Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Living Under Sharia: The Plight of Women in Saudi Arabia

Islamic legal code, the Sharia, continues to make grounds in the West. Sharia Court, operational in Canada since 1991, was abolished in 2006 in the face of intense campaign from human rights activists. Although widely practiced by the Muslim community over the year, Sharia Court received official recognition in the U.K. for dealing with civil and some criminal cases (domestic violence etc.) in 2007. Since some 40% of the British Muslims want the establishment of Sharia Court with a fewer of them opposed to it, this is possibly the first-step in the gradual process of establishing full-fledged Islamic legal codes in Britain. As Muslim immigrants in the West, from Europe to North America, show increasing support for Sharia, demand for Sharia laws in other Western countries will definitely intensify in light of this British concession.

What people in the West must make themselves aware of is that Sharia laws are extremely discriminatory, indeed humiliating and degrading, toward non-Muslims. It is also highly discriminatory and humiliating toward Muslim women. To make a grasp of its nature, one may take a look at Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iran and Saudi Arabia, where Sharia laws were/are applied to varying strictness. Some 400 Girls Schools face closure in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where Sharia is poised to be instituted in weeks. In the wake of the just-concluded International Women’s Day, this essay will attempt to make it clear what Sharia law means for Muslim women.

When Australian Mufti Taj al-Din al-Hilali raised furor in 2006 by calling unveiled women “uncovered meat” to suggest that eighteen such white women, raped (some gang-raped) by Muslim youths in a Sydney neighborhood in 2000, actually invited the horrendous act upon themselves. Most Australians and Westerners have viewed it as utterance of a deranged ignorant cleric, not representing the Islamic creed and community. However, an investigation of the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia—the birth-place and heartland of Islam—reveals a strong Islamic rational behind the Mufti’s assertion.

Saudi Arabia, the sacred land of Islamic devotion, is the best place for evaluating the status of women in Islam, where Islamic holy laws—the Sharia, which should ideally guide Islamic societies for eternity—are implemented most rigorously amongst Islamic countries. The Saudi Basic Law says:

  • General Principle, Article 1: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab Islamic state; its religion is Islam; and its constitution is the Holy Quran and Prophet’s Sunnah (traditions)”
  • System of Government, Article 7: “Government derives its power from the Holy Quran and the Prophet's Sunnah”
  • Rights and Duties, Article 23: “The state protects the Islamic and caters to the application of Shari'ah; it enjoins good and forbid evil and undertakes the duty of call to Islam.”

Welcome to the Islamic heartland of Saudi Arabia: it’s a man’s world. Free Western women are truly “uncovered meat” here. Here, women almost invariably invite rapes; it’s rarely a fault of men, the rapists.

The Quran, which contains the unchanged words of the Islamic God (Allah) to guide the Muslim life and society for eternity, commands the “wives and daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not annoyed” [Q 33:59].

This is the last verse revealed by Allah to finalize the dress-code for Muslim women when they go out of their homes. It made veiling an obligatory eternal law of Allah. Women must be responsible and veil themselves not to attract molestation by men.

Due to changes brought about in Muslim countries during the European colonial period and pressures from the outside world (the U.N., Human Rights Groups and Western nations), most Muslim countries have relaxed this divine anti-women law. But many Arab countries apply it—Saudi Arabia being the strictest. In an ideal Islamic society, the divine laws of Allah cannot be violated under any circumstances. So, when a Girls School in Saudi Arabia caught fire in 2002, the Religious Police—the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice—beat the unveiled girls to prevent them from leaving the compound on blaze. Unveiled women (Hilali’s “uncovered meat”) must not venture out; as a result, fifteen girls were burned alive to charred bodies.

Islamic law commands strict segregation of unrelated men and women, even within the confines of home [Q 24:31]. In 2007, a group of Saudi youths caught a woman with an unrelated man in a car and gang-raped her fourteen times. The Saudi Court convicted her of violating the segregation law and sentenced to six months’ jail and 200 lashes. The rapists were given light sentences of one to five years of imprisonment. When appealed, her punishment was doubled. Judge Dr. Ibrahim bin Salih al-Khudairi of the Riyadh Appeals Court later even regretted for not sentencing her to death.

Strict Islamic societies demand that Muslim women maintain their purity, both physically and mentally. When a Saudi girl was found chatting with boys over Facebook, her father beat her before shooting to death.

