09 May, 2008

Shocking saudi story - The very high price of coffee in Saudi Arabia

We’ve got the bizarre but deadly real case of a Saudi professor facing 150 lashes and eight months imprisonment just for having met a woman in a coffee shop !!

I’m reliably informed that cafes are where all the “creatives” hang out, getting busy with their hand-held devices. So, yes, the cafe is the new office and we’re all fixing up meetings in Caffe Nero and deserting our unloved meeting rooms.

Are you sure that that meeting in the coffee shop you’ve just arranged isn’t a trap? That you’re not going to get arrested as soon as you put one of your fashionably scuffed old-skool Golas through the door?

Ok, expect not. But it’s exactly what DID happen to a university professor in Saudi Arabia a few months ago. Now, incredibly enough, he’s been sentenced to eight months in prison and – wait for it – 150 lashes. For what, you may ask?

Here’s what....

The professor, Dr Muhammad 'Ali Abu Raziza, went to meet a woman in a coffee shop in Mecca after receiving a call from someone he took to be one of his psychology students. Saudi Arabia has laws that forbid a man being alone in the company of a woman who’s not an immediate relative, so he checked that she was bringing a chaperone. She was. He gets there and … she’s alone. Immediately the religious police swoop and he’s arrested !

Dr Muhammad 'Ali Abu Raziza, a psychology professor at the University of Um al-Qura in Mecca, is facing the punishment after being found guilty of the Shari'a law offence of 'khilwa' - being found alone in the company of a member of the opposite sex who is not an immediate relative.

It appears that Dr 'Ali Abu Raziza believed he was meeting one of his students when he met the woman in January or February this year; instead, he may have been the victim of entrapment by members of Saudi Arabia's feared religious police. The professor's case comes after other reports of customers in Saudi Arabia's coffee shops being detained and harshly treated by the religious police authorities for supposed 'moral' offences.

The “crime”, known as “khilwa”, is part of the kingdom’s notoriously restrictive legal code that hems women in at all turns. No driving. No going out alone. No sitting in the male area of restaurants, or going to the male desks in banks and offices. And definitely no meetings in coffee shops with unrelated men.

The irony in this case is that the religious police nabbed not the woman but the man. It looks like entrapment, with officials from the (brilliantly named) Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice out to get Dr 'Ali Abu Raziza after he angered some of their members who were also his students. Now he’s facing flogging and prison unless the provincial prince decides otherwise. It may sound bizarre, but it’s real, it’s happening.

Dr 'Ali Abu Raziza was originally arrested by officials from the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the religious police) after meeting a young woman in a coffee shop.

On 3 March a court in Mecca imposed the sentence, which was later upheld on appeal by the Mecca Court of Cassation at the end of April. Meanwhile Dr 'Ali Abu Raziza has been prevented from teaching classes and doing other jobs involving direct contact with members of the public. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, the Governor of Mecca Province, is currently deciding whether the sentence will be carried out.

According to press reports, Dr 'Ali Abu Raziza had originally upset officials from the religious police - who were also his students - during an argument in one of his classes. These students also failed to pass their final exams and were said to be angry with Dr 'Ali Abu Raziza. He later received a telephone call from a woman asking him to meet her at a coffee shop to discuss a problem. He was said to have agreed to the meeting on the condition that she brought a male guardian. Upon arrival at the coffee shop, Dr 'Ali Abu Raziza found the woman alone.

Read also :

The very high price of coffee in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia: Appeal launced for professor facing flogging for meeting woman in cafe

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