Friday, April 11, 2014

Discouraging working women

The column appeared originally in Arab News dated 20/12/2012

A couple of weeks ago Saudi women were treated to the wisdom of a man who calls himself a sheikh when he announced on social media that female fast-food workers were prostitutes.
This week another man who holds the same title said that any man who allows the women in his family to work in the health care profession is a duyooth.
Duyooth means “cuckold” and refers to weak men who allow their wives to commit adultery in front of them. And in Islam, these men will never see heaven.
It is not enough that these so-called sheikhs defame hardworking women who want to help support their families. Now they are going after their husbands, fathers and brothers who encourage and support the women in their families to work as nurses.
It’s an affront to any human being to have religious men in a position of trust and authority defame individuals simply because they need financial support from female members of their families or want their women to take advantage of opportunities available to them.
This recent social media diatribe comes from a so-called sheikh who wrote that no man with honor or a sense of pride would allow his daughter to work in a mixed environment in the health sector.
What makes these statements so heinous is this guy has thousands of followers on Twitter. Many followers, I assume, imagine this individual as a role model. Do his followers see through this alleged sheikh’s (I can’t bring myself to call him a religious man) nonsense? The unfortunate answer is no. It’s likely some of his followers are uneducated, and their response is to follow his tweet to the letter and make the lives of the women in their families a living hell.
This obscene attitude toward nursing is personally offensive to me since I teach nursing students at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Nursing College. His assessment that weak men allow their daughters to work in medical facilities that he considers no more than brothels reminds me of an incident that affected us all at the university.
A father had come to the university campus and asked to speak to our dean. He identified himself as the father of one of the nursing students. He wanted to take her out of the university because he believed that working in a mixed environment in a hospital was sinful. The dean replied that the man’s daughter was one of her best and brightest students. She reminded the father that it was up to the student to submit a formal resignation from the program.
The father, who was not living with his family, left the campus. A few days later he brought dinner to the family home. The daughter was excited to see her father. She brought him to the guest room and served the dinner. The father asked for a knife to cut lemons. When he was alone with her, he locked the door of the guest room and attacked her with the knife. The girl attempted to escape through a window while her mother and uncle heard her screams and attempted to break down the door. The father repeatedly stabbed his daughter, who died a short while later in the hospital.
We don’t know who the followers are of this so-called sheikh. Some could very well be troubled individuals like the father who murdered his daughter. The sheikh, in essence by condemning the nursing profession, is giving license to those troubled individuals to do as they please. The sheikh is making statements without understanding or thinking about the consequences of his remarks and the impact it would have on troubled individuals.
The Saudi government and educators are attempting to change the taboo of working in the nursing profession. The government has acknowledged the country is in desperate need of nursing professionals in the health care industry. The government is spending billions of riyals to develop this field. Yet the very men who should support the government’s efforts are sending a message that Saudi women are corrupted and the government is running a brothel, not an institution to give care to the ill, infirm and dying.
Dr. Sabah Abu Zinadah, a nursing consultant, recently filed a complaint against the sheikh who posted on the social media defaming and stigmatizing the nursing profession. It is now in the government’s hands whether to punish defamers who insist on labeling dedicated women as having loose morals by enforcing the Kingdom’s new cyber crime prevention act. If the new law truly has teeth, then the defamers must face the consequences of their actions.

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