Saudi Princess to discuss Islam at GOP event
An email is making the rounds through Trenton and causing something of a stir. It is from Sherine El-Abd, the President of the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women (NJFRW).
Here is the text of her email:
I am writing to all of you my NJFRW friends to ask you to consider coming to a brunch that I will put together as requested by a friend of mine who is also a friend of a Saudi Arabian Princess. I have never met Princess Basma Bint Saud but I am very eager to meet her and learn about her efforts against the efforts of many to taint Islam via their interpretation of the faith. She is also fighting for the rights of women and I am attaching a brief biography of the Princess.
This is not, I repeat, not an NJFRW event and it is not a fund raiser. Everyone will be asked to pay for the cost of the brunch merely to cover the cost of what I believe would be a very interesting gathering. I will make sure that the cost is approximately $25.00 per person.
My understanding is that the Princess would like to meet with activists who might be interested in her efforts. I would like to schedule the brunch for Sunday, February 17, 2013. Please let me know as soon as possible if you are interested in attending so I can make the arrangements.
You can call or email me with your response.
Though not an “official” NJFRW event, as El-Abd makes clear, it was sent out to the NJFRW mailing list and the subject line reads: “A Personal Message from our President”. The bottom of the email lists the NJFRW and their mailing address.
The biography attached to the email includes a photograph of a very beautiful woman, presumably the Princess. Her biography reads as follows:
Basma bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz
Basma bint Saud was born on 1 March 1964. She is the 115th and youngest of King Saud’s children. Basma was born during the last days of her father’s reign. Her mother took her to the Middle East’s then-most cosmopolitan city, the Lebanese capital of Beirut. When Lebanon’s civil war broke out in 1975, the family fled for Britain.
In Beirut, Basma bint Saud attended a French Christian missionary school, taught by nuns. In Britain, she attended a Hertfordshire girls’ school and a College in London, before spending two years studying in Switzerland. In 2003, Basma and her mother
moved to Syria. In the same year, Basma studied medicine, psychology and English literature at Beirut Arab University.
Princess Basma was married to Shujaa Al Sharif in 1988. They divorced in 2007. She is a mother with five children, three of whom live with her in Acton.
Basma bint Saud is a mild advocate of reform. She has been an active participant of different social institutions and human rights organizations. She began to express her views on Arab and international media, writing articles on the hard life conditions of Saudis, particularly of women.
However, her criticisms do not directly address the royal family but the Saudi governors and other middle-level administrators. Writing for Al Madina newspaper in April 2010, Basma bint Saud told that she could not find any Qur’anic or Islamic historical basis for a state institution to promote virtue and prevent vice, and she further argued that the arrests and beatings by religious policemen lead to an incorrect impression about Islam.
In her Independent interview, she said she is a Muslim and will “always be behind the royal family” but not behind Sharia Laws (Islamic Jurisdiction) “taken from Qur’an and Hadith being implemented” as law. She specifically supports reform in Saudi Islamic laws regarding bans on mixed gatherings of men and women, and to make optional for Muslim women to cover modestly or not.
Her journalism and blogging has drawn criticism, and she told The Independent that Saudi officials had begun censoring her articles. On the other hand, she insisted that her move from Jeddah to Acton was not due to pressure from the Saudi state. Basma bint Saud has questioned the misuse of the Islamic fiqh in Saudi society, arguing that the religious establishment needs to be reformed in order that it plays a constructive role in modernizing society and improving the situation of women in the kingdom.
There is a Wikipedia page devoted to the Princess, where we discovered that she owns a chain of restaurants in Saudi Arabia and that she plans to expand her business to the United Kingdom, where she resides. It also provides us with an idea of what is meant by the Princess being “a mild advocate of reform”:
On 8 April 2012, Basma bint Saud told BBC that there are many changes she would like to see in Saudi Arabia - but that is not the time for women to be allowed to drive. And she called for changes concerning constitution, divorce laws, overhaul of the educational system, complete reform of social services and changes in the role of the mahram (the male guardian that all Saudi women are required to have as the state considers them legal minor their entire lives - usually a male relative).
Given the influence Saudi Arabia has on the policies of the United States and the relationships elements within the nation have had with the Republican Party (particularly during the administration of President George W. Bush) and the Conservative movement (through Grover Norquist and others), this kind of grassroots outreach within the GOP should raise some concern and it has.