The Corner

Honor, Jihad, & the Kingdom of the Tyranny of Relativism

Have you read this piece in the New York Times about young people in Saudi Arabia? I found this sentence the most jarring: “He will kill me.”

The beginning of the piece, for some context:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Nader al-Mutairi stiffened his shoulders, clenched his fists and said, “Let’s do our mission.” Then the young man stepped into the cool, empty lobby of a dental clinic, intent on getting the phone number of one of the young women working as a receptionist.

Asking a woman for her number can cause a young man anxiety anywhere. But in Saudi Arabia, getting caught with an unrelated woman can mean arrest, a possible flogging and dishonor, the worst penalty of all in a society where preserving a family’s reputation depends on faithful adherence to a strict code of separation between the sexes.

Above all, Nader feared that his cousin Enad al-Mutairi would find out that he was breaking the rules. Nader is engaged to Enad’s 17-year-old sister, Sarah. “Please don’t talk to Enad about this,” he said. “He will kill me.”

The sun was already low in the sky as Nader entered the clinic. Almost instantly, his resolve faded. His shoulders drooped, his hands unclenched and his voice began to quiver. “I am not lucky today; let’s leave,” he said.

It was a flash of rebellion, almost instantly quelled. In the West, youth is typically a time to challenge authority. But what stood out in dozens of interviews with young men and women here was how completely they have accepted the religious and cultural demands of the Muslim world’s most conservative society.

They may chafe against the rules, even at times try to evade them, but they can be merciless in their condemnation of those who flout them too brazenly. And they are committed to perpetuating the rules with their own children.

The piece leaves me wondering: Could Nader really be killed? This isn’t just a “conservative society,” after all. It’s not the Kingdom of the Heritage Foundation. But I never really got that question answered or the sense that KSA is more than just another right-wing religious dream. The mention of religious police, sure, suggests a little more than Sweet Home Alabama. But, then again, isn’t that what the fiction that is my theoconservativism seeks?

Just got a relativism kinda vibe from the Times. Imagine that.

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