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The Book of the Week is “Inside the Kingdom, My Life in Saudi Arabia” by Carmen Bin Ladin, published in 2004.
Born in the early 1950’s, the author grew up in Switzerland. Her mother was Persian. When she married into the Bin Laden family (of Osama fame; a sprawling, super-wealthy and powerful family), her husband had tens of siblings. She, her husband and baby daughter moved to Saudi Arabia in 1975. According to the author’s account (which appeared credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), four years later, Iran’s religious craziness spread to Saudi Arabia, so that fanatical Muslim males began to abusively rule every detail of females’ lives.
The author described many other aspects of Saudi Arabian culture (whose religious extremism has increased in recent decades), and how it compared to the values and beliefs of Western culture. She learned Muslim culture from her mother, but was partial to the freedoms and opportunities females enjoyed in Europe and the United States. She wanted to expose her daughters to her husband’s Saudi lifestyle (which was mildly religious compared to many of his siblings’ and contacts’), but also have the same chances to succeed that she did.
The author observed that, in the late twentieth century, Western mentality encouraged entrepreneurship; on the other hand, traditionally, Saudi Arabia’s sons had hierarchically inherited their wealth pursuant to birth order, and were expected to stay in their lane– work in their existing family businesses, and not start their own. The author’s husband bucked the trend and despite his success, his older brothers professionally and socially ostracized him for it.
In the early 1980’s, the author’s oldest daughter started school (at the time, a rare opportunity for females). The education system was all rote learning– of Arabic, arithmetic, history, and most importantly, the Koran. Her daughter wrote in her exercise book, “I hate Jews. I love Palestine.” The author was powerless to change the school’s curriculum, but at home, tried to foster critical thinking in her daughters. Even so, “… her teacher would always give a Bin Laden the best marks, whether she deserved it or not.” One other interesting factoid: the female teacher was allowed to slap a student’s face for the purpose of discipline.
Read the book to learn a lot more about how the author, her family and her (super-rich) in-laws lived in Saudi Arabia, and about her and her daughters’ fate at the book’s writing.
ENDNOTE: As is well known, the Muslim religion fosters gender inequality. And even in the United States, certain cultures of peoples have more gender inequality than others. The overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Roe V. Wade is not just about female reproductive rights or religion or rich or poor. The demographic groups who think of females as property are most affected by the changing of the law. They need to change their own cultures themselves before they trot out excuses as to why they are oppressed by society at large. They need to stop oppressing themselves!