Sunday, April 09, 2006

What Was His Crime? 

Arab News has the story of a restaurant owner whose crimes are finally exposed and on the verge of being punished with 90 lashes:

Restaurant owner Nabeel Al-Ramadan said he was surprised by a phone call from a local court judge asking him to meet him immediately.

When Al-Ramadan asked if it was all right to bring his lawyer, the judge told the businessman that he wanted to see him alone.

When Al-Ramadan arrived in the court, the judge informed him that he had been sentenced in absentia to 90 lashes to be administered in clusters of 30 apiece. The charge against him was violating dignity and decorum.
Ok, forget for the moment the spooky way in which this justice is being meted out. Focus instead on the fact that this criminal restaurateur will finally get his just desserts. (No pun intended.) (Well, maybe intended a little bit.) (Sorry.) (Not really.)

But what, you might ask, was this man's horrendous crime? What would earn a businessman 90 lashes?

After further inquiries, Al-Ramadan found out that his crime was employing two young women at his restaurant "Ranoosh" to take orders by phone. That was a year and a half ago when locals reported this supposed infraction to authorities.


"The girls were very respectable and worked while covering their faces. Nobody was violating any manners," said Al-Ramadan.
It is simply common sense to most everyone else in the world that women should be allowed to work, veiled or unvieled, without getting their boss flogged in the public square. My hat is off to Mr. Al-Ramadan for doing a good thing by hiring the women, and for speaking common sense in a place that badly needs it:

The restaurant owner said he is unapologetic about hiring the young ladies. He says that he supports women’s right to work, and that there is nothing forbidden under Islam in this regard.

"I'm not the only man that thinks that women should be able to work," he said. "Other people also think that this is the right situation. Some have even tried to do it just as I did."
Arab News also deserves credit for bringing a number of these stories to light. Ignoring the "Israel issue" for a moment, one can only hope that their coverage of some of the crazy stuff going on in Saudi society might one day help reshape it.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: