It should be an eye opener for Indonesian women (Muslimah) who are now
being coerced by the fanatical Muslim men to accept restrictions which
the Arab Muslimah are beginning to realize as a form of subjugation.

Come on, Indonesian Muslimah, you have always enjoyed your independence
and freedom without being promiscuous or immodest. Look at your Arab
counterparts only now (with cable television, the internet, magazines
and travels) they began to realize that they have been treated shabilly
by the men because of their tradition. Why do you want to go back into
the unfair, injurious and demeaning customs of the dark ages.

Gabriela Rantau

--- In, "Sunny" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:
> MBC's Web site includes information about the show. (MBC4)
> Saudi women beat a path to the TV for Oprah
> By Katherine Zoepf Published: September 19, 2008
> DAMMAM, Saudi Arabia: Once a month, Nayla says, she writes a letter to
Oprah Winfrey.
> A young Saudi homemaker who covers her face in public might not seem
to have much in common with an American talk show host whose image is
known to millions. Like many women in this conservative desert kingdom,
Nayla does not usually socialize with people outside her extended
family, and she never leaves the house unless chaperoned by her husband.
> Winfrey has not answered the letters. But Nayla says she is still
> "I feel that Oprah truly understands me," Nayla said. "She gives me
energy and hope for my life. Sometimes I think that she is the only
person in the world who knows how I feel."
> Nayla is not the only Saudi woman to feel a special connection to the
American media mogul. When "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was first broadcast
in Saudi Arabia in November 2004
> on a Dubai-based satellite channel, it became an immediate sensation
among young Saudi women.
> Within months, it had become the highest-rated English-language
program among women 25 and younger, an age group that makes up about a
third of Saudi Arabia's population.
> In a country where the sexes are rigorously separated, where topics
like sex and race are rarely discussed openly and where a strict code of
public morality is enforced by religious police called hai'a, Winfrey
provides many young Saudi women with new ways of thinking about the way
local taboos affect their lives - a variety of issues including
childhood sexual abuse and coping with marital strife - without striking
them, or Saudi Arabia's ruling authorities, as subversive.
> Some women here say Winfrey's assurances to her viewers - that no
matter how restricted or even abusive their circumstances may be, they
can take control in small ways and create lives of value - helps them
find meaning in their cramped, veiled existence.
> "Oprah dresses conservatively," explained Princess Reema bint Bandar
al-Saud, a co-owner of a women's spa in Riyadh called Yibreen and a
daughter of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the
United States. "She struggles with her weight. She overcame depression.
She rose from poverty and from abuse. On all these levels she appeals to
a Saudi woman. People really idolize her here."
> Today, "The Oprah Winfrey Show," with Arabic subtitles, is broadcast
twice each weekday on MBC4, a three-year-old channel developed by the
MBC Group with the Arab woman in mind. The show's guests,
self-improvement tips, and advice on family relationships - as well as
Winfrey's clothes and changing hairstyles - are eagerly analyzed by
Saudi women from a wide range of social backgrounds and income levels.
> The largest-circulation Saudi women's magazine, Sayidaty, devotes a
regular page to Winfrey, and dog-eared copies of her official magazine,
O, which is not sold in the Kingdom, are passed around by women who
collect them during trips abroad.
> The particulars of Winfrey's personal story have resonated with a
broad audience of Saudi women in a way that few other Western imports
have, explained Mazen Hayek, a spokesman for the MBC Group.
> Saudi Arabia was an impoverished desert country before it was
transformed by oil money and, in just a couple of generations, into a
wealthy consumer society. Saudi women readily identify with "this
glamorous woman from very modest beginnings," Hayek said by telephone
from Dubai.
> "Oprah talks about issues that haven't really been spoken about here
openly before," said Maha al-Faleh, 23, of Riyadh. "She talks about
racism, for example. This is something that Saudis are very concerned
about, because many of us feel that we're judged for the way we veil or
for our skin color. I have a friend whose driver touched her in an
inappropriate way. She was very young at the time, but she felt very
guilty about it - and Oprah helped her to speak about this abuse with
her mother."
> MBC edits some Oprah episodes to remove content banned by censors in
the region, officials at the channel say. It does not broadcast segments
on homosexuality, for example. But the officials say they make most
episodes available to their regional viewers uncensored, including some
about relations between Arabs and Westerners and about living with the
threat of Islamic terrorism.
> Saudi women say they are drawn to Winfrey not only because she openly
addresses subjects considered taboo locally, but also because she speaks
of self-empowerment and change.
> Wafa Mohamed, 38, a mother of five from Riyadh who, like many of the
women interviewed, would not give her full name, said she believes that,
in their adoration of Winfrey, Saudi women are expressing a hesitant
sense of longing for real change in their country.
> "Many of us feel that the solutions for our problems have to come from
outside," Mohamed said. When President George W. Bush visited Saudi
Arabia in January, she continued, as an example, his presence briefly
became a locus of hope for Saudi women. "A lot of women were saying that
they wished they could talk to Bush about problems like forced marriage,
about how our children are taken away if our husbands divorce us."
> In a country where women are forbidden to vote, or to travel without
the permission of a male guardian, a sense of powerlessness can lead
women to look for unlikely sources of rescue, Mohamed explained. "If
women here have problems with their fathers or their brothers, what can
they do but look to Oprah?" she asked. "The idea that she will come and
help them is a dream for them."
> Nayla, the homemaker in Dammam, a Gulf port city, says Winfrey helps
her cope with a society that does not encourage her to have interests -
or even to have anything to say. "The life of a woman here in Saudi - it
makes you tired and it makes you boring," she said.
> Like many Saudi women, Nayla struggles with obesity, a major issue in
the Kingdom since many women are largely confined to their homes and
forbidden from participating in sports or walking around their
neighborhoods. She says that Winfrey has inspired her to lose weight and
to pursue an education through an online degree course, a method
acceptable to her husband since she will not have to leave home.
> Mohamed said, "Oprah is the magic word for women here who want to
scream out loud, who want to be heard. Look at what happened to the girl
from Qatif," she said, referring to the infamous 2007 case of a young
woman who was gang-raped, then sentenced to flogging because she had
been in a car with an unrelated man. The young woman from Qatif received
a royal pardon after her case became an media cause célèbre.
> "The Qatif girl was heard outside the country, and she was helped,"
Mohamed said. "But we need to have Saudi women who help women here. We
need to have women social workers, women judges."
> "We have a very male-dominated society, and it's very hard sometimes,"
Mohamed said. "But for now I have my coffee, and sit, and I watch Oprah.
> "It's my favorite time of day."

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