Understanding Islam: The Saudi Way


Any American who believes that radical Islam does not represent a clear and present danger to western civilization should be required to spend a month living under Sharia Law in a Muslim country. It would ultimately be a less expensive, and more lasting, means of energizing the nation than waiting for a terrorist to successfully complete the kind of mission of destruction that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came so close to executing on Christmas day.

My first experience with Sharia Law occurred more than a decade ago, shortly after I had deplaned from the British Airways 777 that deposited me in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in the course of a consulting project involving the Kingdom’s oil industry. Waiting to pass through customs, I observed a Saudi soldier swinging a machete, casually decapitating a score of Kewpie dolls that an unsuspecting westerner had tried to bring into the country. The torsos were returned to the traveler and the heads were dumped in the trash, all in accordance with Sharia Law. As a “how do you do?” there are better ways to make a first impression.

But Sharia Law prohibits any representation of the human form, and it is quite strict about depicting Allah’s other creations among the animal kingdom, as well. Fish seem to be exempt from this prohibition, for reasons that I still do not completely understand. In any case, Islam also assumes that portraying mythical creatures, from golden idols to Kewpie people, might tempt gullible believers away from the true path. Thus it is entirely logical – under Sharia Law – to separate the head of a Kewpie doll from its shoulders with extreme prejudice.

That fact made the recent appearance of Burka Barbie all the more amusing to those westerners in the know. If Mattel were to ship a case of these dolls to a nation living under Sharia Law, Muslim girls would be allowed to play with them, or at least part of them, but only after Barbie’s cranium was separated from her shoulders.

Religious police prowl the streets of Saudi Arabia, as they do in most Muslim nations, looking for those who dare to resist the will of Allah, as that will was recorded by his prophet/stenographer Muhammad. The religious police in the Kingdom come in both the official and unofficial variety, the latter mostly composed of elderly male busybodies who revel in the opportunity to harass a western woman daring to wear a dress whose sleeves leave a portion of her forearms shamelessly exposed. These amateur cops are even more fanatical about their mission than their professional counterparts.

During one of my stints in Saudi Arabia, an American woman was arrested by the religious police while walking her dog, a Scotch Terrier. The Scotch Terrier is distinctive in its appearance, with a face that features a long chin beard. Long chin beards are also a requirement for Muslim males living under Sharia Law. Put these two facts together and the unavoidable Sharia legal conclusion is that the Terrier’s beard must go, lest it serve to mock the sacred traditions of Islam. Thus this unfortunate American woman was compelled to bring her pooch in for an appointment with one of Allah’s barbers.

It’s patently obvious that any religion concerned about the threats to it posed by dolls and dogs has some serious self-esteem issues. These sorts of amusing examples of Islamic insecurity, of which we have merely scratched the surface, get virtually no play in western media circles. Surely that would not be the case if – say – a Christian or Jewish sect found it necessary to take barber shears to Rover in order to preserve religious purity. But, as we have learned, diversity has its limits.

Critics of Islam focus on the more horrifying aspects of the religion, and justifiably so. Honor killings and suicide bombings are far more troubling issues than toy mutilation and offensive canine whiskers. Still, there is a lesson to be learned here. Even if one discounts the murderous, fanatic elements of Islam that apologists assure us merely represent a disenfranchised minority motivated by the need to defend themselves against western bullying (aka: “Bush’s fault”), that which remains – so called mainstream Islam – doesn’t provide much comfort.

At its questionable best, “mainstream Islam” has no room for western traditions and values. That fact has been made painfully clear to any American who has spent any significant amount of time living in the nations subject to rule of Islamic governments. Back in the days when I was commuting to Saudi Arabia, I learned of the quiet joke that many Americans regularly repeated when their flight was on final approach to an airport in the kingdom. The joke privately replaced the usual before-landing announcement issued by the flight crew. It went something like this: “Ladies and gentlemen, we will be landing in Jeddah shortly. Please set your clocks back one thousand years.”

Recent events clearly demonstrate that this jest, with all of its ominous implications, still applies.


    One of the most stupidet posts ever.

    Firstly, you make shariah look like some kind of legal system, which is exactly what its not. Its not a legal system, its a value system

    Secondly, you assume that the Saudi Interpretation is the othodox and mainstream. Again, shows your complete incomptency and lack of knoweldge about the religion. The Saudi interpretation of Islam is the most unothdox!