A woman, shot by her husband the first and second time, rejected a Social Worker’s advice to file a complaint as it required the presence of her obligatory male guardian, her husband; without him, her testimony would not be accepted, whilst the Religious Police might accuse her of “mixing” with the opposite sex, a criminal offense. “The third time her husband shot her, she died of her wounds,” the Social Worker told a 2008 Human Rights Watch (HRW) Report on Saudi Arabia (see also here).

Prophet Muhammad had set an ideal example for Islamic societies by marrying his 6-year-old niece, Aisha, at the ripe age of 52; he consummated the marriage three years later. Recently an 8-year-old Saudi girl was given to marriage by her father to a 58-year-old man. The girl’s divorced mother petitioned to the court to annul the marriage. It was rejected on the ground that only the girl can seek divorce only after reaching her puberty. She is old enough to get married, but not to seek divorce.

These are but a few examples of such incidences from the highly restrictive and secretive Saudi Kingdom that get into the media spotlight. A woman cannot go out alone, even if veiled. She must be escorted by a male relative. The HRW Report, cited above, found that Saudi women are treated as “Perpetual Minors”: they are disallowed by law to study, work, travel, marry, testify in court, legalise a contract or undergo medical treatment without the assent of a close male relative—father, husband, grandfather, brother or son.

A man can divorce his wife as he wishes; Muhammad bin Laden, father of Osama, accumulated more than twenty wives—married and divorced—in his house. Since a Muslim man can only take four wives at a time, he would divorce one of the four wives, not attractive any more, to add a new one in his harem. The divorced wives stayed in his house as unwanted slaves; men are divinely sanctioned to keep unlimited number of slave-concubines in Islam [Q 70:29–30, 23:5–6].

American Women in Saudi

The condition of Saudi women can be best understood from the experiences of Western women in the kingdom. American woman Monica Stowers met a young Saudi man, Nizar Radwan, at the University of Dallas and married in the early 1980s. The couple moved to Saudi Arabia with their two infant kids. Stowers was in shock; Nizar already had a wife, which he kept secret. She protested and wanted to return to America with the kids. The Saudi Court gave the children’s custody to father, because the mother was an infidel, a Christian. She left Saudi Arabia alone hoping that the U.S. Government would help in acquiring the custody of her children, which never came.

She returned to Saudi in 1990, met her son Rasheed at the airport, picked daughter Amjad from school and headed to the U.S. Embassy, hoping to find refuge there. She had the biggest shock of her life: when she pleaded for help, the Embassy officials called two marines to kick her out. She was arrested by the Saudi police and imprisoned.

Amjad was sodomized by her half-brother (Rasheed was also sodomized by the same half-brother, as well as by his uncle) and married off by her father at age 12. She ran away and was divorced by her husband. In 2003, Amjad, 20, along with her mother and brother (all American citizens), was living in miserable condition in an abandoned Saudi school, not permitted to leave the country. Meanwhile, the members of her father's family travel to America freely.

Similar or worse is the story of Alia and Aisha al-Gheshayan: their Saudi father Khalid al-Gheshayan abducted them from their mother’s home in Chicago in 1986 when they were 7 and 3, respectively, and smuggled to Saudi Arabia. Barred from leaving the Saudi Kingdom, as of 2002, Alia, 23, was married off to a cousin of her father, while plans were in place to marry off Aisha, 19. Their mother had lobbied with four successive State Department officials and members of Congress, but failed to get any help in bringing her daughters home.

In February 2008, a 37-year-old American businesswoman, married mother of three, was thrown in jail by the Saudi Religious Police for sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks in Riyadh.

Such totally innocent American citizens are condemned to jail or life-long misery and horror is Saudi Kingdom. The U.S. Government does not dare protest these gross violations of human rights of U.S. citizens by the Saudi authority. On the contrary, Saudi citizens, who commit grave crimes in American soil, are let go almost scot-free. Saudi Princess Buniah al-Saud shoved her Indonesian maid down a flight-stairs in Orlando (Florida) Airport in 2001. She was repeatedly beaten previously and kept as a virtual slave. The princess was allowed to leave America while her case on charges of felony was pending. She was eventually let go by paying $ 1,000 fine upon pleading guilty.

