In a Satirical Poem, Saudi Author Laments Conditions in the Arab World

From MEMRI:

In a satirical poem titled “When,” posted on Arabic reformist websites including www.aafaq.org , reformist Saudi author and journalist Wajeha Al-Huwaider lamented what she regards as the conditions in the Arab world. In the introduction to this poem, she wrote: “‘When’ is an ode to the troubles of the Arab citizen. Both men and women participated in its [writing], and it is still open to additions. This ode will be hung on the walls of the palaces of the Arab rulers, [1] so feel free to add you contributions.”

The following are excerpts from the poem:

“When you cannot find a single garden in your city, but there is a mosque on every corner – you know that you are in an Arab country…

“When you see people living in the past with all the trappings of modernity – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.

“When religion has control over science – you can be sure that you are in an Arab country.

“When clerics are referred to as ‘scholars’ – don’t be astonished, you are in an Arab country.

“When you see the ruler transformed into a demigod who never dies or relinquishes his power, and whom nobody is permitted to criticize – do not be too upset, you are in an Arab country.

“When you find that the large majority of people oppose freedom and find joy in slavery – do not be too distressed, you are in an Arab country.

“When you hear the clerics saying that democracy is heresy, but [see them] seizing every opportunity provided by democracy to grab high positions [in the government] – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country…

“When monarchies turn into theocracies, and republics into hybrids of monarchy and
republic – do not be taken aback, you are in an Arab country.

“When you find that the members of parliament are nominated [by the ruler], or else that half of them are nominated and the other half have bought their seats through bribery… – you are in an Arab country…

“When you discover that a woman is worth half of what a man is worth, or less – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country…

“When you see that the authorities chop off a man’s hand for stealing a loaf of bread or a penny, but praise and glorify those who steal billions – do not be too surprised, you are in an Arab country…

“When you are forced to worship the Creator in school and your teachers grade you for it – you can be sure that you are in an Arab country…

“When young women students are publicly flogged merely for exposing their eyes – you are in an Arab country…

“When a boy learns about menstruation and childbirth but not about his own [body] and [the changes] it undergoes in puberty – roll out your prayer mat and beseech Allah to help you deal with your crisis, for you are in an Arab country…

“When land is more important than human beings – you are in an Arab country…

“When covering the woman’s head is more important than financial and administrative
corruption, embezzlement, and betrayal of the homeland – do not be astonished,
you are in an Arab country…

“When minorities are persecuted and oppressed, and if they demand their rights, are accused of being a fifth column or a Trojan horse – be upset, you are in an Arab country…

“When women are [seen as] house ornaments which can be replaced at any time – bemoan your fate, you are in an Arab country.

“When birth control and family planning are perceived as a Western plot – place your trust in Allah, you are in an Arab country…

“When at any time, there can be a knock on your door and you will be dragged off and buried in a dark prison – you are in an Arab country…

“When fear constantly lives in the eyes of the people – you can be certain that you are in an Arab country.”
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[1] This is an allusion to the Seven Mu’allaqat, famous sixth century odes which, according to Arab legend, were hung in pre-Islamic times on the walls of the Qa’ba in Mecca.

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