    The saudi are dicated by Wahhabism, and not sunni islam. Wahhabi islam is a puriticanal version of the religion: it is rejected by most Muslim scholars, one only has to look at the al-Azhar in Cairo to see this. The wahhabi intepretation has done a lot to undermine the islamic faith all over the world. With their oil money they control mosques and produce free literature and so have a monopoly. Plus their control of the Holy land gives them more credibility.

    The saudi version was itself put in place through colonialism. You only need to look into the history books to see how this wahhabi regime was put in place by the Brtish. Thus, this unorthodoxy has more or less been imposed on the Muslim world at large, and is the long-term result of colonialism.

    The worst thing is that the West continue to support saudi arabia and have no problem in kissing the cheeks of their leaders wheever they meet at the G20 summits!

    So before you write a biased blog make sure you get your facts right!

    • Abdul Aziz

      Ok smarty pants, since Whabbism is such an obvious misreading of "true sunni islam" then expalin. Being an exmuslim its obvious you have no clue. The methodology of Muhhamed Abdul Wahhab was sound. Islam had been corrupted by bidah (innovation), and many sufi elements like saint worship had crept into the religion. He wanted to purify the faith of anything outside the Quran and Sunnah, so he used the methodologies of Ibn Tammiyah and Ibn Kathir of reading the quarn in accordance with the sahih hadiths (Sahih al Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Maja, ect), and the sriah of Muhammed. By doing this he believed he could get closer to the intentions of Mohammed and the salaf (rightous first generation). They rejected anything that came after or things like Imam al Ghazali's "Ihya Ulum id Deen" were the hadiths were fake or weak.

      • Abdul Aziz

        There is a unbroken chain from Mohammed via his words in Sahih al Bukhari and the sirah to Ibn Kathir, to Ibn Tammiyah, to Mohammed Wahhab. Al Ahzar certianly uses the same methodology, although the semi secular goverment keeps them in check. Wahhbis always win in legal and theological debates, because they have the Quran, sunnah, sirah, and 1000+ years of interpretation and tradition on their side, That is why people that claim Whabbism is a corruption of true Islam are always vauge. True peaceful moderate Islam exist out there somewhere with unicorns and the tooth fairy. I wasted too many years of my own life trying to find it. It exists outside the Quran and hadith, in Rumi poems and such, but why even bother calling this Islam?

        • Abdual Aziz

          "Shariah is a value system, not a legal system." Tell that to somebody convicted in a shariah court and awaitng a stoning, behrading, or some other savage punishment. Most likely for offences agianst the Islamic state like leaving the religion, or having a girlfriend, or life. Read "Udmat Al Salik," a shafi manual of Islamic law or a hanbali, hanafi, or any madhab, and then say something this stupid agian.

          • Abdul Aziz

            And your last part about blaming it on colonialism!! That may be stupider still. Have you any awareness of the Islamic revial movements that opposed colonialism? Most of them were based on Wahhbism or some similar search for Islamic purity. Mohhamed Abdual Wahhab's biggest complaint about the Islam at the time was the declince of Jihad, which he blammed on sufism. All the reformers promoted jihad, and Osama Bin Laden represents this today. Sad to say, but Osama has the weight of the Quaran and Sunnah on his side.

            WAAGAS, I think you should get your facts striaght. Peace, and free yourself from

          • Abdul Aziz

            Just one last though. Jihad and Islam are forms of imperialism and colonialism. Funny how Arabs can dish it out, but can't take it. Islamic colonialism is far worse and causes unrepairable damage to the conqured people, who become proxy Arabs, and bown downt to the place five times a day.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/R_not R_not

      No, sharia laws make it out like it is a legal system. Muslims themselves make it out like it is a legal system by telling governments (eg: UK, Canada, etc) that Muslims should be ruled under Sharia laws in matters of marriage/divorce, etc. And when they get their foot in the door with those barbaric laws, they then start trying to push it into more aspects of life of their host country. (sounds more like a deadly virus sucking the life out of it until it dies)

      Blame the Brits, blame poverty, blame oil, blame the West's policies, blame this or that – why don't you just blame yourself for having a hang nail sometime in your life because no matter who does what, when, where and why – Islam is the root of the problem. Its basic teachings are the problem, its perverted prophet is the problem that pervert who they try to emulate.