A German woman is Saudi

Dr. Sami Alrabaa, a former Muslim—who has taught in universities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and America—lists many harrowing tales of sufferance of foreign women in Saudi Arabia in his book, “Karin in Saudi Arabia”.

Karin, a German woman, fell in love with a Saudi man while briefly living in Saudi Arabia. The bestial Religious Police arrested her for going on a drive downtown alone in a taxi. Upon arrest, she was raped and thrown in prison. Her German-Saudi baby son was taken away and she was deported to Cyprus without passport and money.

Other foreign women in Saudi

Nisrin, a Bangladeshi woman, married a Saudi man. Saudis belong to an important tribe; they cannot just marry anyone, definitely not a lowly Bangladeshi. The marriage was annulled. The Religious Police raped her before deporting.

Luckier, young Moroccan woman Muna managed to smuggle herself and baby after one-night marriage with Sultan, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Tragic are stories of Mimi and Najat; they were brutally stoned to death.

Mimi, a Filipina house-maid, worked in Karin's lover’s house. Denounced by his wife, she was picked up by the Religious Police and stoned to death.

When such treatments are meted out to foreign women, including from powerful countries like America and Germay, it would not be difficult to grasp the treatment and cruelty the Saudi women suffer in the holy kingdom. Here is a story of a Saudi woman. Deaf-and-dumb Najat was arrested by the Religious Police, suspected of being a prostitute, as she waited for her brother in front of a shop-window. The Police Chief quickly passed sentence on Najat that "[She] was working as a prostitute and was caught in the very act of picking up a client. We advise that she be stoned to death..." Riyadh’s governor, Prince Salman, approved the punishment; Najat was publicly stoned to death the following Friday.

In the introduction of his book, Alrabaa writes,

When I delivered the manuscript of this book to friends outside of Saudi Arabia, asking them to read it over, their response was uniform: they shook their heads in disbelief. Nobody in the civilized world seemed able to fathom the extent of the arbitrariness and atrocities to which victims in Saudi Arabia are subjected. To them, it was incredible. Some remarked that I was telling stories about the actions of monsters from another planet. They could not believe that any human could act as a Saudi corrupted by power does.

In order to understand the kind of restrictive life women live in Saudi Arabia, one must read Inside the Kingdom by Swiss-born Carmen Bin Laden (who married a brother of Osama bin Laden and later divorced), sketching her rather liberal life there, owing to her belonging to the great bin Laden family.

But no such restrictions apply to men. Nesrine Malik, a young Muslim woman from Britain, writes of her experience of harassment in Saudi Arabia that “My sisters and I have been chased by cars full of youths many times through the streets of Riyadh, harassed through car windows and had telephone numbers expertly tossed in our laps when we had made the mistake of leaving the car window open.”

Ed Hussain, a reformed British Islamist and former member of Hizb-ut Tahrir, wrote of his experience of living in Saudi Arabia, that “In supermarkets I only had to be away from Faye (his wife) for five minutes and Saudi men would hiss or whisper obscenities as they walked past. When Faye discussed her experiences with local women at the British Council they said: ‘Welcome to Saudi Arabia.’”

He heard of a Filipino worker, who had brought his new bride to live with him in Jeddah. The couple took a taxi after visiting the Balad Shopping District. On the way, the Saudi driver complained that the car was not working and asked the man to push it. As the man came out, the driver sped away with the man’s wife. There was no clue about her whereabouts.

“We had heard stories of the abduction of women from taxis by sex-deprived Saudi youths. At a Saudi friend’s wedding at a luxurious hotel in Jeddah, women dared not step out of their hotel rooms and walk to the banqueting hall for fear of abduction by the bodyguards of a Saudi prince who also happened to be staying there,” wrote Hussain.

Prophet Muhammad’s child-wife Aisha had said, “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women…” [Bukhari 7:72:715]. The plight of Muslim women has remained the same at the birthplace, the heartland, of Islam.

MA Khan is the editor of and the author of  Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery.

Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery -- by MA Khan

Purchase option: Paperback 17.95 | Kindle edition: $ 7.96 | E.Book: $ 6:00 |

Also available at your nearby bookstores. Look for cheaper offers on print editions at Barnes & Noble etc.

"I read your book and found it fascinating. It is one of those few books which everybody, Muslims and non-Muslims, must read."
--- Prof. Sami Alrabaa

"With this book, M A Khan joins the ranks of luminaries like Ibn Warraq, Ali Sina, Bat Yeor and Geert Wilders". -- Objective Reader,

Learn more here.

