Friday, September 14, 2007

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Tuesday, 14 August 2007
By Sabria S Jawhar

Earlier this week I received an e-mail from a regular reader whose opinion I highly respect. In that e-mail he commented on a column that I wrote two weeks ago and was entitled "When I cried this summer." Among the things that he mentioned in his e-mail was the following: "I noticed that recently you are tending to be sort of pessimistic, especially when it comes to the development or changes taking place in Saudi society. There are always things that disappoint us in our society but on the other hand there are others that we should highlight and be proud of." To tell the truth, I can't help but add my voice to that of my friend. I agree with him concerning the positive things that take place in the Kingdom. But, to me, positive and good things are supposed to be common and I am sure that hundreds of people will be more than happy to write about them. Only a few are willing to talk about the negative things. Criticism, however, should not be an ultimate goal in and of itself.
It should be a constructive goal that aims to put thing in place and to help those who are in charge to see the shortcomings of their establishments and to find the best solutions for any deficiencies.
Dear friend, I have never been pessimistic. Actually, I am writing about what I perceive as wrong because I am very optimistic that change will take place soon and because I have great expectations. But I also believe that we have to work hard toward finding out what's wrong and change it for the better. The world will not wait for us. The world is keeping an eye on our achievements judging us by the speed of the oil coming out from beneath the ground.
Yet, for the sake of my friend I will dedicate this column to things that took place this week and have given me a glimmer of hope that the wind of good intention is so strong that it is moving the wheel of change faster.
I was delighted this week to read that Prince Mohammad bin Saud, Emir of Baha region, has given orders to discharge 20 high officials from Baha region who were proved to be violating the rules and not carrying out their responsibilities. The prince was not hesitant to talk to the media about the reasons behind discharging those officials or even about their designations. He seemed to be sending a message to all of those who think of bartering away the nation's interest or selling it for cheap.
By doing what he did, the relatively newly-appointed prince has proved to the leadership that choosing him was a wise decision. It also reflects the leadership's intention to combat government corruption, which has reached alarming levels and was the main reason behind many vital projects not being carried out.
I felt also so comfortable when I read the news about the enforcement of the cyber law that governs the use of the Internet and offers protection to the legitimate use of computers and the Internet. The law is not a new one. In fact, it has been implemented in several countries where cyber crimes are common.
However, what gives it a special value in Saudi society is the importance that it gives to the people's privacy and their reputations. For instance, it imposes a prison sentence and a fine not to exceed half a million Saudi riyals to those who encroach onto other's private lives through misuse of cameras on mobile telephones or similar devices.
Those who defame others or harm them through the use of information technology will face the same punishment.
Some readers, especially newcomers to the Kingdom, might wonder why am I giving such weight to these particular points of the 16-article law. To those I would like to say that Saudi society is a very sensitive one. This sensitivity can be seen most when women's issues are involved. I don't think that there is any Saudi who has not heard or, at least, read about a story in which a mobile phone or an Internet site played a role in destroying a family by leading the couple to divorce.
Some people smuggle cameras into women's gatherings, take photos or video clips, then post them on specially designed websites in order to defame them and ruin their subjects' lives.
Some pictures that were also taken of girls, who were lured by young men, were also posted on those web sites, completely destroying the girls' lives. The damage wrought by such misuse of technology has pushed people in some cases to commit suicide. Some readers might still remember the story of the young Saudi man who was raped by a group of his friends who videotaped the assault in order to humiliate and blackmail him.
The video clip was circulated and the news of his humiliation spread, resulting in so much pressure on the young man that he finally took his own life.
I think that by now you will all agree with me that simple procedures should be taken to protect society, at least, until it reaches a level of awareness where such things defame the doer more than the victim.

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