  • shanecomeback

    Are you saying the Brits imposed this hellish religion on the innocent Saudis?
    Once upon a time I would have said-impossible. But,now I read about what the brits and others allow in their countries-genital mutilation, child rape,honor killings–,and I’m not so sure. Europe, and us after them, seems– hellbent on suicide.
    Muslims have no intention on assimilating to western culture when they move here–they are dead serious about changing us into them, and we are too stupid and weak to stop them. We can START by stopping immigration from ‘countries of interest”, deporting the loudmouths at the mosques and the sign wielding fanatics,closing the worst of the mosques,booting out the imams who bite the mouth that feeds them..that is only a START..

  • oldwolves


    "Firstly, you make shariah look like some kind of legal system, which is exactly what its not. Its not a legal system, its a value system"
    If thats your Idea of a 'value system'…i.e. Cutting off dolls heads and dogs beards… Your argument is pathetic. Final results are the same. Idiocy.

    "The saudi version was itself put in place through colonialism. You only need to look into the history books to see how this wahhabi regime was put in place by the British."
    Yeah, Islam was never violent until the British came. Welcome to Bizzarro world 2.0.

    "The worst thing is that the West continue to support saudi arabia and have no problem in kissing the cheeks of their leaders wheever they meet at the G20 summits!"
    Yeah , it's our fault that they are acting like this. That's what I tell my wife after I beat her bloody when she doesn't rub my feet properly.

  • Steve

    Over all this is a good piece.

    Mr. Trzupek wrote: "Even if one discounts the murderous, fanatic elements of Islam that apologists assure us merely represent a disenfranchised minority motivated by the need to defend themselves against western bullying (aka: “Bush’s fault”), that which remains – so called mainstream Islam – doesn’t provide much comfort."

    The only thing that was President Bush's fault, is that he was a huge (a HUGE!) apologist for these killers. Remember the "Saudis are our friends" mantra we were treated to, in the Bush's war against the "terrorists." (?) Fifteen of the nineteen September hijackers were Saudi nationals. Bin Laden family are all Saudi. This Wahhabi stream of Islam (Saudi Arabia's official religion) happens to be the same stream of Islam Osama bin Laden practices. Bush redacted some 28 pages of the Congressional 911 report that might have implicated his Saudi friends, etc.

    • cochavi1

      Hi Steve. I hope you are well.



  • Siboney

    As somebody who has lived and worked in the KSA for four years (and a non-believer who thinks Islam has a lot of things wrong about morality) I assure you that many of the things this person has written is wrong, if not outright lies and embellishments of secondhand infor that this person claims he witnessed. I know that as a fact, and I am a big critic of Shariah and how Islam is practices. Still, I know what the truth and nobody is wacking the head off dolls with machetes at KAIA in Jeddah. Trzupek is full if it.

    • Steve

      Do you think he is lying? For what purpose? What about his account of the over-zealous religious police?

      • Siboney

        They are over zealous, but they don't chop off heads of dolls at KAIA airport. It is permissible in Saudi Arabia to show the human form, as anyone can seen by traveling down any major street in Jeddah, Riyadh or any other city.

        As far as his reasons for lying (or embellishing second-hand anecdotes and passing them off as his own) I wouldn't even begin to speculate. I'm not this person and I'm not going to try to pretend I know any motives for making up stuff (or embellishing second-hand anecdotes and passing them off as his own). What I do know is this article has a lot of false claims in it.

        For example, this statement is patently false: "Religious police prowl the streets of Saudi Arabia, as they do in most Muslim nations."

        That's a preposterous statement.

        • xman

          And lets not forget, it is Saudi Mutaween religious police who forced schoolgirls back into their blazing school building to retrieve their hijabs, resulting in 15 of them being burned to death.


          Thats Saudi barbarianism for you, as was 9/11, stupid apologist for evil.

        • Rich Trzupek

          Sir – If you've lived and worked in the KSA for 4 years and never run into the mutawwain, you may need to get out more. As far as "lying", I wish my imagination were this good, but – sadly – I personally witnessed both incidents, the first in Jiddah, the second at the American compound in Yanbu (where ARAMCO operates a large refinery). Also got chastised for crossing my fingers a couple of times – as this is apparently a verboten reference to Christianity – which came as news to me. Those wacky mutawwain – it's always something with them!

          • Siboney

            I didn't say I haven't "run into" the Hai'a officers. Don't put words in my mouth. I said people don't lob off heads of dolls at the Jeddah airport. (Not to mention the availability of dolls in the local marketplace, and that the human form is depicted more often than not.)

