I’ve come across two weblogs by American muslim expats that are wonderful complements to each other, Nzingha’s Soapbox from Saudi Arabia, and Life in Exile from the Gulf nation of Qatar, best known as home to the indispensable Al-Jazeerah network. Side by side, they are a great introduction to a part of the world I haven’t been to yet but hope to visit one day, inshallah. They also show the significant differences that exist amongst the gulf nations, which I might have assumed to be more or less the same before now.
Life in Exile shows life in Qatar to be a pretty enjoyable experience. The country is modernizing in its own way and diversifying its economy as best it can. Dervish of Life in Exile explains why he doesn’t dwell on controversy or on unpleasant aspects of life in Qatar. He has several reasons, including
I’ve been holding to a general “speak no evil” policy for the same reasons here on this site. I have one more reason to keep silent on local controversy: I have no idea what is going on. It’s not that I don’t try to keep informed. It’s that the coverage of issues in the local media is remarkably superficial. It’s remarkable because the press is not actively censored here. It’s more like it is neutered to start with. If you thought the American press just passively repeats government press releases, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Front page headlines will often read like, “Get Act Together, People Told” or “Industry Must Raise Standards, YB Says” accompanied by glamor shots of politicians grinning and shaking hands. Our local top politician proudly calls it the “Politics of Development”, which basically seems to mean, as long as everyone’s fortunes are rising, nobody better rock the boat. And since everyone’s fortunes have been rising since indepedence, albeit perhaps not at uniform rates, the press seems content not to dig too deep.
Meanwhile, the news is less than encouraging from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Nzingha writes that now the religious police are forcing women to cover their faces in the two holy places while they pray! I’m no religious scholar, but I’m certain covering the face invalidates the prayer for those following the shafi’i madhhab. Not content to and prevent us via truncheon of receiving baraka at the Propet’s door, they are now compromising the performance of our sisters’ salat. Subhanallah. I was advised years ago to make my hajj as soon as I could, before they wreck anything else. I think I need to start taking my preparations more seriously.