Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Unlike cars, camels don't pollute

Saudi photographer Reem al-Faisal contributed a whimsical opinion piece to the June 13, 2011 Arab News. Here is the link to it, and the text pasted in below. This piece is spiced with the Saudi sense of humor, which, I think, is similar to the American sense of humor.

Unlike cars, camels don't pollute

You can't wish it out of existence. It will keep on intruding into other, more important, matters as long as there are motor vehicles and women. In any country, the percentage of women driving a car may be very low but when you deny this right to women, it dominates the whole debate about women's rights in that country, sometimes overshadowing the many rights they enjoy.
That is exactly the situation in Saudi Arabia where women are being denied the simplest of utilities - a mode of transportation - and where women are ready to give all they own to acquire the most basic of human rights - the right to drive a car. Women were traveling the deserts for thousands of years but we can't be trusted with a piece of metal.
OK, we give up and allow the men to drive cars and allow us what was never denied our grandmothers - camels. Let every household own as many camels as they wish or can afford. Open up schools to teach women how to ride and house and maintain a camel.
In fact, it could be a great idea for the protection and care of the environment. Unlike cars, camels don't pollute. Their waste is biodegradable and can even be used to improve the environment as fertilizers for plants and even for heating fuel in the cold winter nights. Unlike cars, camels produce an important nutrition - milk. Where in the world can you find a car that can transport you as well as feed you when needed?
If camels become a mode of transportation on a mass scale their market price will surely decrease since at least half of the Saudi population will be riding them. This might make them cheaper than cars and affordable to the average Saudi household. Also I am sure that the maintenance and upkeep of a camel is far cheaper than a car and it doesn't need to be imported from outside like cars so we also encourage local markets.
In fact, it might be a good idea to have men too riding camels. This way we will reduce the level of pollution to near zero and leave more oil to be exported to all those badly polluted countries where men and women drive cars.
But then we will have a problem. When men discover the benefits of "driving" camels, they will deny women camel-driving rights too. Then we will have to content ourselves with taking the backseat of the camels or start looking for other options - mules maybe?
Leaving sarcasm aside, it is truly tragic that we have to fight for such an essential yet mediocre right ignoring all the many injustices we suffer like our being denied the right to choose and practice any profession we desire. Or the right to be represented sufficiently in government (like ministers) and other activities of society. The right to practice law and be part of the judiciary system. The right to invest and trade freely without depending on a man. The freedom to travel whenever we want and wherever we want. Basically, we want to be treated as adults in the eyes of the law and not to live as eternal minors waiting for the kind attention of our male guardians.
In the end we want the rights that Allah and his Prophet (peace be upon him) gave us a millennia and a half ago and which men have tried to deny us whichever way they can.
-  Reem Al Faisal is a Saudi photographer. She is based in Jeddah.

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