Saudi Arabia

Saudi Culture

Most of the people in Saudi Arabia are Sunni Muslims. The law of the state is strict and supports fundamentalist Islamic ideals. Activities such as gambling, alcohol consumption, and pork products are forbidden. Movie theaters and other Western-style productions are not allowed, except in private compounds where workers from other countries live.

The dress code in Saudi Arabia strictly follows the Islamic principles of modesty. The black abaya (robe) or modest clothing is expected for women. Men often wear the traditional full-length shirt and a headcloth held in place by a cord.

Saudi Arabia has banned human rights organizations, trade unions, and political parties. The country tightly censors all local media. The press can only publish what the government allows. Communication with foreigners and Internet access are highly controlled. Those who speak out against the government can be arrested.

Islamic law is the basic criminal code in Saudi Arabia, along with the king’s laws. Trials are most often held in secret without lawyers. Torture has been used to force confessions. Punishments range from long prison sentences to amputations (arm or foot), floggings, and beheadings. Executions are held publicly every Friday.

Role of Women

Under strict Islamic law, women do not have the same rights as men. For example, a woman cannot walk alone in public; she must be accompanied by a family member.

As of 2011, the following restrictions apply to women:

  • Women are not allowed to drive.
  • Women must wear modest clothing and cover their hair.
  • Women can only choose certain college degrees, not including engineering or law.
  • Women cannot vote.
  • Women cannot walk or travel without a male relative.
  • Women are segregated from men at work and in many formal spaces, even in homes.
  • Women need written permission from a husband or father to travel abroad.
  • Marriages can be arranged without the woman’s consent, and women often lose everything in a divorce.

In late 2011, some women defied the ban on driving. One woman was arrested and sentenced to ten lashes. Saudi King Abdullah then overturned the sentence and promised to support women’s rights. Saudi Arabia is an example of how Islamic fundamentalism is being challenged by modernity and democratic principles.

Source: Saudi Arabia
By Saylor Academy, CC-BY 3.0

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