Ben Hubbard

Awards ahead? Top guns roll out quality work on Saudi life, female Arab Muslims in Olympics

Awards ahead? Top guns roll out quality work on Saudi life, female Arab Muslims in Olympics

Two of the remaining big guys in news have run some excellent long-form newspaper journalism recently looking at the social impact of conservative Islam in Saudi Arabia and across the Arab world, including its hobbling of would-be female Arab Olympic athletes.

The big guys are The Washington Post and The New York Times, two of the few remaining mainstream newspapers still able and willing to invest heavily in time-consuming, difficult to produce, international stories with global religious/cultural/political consequences.

If you haven't already, take the time to read these pieces in full. They're great reads and informative. (C'mon,  put away Pokemon Go for 20-30 minutes). The requisite links are below.

Let's look first at the Times offering.

Times veteran Middle East correspondent Ben Hubbard -- his Facebook page says he "spent weeks and weeks" in Saudi Arabia exploring Wahhabi Islam's hold on Saudi society -- opens his piece with the plight of a former muckety-muck in the kingdom's so-called religious police.)

Ahmed Qassim al-Ghamdi's world turned upside down when he began questioning what he was doing, and went public with his doubts.

Here's a chunk of Hubbard's piece that explains what happened to Ghamdi.

So he spoke out. In articles and television appearances, he argued that much of what Saudis practiced as religion was in fact Arabian cultural practices that had been mixed up with their faith.

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