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Comments Notes: Keep comments short. Our system cannot separate paragraphs. Comments must be relevant to the topic of the article. Irrelevant comments, materials, adds of other websites, pasting external articles etc. are not allowed. We may ban such nuisance posters.

Name: good one
Subject: good one
Date: Saturday March 14, 2009
Time: 02:18:26 -0500


good one

Name: Truth Detector
Subject: Not Woman's Fault
Date: Saturday March 14, 2009
Time: 02:51:40 -0500


Depraved Muslim dudes blame the women when they rape women. The truth is that most Muslim males haven't learned to control themselves. Muslim males are always thinking of sex, sex, sex, and hurting others. No doubt the false prophet pervert Muhammad passed his genes on to Muslim males. In some Muslim countries where Muslims rule, the old depraved Muslim male perverts are so out of control when it comes to sex, that they kidnap and then "marry" little girls as young as eight years old and then legally rape them. We must destroy Islam as soon as possible if we are to save women from getting raped by uncontrolled Muslim male perverts.

Name: vbv
Date: Saturday March 14, 2009
Time: 03:01:29 -0500


Some holy land this Saudi Arabia is! Barbaric to the core , totally uncivilised ,gross, uncouth, immoral,lecherous,treacherous , and all the indescribable evil that one can find on the planet Earth is concentrated in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan,Iraq,Iran,Somalia,Sudan,etc. All 'islamic' countries practicing the pristine form of 'islam' practiced by their criminal founder Muhamad ,the charlatan,despotic animal and the worst lecher ever. Anyway al semetc cults share the same view of women as the original sinner, though in varying degrees. This god could have done with Adam alone without "creating" Eve out of Adams's rib for sexual licence! Some god indeed this Allah/Yahweh is - the actual prime cause of EVIL!

Name: Anti Clot
Subject: Islamic Disneyland
Date: Saturday March 14, 2009
Time: 03:06:08 -0500


It was the Saudi family that established this Islamic Disneyland with lashig, beheading and stoning to death. Without their oil the country would still belong to the least developed countries such as Yemen and Somalia in the close neighbourhood. It is incredible what happens there every day! They have inbreeding rates of more than 50% and the highest rates of handicapped people suffering from genetical disorders worldwide. Employers prefer to rely on foreigners because they cannot find local people capable and willing to work. Because of gender segregation there are hardly any opportunities to work for women and many of them suffer from diabetes because they cannot take part in any sports activities either. In many cases women die because they are not allowed to accept help from non-related men. What for???

Name: Kmgy
Subject: To vbv
Date: Saturday March 14, 2009
Time: 06:05:20 -0500


You need to adjust your mental vision since you cannot differentiate the difference between Islam vis-a-vis Judaism/Christianity.

Name: seeker
Subject: depressing
Date: Saturday March 14, 2009
Time: 07:35:14 -0500


The young Muslimah who recently debated with MA Khan should read this article so that she may come back to her senses.This is one of the most depressing article I have ever read at IW. Oil may have brought glitz and glamour to the desert Kingdom, but beneath the surface nothing has changed, nothing ever will. This is Prophetland for you- the epicentre of Islam.

Name: seeker
Subject: Al-Taqyya
Date: Saturday March 14, 2009
Time: 07:53:52 -0500


MA Khan laments that Some 400 Girls Schools face closure in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where Sharia is poised to be instituted in weeks. On the other hand Imran Khan has urged the government to implement Sharia in Swat immediately to bring peace to the valley. Imran Khan, the legendery cricket star with movie star good looks in his heydays was practising Al- Taqqya all along and we (his fans) never knew. That's a moderate muslim for you.

Name: balam
Subject: women in Saudi-Arabia
Date: Saturday March 14, 2009
Time: 07:59:07 -0500


One American diplomat was asked: Why the Americans do not force democracy in Saudi-Arabia: His answer was OIL. Saudi-Arabia seems to be the real super power of today and America is only a paper tiger.It dare not stand up to the Evil Regime of Saudi-Arabia. President Obama is wise to reduce American dependence on Saudi oil with alternative sources of energy. The saudi will go back to days of collecting camels dung for fuel and its urine for medicine and stones to wipe their backsides. The birth place of Islam represents the worst place for women with most depraved men around with no conscience at all. They are the most despicable sub-humans on earth and they will not last too long. A certain change is in the horizen. Look at Pak-Satan, land of pure Evil.