            PS: Mutawa is just "volunteer" in Arabic. What you mean, Mr. Saudi expert, is the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, aka the "Hai'a" (Arabic for "commission"). Mutawwa could be anyone who "volunteers" to be ultra-orthodox and can range from members of the Hai'a to somebody's ultra-conservative uncle. You have to be careful because while the mutawwa is slang for "hai'a" Saudi make a distinction between the religious police and ultra-conservatives.

          • Siboney


            "Religious police prowl the streets of Saudi Arabia, as they do in most Muslim nations."

            Factually, patently WRONG and easily disproved. So why should anyone buy your other claims?

        • Steve

          Mr. Trzupek claims to have seen this be-heading of dolls first-hand. Showing the human form, in the form of a living human being, is different from depictions of the human form. The Torah (Jewish law) also condemns idols, graven images, idolatry, etc. While the Jews are not generally as strict as devout Muslims, Orthodox Jews are fairly strict in regard to depictions of living things or images. Why is it so far-fetched that this might be the case in a strict Islamic country, that adheres to Sharia law?

          Beyond that, we know the Saudi religious police (mutawain) scrutinize public behavior, insuring that the sexes do not mingle in public and that women wear attire consistent with Islamic norms; that public prayers are attended, etc.

          • Siboney

            Yes, they do "fuzz" out faces on some billboards. I've even seen signage in "The Gap" in Jidda that had pixelated faces. But it's not a law and the Hai'a are too busy harassing people to care about stuff like this. For the most part, it's at the whim of whatever ad agency or business owner to do this.

            Much of what is attributed to Saudi Arabia comes from outdated anecdotal information, from people who spent a year drinking home brew inside the four walls of a Western compound exchanging wacky and embellished stories.

            The over four years I spent there, recently, I lived in an apartment building with Saudis (and other Arabs and Asians). I never so much as set foot in a Western compound. I know what is fact and fiction about what is being claimed in this story.

            This is not a defense of the Hai'a (religious police) or Shariah (which IS a legal system, contrary to what somebody said here) or Islam itself. It's just about fact vs. fiction. The author claims he witnessed a guy with a machete (I never saw a machete in any KSA hardware store) cutting off the heads of Kewpie dolls at KAIA in Jeddah. In over four years (going through KAIA about three time per year) I never saw a Hai'a official at KAIA; I never saw anyone with anything that could be used to lob off the heads of dolls, and in fact THEY SELL DOLLS IN THE KAIA DUTY FREE!

            Unless the author encountered an extremely unusual incident (that doesn't reflect the reality) or he went to Saudi Arabia in the 1980s (when religious extremism was much stronger than it is today), he's not telling the truth.

        • Steve

          It was widely reported in March 2002, fifteen girls died in a fire at their school in Saudi Arabia. With no men in the school, the girls had taken off their head coverings. When the building caught fire, the Saudi religious police would not allow the girls to leave the building because they were no properly veiled. Better to let the young girls burn to death than arouse impure thoughts in the minds of men?

          This does not hold a candle by comparison to decapitating dolls. Does it?

          • Siboney

            No it does not. That was an awful event and there is no excuse for that behavior. Plenty of Saudis were outraged over this event, too. The problem is that they are forbidden by the state from public protest. Those that protest get arrested. As Robert McNamara once said: you must empathize with the other side before you can begin to understand it. McNamara was not a hippie peacenik, but empathizing with the Saudis is the first step toward understanding them and being able to accurately and constructively criticize (and embarrass) them. When that Makkah fire occurred, the leadership was embarrassed and since it happened the Hai'a have lost considerable power. They can no longer arrest people and hold them (interrogate) at their precincts, for example.

            There are different Saudi Arabias fighting it out right now — the ultra-conservatives, the moderate conservatives asking for more public participation and the liberals. The second category is probably the strongest in the cities (densely populated) while the first category is strongest in the rural countryside (sparcely populated) with it's center of power just north of centrally located Riyadh. The liberals are basically outnumbered, wealthier and spent much of their time outside of the country. The category that should be getting the most help and attention is the moderate conservatives. American sides with the liberals. The ultra conservatives cause many of the problems the shock and offend liberal Western society.

          • Flyer

            Given the violent opposition to "proselytizing" of other religions throughout the Muslim world (while they demand the unfettered right to spread their cult in the civilized world), would you agree that Muslims have self-esteem issues?

        • Flyer

          Can I walk down the streets of Riyadh or Jeddah wearing a cross and openly carrying a Bible?

