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Via Al Arabiya:

Khadeeja Najea, head of the women's committee of the poetry forum in the southwestern city of Jizan, kissed septuagenarian poet Mohamed al-Ali on the forehead as he was guest of honor at the forum's seminar.DUBAI (AlArabiya.net) A Saudi intellectual is facing a strong wave of criticism for kissing a poet on the forehead in a literary seminar, local press reported Saturday.

Khadeeja Najea, head of the women’s committee of the poetry forum in the southwestern city of Jizan, kissed septuagenarian poet Mohamed al-Ali on the forehead as he was guest of honor at the forum’s seminar.

Najea’s behavior was criticized by intellectuals and a campaign was launched against her on the internet, the Saudi edition of al-Hayat reported Saturday.

Najea justified her action by saying that Ali is like a father to her and that this is a well-known custom in her hometown.

“Kissing an elderly person’s forehead, whether male or female, is a sign of respect and appreciation,” she said. “This is a custom in Jizan.”

(read rest here)

At first, I wanted to write something mocking how ridiculous it is that such a story makes headlines in the Arab World – how dare a woman kiss a man on the forehead! But then I thought harder about it, and I realized that in some ways, this is to be praised. They still have a sensitivity to modesty that we in the West have completely lost touch with. While of course, the Arab world’s sensitivity is completely over the top, extreme and oppressive – nobody should be arrested for holding hands or lashed for being alone together, and this woman’s career should not be ruined, not to mention looking at her completely covered up from head to toe makes me disgusted – there is some truth in it. Modesty is a value that our society has completely lost.

While the Arab world’s latest ‘scandal’ involves a famous woman kissing a man’s forehead, our scandals involve teenage celebrities getting pregnant, and supposed role-models getting caught on tape having sex and flashing their crotch at the Paparazzi. And while this Arab woman’s career might be ruined because of the outrage over what she did, the players in our scandals often times get a pay increase – there is barely any, if any, outrage. Is anything sacred anymore in the West?

So while I would love to poke fun at this story, I’ll have to refrain. It would just be too easy to poke back at us.

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One Response to “Saudi intellectual criticized for fatherly kiss”

  1. Josephine says:

    I see your point. I don’t think the two issues are equal, however, because one is about morals (which are subjective) and the other is about equality and freedom under the law (which are objective).

    I think it’s ridiculous when I see a woman in a niqab pushing a top-of-the-line baby carriage or a girl in a hijab wearing open-toed sandals with painted toenails. These other things are, to me, the antithesis of modesty.

    Above all, I think modesty is demonstrated by one’s attitude, regardless of one’s clothing or accoutrements.

    More important than modesty is the freedom and the right to dress as we choose and to define for ourselves what we consider to be true modesty.

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