By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
Amid uprisings in the neighbouring countries and the thirst for change within the country, the Saudi regime granted the right to vote to Saudi women. Henceforth, women will be allowed not only to vote but to contest municipal elections. The move is of little comfort as women are still banned from driving not by any written law but by a fatwa imposed by the hard-boiled Salafi clerics that provide the House of Saud with spiritual legitimacy and keep a close check on the royals’ liberal initiatives. The driving ban will still prevent women from getting to polling stations or campaign for elections.
Disobeying the ulema’s driving-ban fatwa, a Saudi woman has been sentenced to ten lashes for defying the country’s ban on women driving. We can imagine how revolted the young woman must feel at being forced to undergo the pain that will be inflicted by the ten thrashes on her body.
US human rights crusade
Hopefully, the US Secretary of State who is these days so concerned about human rights in other countries will ask its major ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, to show clemency and, by the same token, press the case upon the Saudi government for implementing the grant of religious freedom to all minority communities in its land. Thus, the US will prove that it is genuinely committed to religious freedom and minorities’ rights all over the world. America is a highly liberal country where cultural centres and religious institutions of all hues have been set up, and Islamic educational centres are mushrooming across the states. By contrast, with six million Muslims on its territory, there are hardly four mosques in France. Will the US Secretary of State call the French government to task? The US might as well focus its attention on the plight of minorities in Pakistan, and the growing number of assaults against minority religious bodies in Malaysia and Indonesia. Such a demarche on the part of the US Secretary of State will demonstrate a universal US approach in its crusade for human rights.
As far as the US report on Mauritius is concerned, it would have been more balanced if the authors had taken care to pay a visit to the multi-storeyed private companies and looked scrupulously into their recruitment profile to assess correctly the ‘visibility’ of all groups in the private sector. The question of religious freedom to preachers who put it out that the world was created in six days and that the end of the world which (they feared would take place in 2000) may happen sooner or later in incredible circumstances and the hallucinating speeches delivered by their peers on American TV channels on Sundays is a minor local issue that Mauritian society should feel free to deal with on its own terms, not on terms dictated by foreign forces.
Similarly, the Mauritian government is free to take the appropriate stance on the Palestinian state issue, and invite Hugo Chavez as the Guest of Honour on Independence Day or Fidel Castro for that matter.
Promiscuity, an economic problem?
In the wake of serious crimes taking place within the family circle, the question of promiscuity cannot be overlooked. Currently, a man is alleged to have killed his parents with whom he had been living for years even after getting married. In these specific cases, extended families that house two or three generations under the same roof are not the best solution to peaceful and harmonious relationships.
Young adults need their own space to grow up and mature psychologically. Above all, conflicts are bound to happen if they go on living under the close scrutiny of parents who are inclined to treat them as children to be monitored and guided forever.
Parents need not preside over the lives of their grown-up sons or daughters and their partners, especially where this kind of goading is strongly resisted. In such cases, the situation can rapidly deteriorate into tension and hostility. Living in the backyard of parents and elderly relatives is not a solution either under such circumstances.
The question that arises in today’s economic situation and very tough land acquisition opportunities is: what alternative is left for young men and women to be independent, to ensure a healthy psychological growth and build up their own lives? What percentage of the younger population can afford to go in this direction?
* Published in print edition on 30 September 2011