Name: IK
Date: Saturday March 14, 2009
Time: 13:03:10 -0500


Thank you brother Khan for this article. I think true "Muslims" who read this article will realize why I think calling someone a "Muslim" is no more than a grave insult to that person.

Name: Walter Sieruk
Subject: Women under Islam.
Date: Saturday March 14, 2009
Time: 14:11:26 -0500


"Women are denied their social and economic rights in the name of Islam..."[1] Also, "Physical abuse of women in Muslim culture is very common and occurs at all levels of all the social ladder."[2]-Sources INFIDEL by Ayaan Hirsi Ali p.279 [1] NOW THEY CALL ME INFIDEL by Nonie Darwish p. 74

Name: Anti Clot
Subject: Saudi Arabia
Date: Saturday March 14, 2009
Time: 14:14:33 -0500


Without oil Saudi Arabia would be almost identical to Afghanistan under the Taliban. Or in other words: Saudi Arabia is like a Talibanistan de Luxe.

Folks, don't divert the discussion away from Women in Saudi or problems with Saudi society. -- Editor.

Name: Anti Clot
Subject: Women in Egypt
Date: Sunday March 15, 2009
Time: 11:30:28 -0500


Daughter of later President Sadat was mrried of at the age of 12. President Nasser and General Arrar provided wrong witness that the was 16.

Name: Rex
Subject: Dear MA Khan
Date: Sunday March 15, 2009
Time: 16:01:25 -0500


I dont know how to reach you but here goes my opinion. Right now as far as I see it the soft underbellies of Islam are Iran and Muslims in India. Iranian Islam will eventually implode because they are already facing demographic peril right now and major economic trouble compounding it further. IslamWatch should concentrate on Indian Muslims more aggressively. These are the people that really need to be rescued from the clutches of the dictatorial Mullahs and brought into the mainstream Indian soceity. IslamWatch need a dedicated Urdu section of even a sister site. Just my two cents. Apologize for deviating from the crux of the thread. Rex

Name: balam
Subject: Sadat and his daughter
Date: Monday March 16, 2009
Time: 01:21:13 -0500


It was shocking to see the interview of President Sadats daughter who was married off by his father when she was only 12 years of age and lying about her age to be 16 years.Have you ever come accross an honest muslim starting from Mohammad,who was the biggest liar and deceiver.From this one can conclude that the Muslims MIGHT have a few qualities,BUT honesty is not one of them.

Name: MA Khan
Subject: to Rex
Date: Monday March 16, 2009
Time: 20:29:12 -0500


Dear Rex, as of now, we are only doing this website. I have a feeling that a significant proportion, if not a majority, of our readers are from the subcontinent or immigrants from there. We have some dedicated followers in India, who, from their own conviction, are spreading the words around in India and beyond. With whatever resources we have, that's the best we can do at this point.

Name: GoodNewsForIslam
Subject: superb
Date: Tuesday March 17, 2009
Time: 12:34:55 -0500


superb thanks brother Khan

Name: life long infidel
Date: Tuesday March 17, 2009
Time: 19:03:19 -0500


i think the burkha was invented so that mahumad may not get horny for the women he likes. so the people the people invented burkha(veil) to protect their women from the great angle of god mahumad. after realizing this and getting embrassed he created the revelation that women should be covered fully.

Name: SFU
Date: Sunday March 22, 2009
Time: 13:13:45 -0500



Name: anonymous
Subject: the phlight of saudi women
Date: Tuesday April 21, 2009
Time: 03:20:56 -0400


I think it would be helpful if you could provide links as reference to your work. Furthermore, there are other cases which may interest you. There is the case of a Danish woman, Berit Jørgensen/Jorgensen, a professional nurse for 20 years. She worked international i.e. Saudi Arabia, London etc. She met her a Saudi man, who she became engaged to. She found out she was pregnant. He promised they would have a wedding and lured her to Cairo, Egypt. Here she was overpowered, abducted and a provoked abortion (although she was half way through her pregnancy) performed against her will in 1991. This paved way for her autobiographic book, My Saudi Son (Min Saudiske Søn) available only in Danish. She can be reached through

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