  • Hamad S Alomar

    I have one advice to the writer from the heart of Islam's holy book : ( Don't let other people's misbehavior or irrational actions influence your justice and fairness to them )

    The holy book also says ( Allah – God – has no issue with you being nice to and helpful to those who are not committing any aggression against your religion )

    It is easy to take the behavior of a few and try to generalize it especially to an uninformed public.

    Finally : we have a saying in Arabic : Dogs are barking and the caravan is on the move.

    Hamad S Alomar

    • Flyer

      Since Islam is so compassionate and tolerant, I assume I could walk down the streets of Riyadh or Jeddah wearing a cross and openly carrying a Bible, right?

    • Flyer

      We have a saying in English: oil and water don't mix.

  • Dexter

    This guy is totally full of it. I'm an American and lived 10 years in Saudi Arabia and I've never seen or heard any of this!

    Stop posting lies!!!

    • Steve

      Do you think he is lying? For what purpose? What about his account of the over-zealous religious police?

    • Siboney

      I agree. He's full of it. There are lot of issues in Saudi Arabia, and lot of crazy nonsense. But this guys doesn't even come close to the truth.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/R_not R_not

      I don't believe you. My most loved partner in life not only was forced to witness a beheading of a woman because she didn't have 4 witnesses, he had to witness various parts of bodies being chopped off of different people. They have a slave class that they discard and have no way to make a living in Arabia and are forced to beg. He saw them ran over and nothing was done. His friend was jailed in the 1970s and he has never heard from him again.

    • bardefa

      how can a 7 year old live 10 years in Saudi Arabia???? Your "logic" (i.e. lack of it), gave you away.
      BTW – youe shrink says you've missed your visit.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/R_not R_not

    People should take a visit to Dearborn Michigan and see how well Islamization takes a foothold in America.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Turbeaux Turbeaux

    “Any American who believes that radical Islam does not represent a clear and present danger to western civilization should be required to spend a month living under Sharia Law in a Muslim country.”

    Then why call it radical Islam? Calling it radical Islam as opposed to Islam reinforces the political correct multicultural model whereby Islam is a Religion of Peace™ and the vast overwhelming majorities of Muslims in the world are moderate and peaceful, which is demonstrably false. Call it what it is.

  • Seriously?

    Disliking and blocking with stumbleupon – this article is ridiculous and the rest of the site (based on the links) looks to be more of the same. This is not journalism.

    • davarino

      Seriously? You thought this was journalism? Glad you decided to block this site cause you obviously dont have the openness of mind to consider all "OPINIONS/JOURNALISM" snicker

  • Flyer

    Saudi Arabia is Yemen….with oil.

  • William Smart

    There are over 50 Muslim majority nations in the world, but Saudi is the worst by far. It is the only one that, for instance, bans the building of churches. There is no such ban even in that other Wahhabist-extreme nation, Qatar, though the latter bans the building of steeples or ringing church bells.

    That's right, Qatar is about on the level of Switzerland, expected to ban the building of minarets. Will the US descend to a level below Qatar, and on the same level as Saudi? Lots of people in favour, obviously!

  • PAthena

    Question: Why is Arabia called "Saudi Arabia"? Great Britain is not called "Windsor Britain," nor is any other country called after the ruler's family. The name "Arabia" is an ancient one.

  • http://brookeslateststuffandnonsense.enemycommon.com/?p=5 Lyndia Spriggle

    Hey, just curious about if you have any further info so I can find a little more about it?

  • Fatima

    what the heck are you talking about? I actually found this amusing. I am girl , born and raised in USA for a while. Though creating idols is against islam I myself grew up playing with DOLLS. I had every kind of dolls, even dolls that were almost my size, bought from Saudi.

  • dale

    Errr, this is not true.

    Dolls and toys for kids with images or whatever are acceptable in Islam according to the Hadith and are exempt from the whole "image" thing. So yeah….just a tad touch of sensationalism….I seriously doubt these incidents took place, My exp, with the Middle East comes from multiple tours to the region with the US Military, most recently as a member of a Police Transistion Team training Iraqi police in Bagdhad, coupled with a MIddle Eastern Studies degree, I am fairly certain I have an idea of how things in the region work, you my friend really have no idea, short of the "Ugly American" concept. Anyway, you are guilty as many faux scholars if attempting to apply that broad brush stroke to all Muslims all over the world, well, my friend, the brush doesn't fit, not all Muslims are the same, nor is there a global islamic plot to decapitate the world's dolls and action figures.

    As an American, my belief is the greatest threat to human kind is hatred, prejudice and ignorance.