A YOUNG SAUDI ARABIAN woman, from the country’s capital, Riyadh, was beaten and then viciously murdered by her own father after being caught using the social notworking site Facebook. The woman was apparently in the midst of an online conversation with a man she had met through the site when her father walked in on her. He beat her and then shot her at point blank range, according to an al-Arabiya website report.
Far from being shocked by the brutal incident, many in the extremist Islamic gulf nation see the story as yet another example of the turmoil caused by the Internet, social networking and online chat as it continues to conquer the Arab world. The country’s clerics warn the people time and again that Facebook and other not-working sites are the root of all evil, especially when it comes to wayward yoof, who are never allowed out alone or unsupervised under strict Wahhabi Islamic law.
Although the young woman was murdered in August, her death, which had not been reported in the West, came to light this week following the daft rantings of Saudi preacher Ali al-Maliki, one of Facebook’s most vocal critics.
In an interview, the melodramatic cleric raged that "Facebook is a door to lust and young women and men are spending more on their mobile phones and the Internet than they are spending on food". He also said that women should be entirely banned from the network.
According to the Telegraph, there are about 30,000 Saudi Facebook users to date, most of whom have to resort to fake names and cartoon profile pictures to avoid violent consequences from their family members. This has led to Saudi bloggers nicknaming the site “Faceless”. But in a society where it is illegal for singles to leave home alone, or choose their own romantic partners, the site seems to be answering a very basic need. Maybe even more so for the Homosexual and Lesbian Saudis who find themselves eternally trapped by the stringent re ligious laws.
There are several popular Saudi based groups on the not-working site. One of the larger ones is “Single and Looking in Saudi Arabia” which, at last count had 1846 members. Posts on the group wall say it all. One reads: “Riyadh is not single father friendly, they ask me not to enter unless i have a female with me, which break the hearts of my 2 lil ones.”
Amidst threats that the Saudi kingdom could block the site, over 6,500 people have signed an online petition to prevent the threat from materialising. But in a country where honour killings go unpunished and democracy is unheard of, an online petition seems unlikely to have any kind of effect. µ
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