- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi Arabia's religious
police have declared Barbie dolls a threat to morality, complaining that
the revealing clothes of the "Jewish" toy - already banned in
the kingdom - were offensive to Islam.
- The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention
of Vice, as the religious police are officially known, lists the dolls
on a section of its website devoted to items deemed offensive to the conservative
Saudi interpretation of Islam.
- "Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes
and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence
to the perverted West. Let us beware of her dangers and be careful,"
said a poster on the site.
- The poster, plastered with pictures of Barbie in short
dresses and tight pants, and with a few of her accessories, reads: "A
strange request. A little girl asks her mother: Mother, I want jeans, a
low-cut shirt, and a swimsuit like Barbie."
- Such posters are distributed to schools and hung in the
streets by the religious police, or muttawa, an independent body affiliated
with the office of the Prime Minister.
- Vice police officials were not available for comment
- Sheik Abdulla al-Merdas, a preacher in a Riyadh mosque,
said the muttawa take their anti-Barbie campaign to the shops, confiscating
dolls from sellers and imposing a fine.
- Although illegal, Barbies, the creation of California-based
Mattel Inc., are found on the black market, where a contraband doll could
cost 100 riyals ($42) or more.
- "It is no problem that little girls play with dolls.
But these dolls should not have the developed body of a woman, and wear
revealing clothes," al-Merdas said.
- "These revealing clothes will be imprinted in their
minds and they will refuse to wear the clothes we are used to as Muslims,"
the sheik said.
- Women in Saudi Arabia must cover themselves from head
to toe with a black cloak in public. They are not allowed to drive and
cannot go out in public unaccompanied by a male family member.
- Other items listed as violations on the site included
Valentine's Day gifts, perfume bottles in the shape of women's bodies,
clothing with logos that include a cross, and decorative copies of religious
items - offensive because they could be damaged and thus insult Islam.
- An exhibition of all the violating items is found in
the holy city of Medina, and mobile tours visit schools and other public
areas in the kingdom.
- The muttawa act as a monitoring and punishing agency,
propagating conservative Islamic beliefs according to the teachings of
the puritan Wahhabi sect, adhered to in the kingdom since the 18th century,
and enforcing strict moral code.
- The muttawa patrol the streets of the kingdom, preventing
men from mingling with women, enforcing strict Islamic dress for women,
chasing worshippers late for prayers, and punishing shopkeepers who stay
open during prayer hours. They sometimes work with a police officer who
can enforce legal punishments on people deemed violators.
- Copyright 2003 News Limited.
- From CM Ross
- Dear Jeff,
- As a Catholic woman, I have to agree with the Saudis
that Barbie dolls are a threat to morality because they teach little girls
to dress in an immodest manner and to be vain about their appearance.
- The original Barbie was based on a German toy prostitute
named Lilli made in 1955. (Wonder if it was short for Lilith? In Jewish
myth, Lilith was the impure first wife of Adam and friend of demons). Lilli,
an adult toy for German men, was toned down when sold to American little
girls. But given the way that women and girls now dress, sadly, it seems
that the fair sex have now gotten the false obscene message of Barbie and
Lilli: degrading yourself in public is part of being a modern woman.
- Nevertheless, I do think the Saudi poster campaign is
wrong-headed because it is promoting what they are trying to stop, namely
the use of such dolls as toys. By plastering the picture of the toy everywhere,
they are giving it free advertising.
- While Westerners may find Saudi Arabian morality campaigns
heavy-handed, every society has censorship. It's just that in ours, the
self-censorship is not as overt in Saudi Arabia. For example, when was
the last time that you heard a serious discussion of how pornography hurts
women on TV? Or that it leads to crime?
- Have you ever heard of a entertainment movie that said
abortion is an evil that hurts women and kills children? The only such
film I have ever heard of was made in 1916. So who has more censorship:
the Saudi Arabians, or us?