Partying in Jeddah: The elite immunity syndrome

Published: December 14, 2010
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Everyone has the right to party - unless they live in Saudi Arabia

A recent US consulate cable released by WikiLeaks describes a Halloween party at an elite residence in Jeddah; the funds of a prince, alcohol, ‘working women’ and a scene resembling ‘ a nightclub anywhere outside the Kingdom’ was highlighted.

The news caused a burst of outrage.

I came across more than one online forum where comments ranged from:

I wonder what kind of Islam Pakistan has imported from Saudi Arabia’

to

‘If anyone still blindly have faith in these low lives gutter mentality people’.

It disturbs me that there is such outrage over a nation that is run by a monarchy-the very concept of which is alien to classical Islamic governance. However, it disturbs me more when I see this reaction constantly justified by the idea that the Saudis seem to have greater religious responsibility placed upon them than the rest of the Muslims.

I am a Pakistani Muslim and remember being taught from an early age that the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) last sermon touched on the equality of all Muslims. Since when are we ‘importing’ Islam from the Saudis? And if we are, we need to ask ourselves why. Is not the very crux of Islam not to follow blindly but to think and act intelligently for the sake of eventual personal accountability?

So, should the behavior in this party enrage us as Muslims? Of course it should. It goes against all basic tenets of our faith. But are we really outraged because we feel the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is protecting this sort of behavior? We all know that the similar lifestyle exist all across the Muslim world-especially amongst the elite. Aha! Maybe that’s the culprit-the ‘elite’.

The issue might be deeper. Perhaps it is about class. Interestingly, an article in The Express Tribune states how Pakistanis are ‘flogged and given death for such crimes’ but the Saudi ‘elite’ enjoy these guilty pleasures with no hindrance. True, most people in Pakistan indulging in these activities are liable to punishment. But the elite, (like in most countries of the world) are above the law. I have a number of friends in Pakistan who engage in “Jeddah WikLeak like” activities daily. Not one of them has ever been worried about being flogged.

To me, this issue is a microcosm of a much larger issue-the immunity of the elite to most laws. Even if the case is about a drunk under age driver running over a poor pedestrian, or the embezzling of charity funds-one section of our society is always safe from the law.

According to the Islamic Sharia’ fornication and backbiting are both major sins in Islam-why is it then that our daily newspaper headlines do not outrage us this way every single day? It’s time we took some personal responsibility for our own faith, and realise Islam does not only prohibit alcohol and mixed parties. It includes abstaining from bribery, corruption, cruelty, illicit killing and even defamation. This goes for everyone – even the elite.

zahra.shah

Zahra Shah

A doctor from England who is currently pursuing a career in paediatrics in Pakistan.She is the founder of Semazen The poetic Messenger.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.