For Love of Starbucks


I am decidedly a-political. After Bush won his second reelection, I officially stopped giving a shit. Actually, that’s not true. After Bush won his second reelection, I just realized that I don’t have the stomach for politics. I care, but I can’t get too involved. When I do, there is angst. And tears. And agita. Despite my best efforts at remaining apathetic and civicly irresponsible, however, I am inexplicably drawn to sites like the Drudge Report and The Volokh Conspiracy. In today’s survey of the Drudge, I came across an article about an American business woman living in Riyadh who was recently arrested, abused, and sentenced to, um, eternal hellfire for sitting in a Starbucks with a male colleague. (WARNING: gratuitous lawyer joke on its way — Hey US federal judges, how you like ‘dem sentencing guidelines??)

When you look at the basic facts of this case, it seems like an egregious violation of some kind of fundamental right presumably possessed by the female, American expat. I’m not a con law kinda gal, but I would imagine that the right to freedom of association would be a clear winner. At the risk of being irritatingly relativistic, however, I can’t help but see both sides of this coin. Before you jump on that comment link and tell me to go fuck myself, just hear me out. Now, I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about Sharia; but the basis for arrest was public contact between the woman, Yara [last name omitted for obvious reasons], and her colleague, who was an unrelated male. In Saudi Arabia, such contact is strictly prohibited. Now, while I feel for Yara — really, I do — I’m not entirely sure why she thinks she has a right to violate the law of the land to which she immigrated. I mean, she wasn’t even born there. If you want to get all legal about it, she purposefully availed herself of the rights and privileges (or lack thereof) of Saudi Arabia. She knew what she was getting into, she knew she was subject to the jurisdiction of Saudi courts, and she violated Saudi law. When my firm solicited young associates for an assignment in Riyadh, how many women do you think answered the call? NONE. Back to lawyer-speak, you could say that she assumed the risk of having to deal with systemic violence against women, along with the gross human rights violations that come along with it. Note that in an American court, assumption of risk would be a defense to NOTHING in this case, but that is kind of my point.

And was this a gross human rights violation? Well, yes, but I am certain that you could pin down the Saudi regime for more egregious violations than this. There are just certain causes that I have more sympathy for than others. Was Yara lucky? I would guess that she was. Are there many women rotting in Saudi prisons for lesser offenses? Are there Saudis who endure atrocities that I can’t even fathom? Yes, I would guess that there are. Do I believe that we should accept those facts as a mere cultural difference? No, I do not. This particular case, however, just rubs me the wrong way. I am embarrassed to admit that I can see why religious fanatics would take offense to such a blatant affront to their way of life. And by a westerner, at that. There is just a certain amount of cultural sensitivity that foreigners must possess when traveling abroad, which doesn’t generally involve offending the religious laws, customs, and tenets of the host country. I understand that she was merely having a coffee with a colleague and if I ruled the world, she would be able compromise her socially-defined integrity in any way she liked. She could have coffee with all kinds of offensive men. She could have coffee with Flavor Flav, she could have coffee with Bill Clinton (who I am a fan of, for the record, but who happens to be an easy target) … she could even have coffee with Ron Jeremy. But I don’t rule the world, I especially don’t rule Saudi Arabia (although I could go for a palace and one of those five mile long yachts) and more notably, Saudi Arabia isn’t ruled by western law. So, Yara has decided to stay in Saudi Arabia to fight the system. Good luck, Yara. We’ll engrave “Idiot” on your … oh wait, you’re vying for a spot in one of those mass, unmarked graves. Well, I am sure there will be some kind of vigil for you here in the States. We’ll be sure to put “Idiot” somewhere on there for ya’.


On a completely unrelated note, does it strike anyone funny that they were in a Starbucks? A) I can’t think of a better symbol for the infidel, except for maybe Walmart or G.W. himself. The Saudis could’ve at least opted for Dunkin’ Donuts (as another aside, I must admit that I buy a lot of Starbucks; however, you can be sure that I will suffer eternal hellfire for it). B) Americans traveling abroad, please stay mindful of the fact that Starbucks and the U.S. Embassy are just not the same thing. So if you’re running from a bunch of Mutaweens trying to steal your formula for cold fusion (a nice, big, venti bold to anyone who gets the reference), DO NOT TAKE REFUGE IN STARBUCKS. You can find a list of U.S. embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions HERE.

4 Responses to “For Love of Starbucks”

  1. 1 Bryan D

    Heh – I was glued to the drudge report too… Here’s a good wean-yourself-off-drudge site:

  2. Maybe I misinterpreted you, but this statement kinda left me dumbfounded:

    “I would imagine that the right to freedom of association would be a clear winner.”

    It is in the confines of the U.S. and its territories, but this check knew better, she was itching for a scrape with the law. I got nothing against agitating for social reform, but you gotta pick your battles, and Saudi Arabia ain’t the place to do it. Especially if your a broad.

  3. 3 Queen Samantha

    We’re on the same page. Freedom of association is the fundamental right that might jump out at Americans, but the point is that she wasn’t in the U.S. That’s precisely why the treatment she received may not be as offensive as it might intuitively seem from the outset.

  4. From a relativity standpoint, Saudi Arabia exercises its “police powers” in accordance with their value system, which is dictated by Sharia Law. The health, safety, and welfare rules imposed on the Saudis are abhorrent to Westerners for obvious reasons, we do not live under them.

    I often hear people talk about how the Islamic cultures are brutal, barbaric, and misogynist (all true by the way), but those are the inherent values in the Koran, as interpreted by the Hadiths and Koranic scholars. Unfortunately, democratic rule is rare, and illusory where it exists, so the paternalistic overlords get to impose their brutal will on the people under the guise of “religious protection.”

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