Monday, January 21, 2008

When Opposites Do Business

Saudi Arabia is clearly reforming at a blistering pace, rocketing into the 17th Century. Women can now stay alone in hotels and apartments !
In general, it's hard to be a woman in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabian women cannot drive, travel overseas without a male guardian's permission or be in the presence of an unrelated man. The Saudi government takes a lot of criticism over the treatment of women in that country, and now, the Interior Ministry has issued a circular saying that women can stay in hotels, providing their presence there is reported to the police.
I wonder how that will work in practice ? Does the report to the police station go to the regular police, or to the religious police, that is, to the "Commission for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice?" If a woman stays at the equivalent of the Riyadh Best Western, and the report mentioned in the Interior Ministry circular goes to the Commission for the Propagation of Virtue, etc., do they file it and forget it, or does the hotel guest get a visit ?
I would rather be a donkey than a woman in Saudi Arabia. Our economic dependence on commerce with the oil states is probably the most disturbing economic and political fact of the modern age, rivaled only by our dependence on Chinese investment. Such close economic relationships between the United States and countries so unlike it in culture, political system and national temperament are almost certain, over time, to make trouble for all concerned.