incidents are recurrent in our society and that local media always writes about it. Opinion writers criticize it, the Human Rights Commission is against it, and most of the Shura Council call to enact a method that would ban it, but the ongoing debate refuses to put an end to it.
As soon as it is circulated in Foreign Media, it becomes a scandal, and we start to search for the reasons that prompted them to publish such a story; does it aim to distort our image in the West? Does an accomplice help them with their plot?