On the advice of an alert reader, I tuned in by distance to a recent discussion on the CBC dealing largely with the current controversy about male-only campuses in Saudi Arabia:. http://www.cbc.ca/ontariotoday/2016/02/02/is-doing-business-with-saudi-arabia-worth-the-risk/
It was painful to listen to. It is sobering to learn how ignorant and prejudiced Canadians can be.
First, there is the premise that Saudi Arabia has a bad government that we ought not to have anything to do with. We ought, having our own monarchical traditions, to know better. There is nothing magical about democracy. It works well in some places, not so well in others. Usually, it takes years and a strong cultural tradition of voluntary associations to create.
Look around at the MENA region. What government is bettter? Would you rather live in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Sudan? These are the republics, the failed "democracies." Are not the good governments precisely the monarchies? Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Jordan, Morocco. Note that not all of them have oil wealth to make governing easy. Many of the "democracies," by contrast, do, and have still made a mess of things.
It seems to me pure prejudice to see Saudi Arabia as anything but a good international citizen and a reliable ally. Yes, they export their religious beliefs. That is their right.
Then there is the obnoxious bit about Canadian colleges supposedly having some kind of moral duty to impose "Canadian values." A claim made with much sanctimoniousness repeatedly in the podcast. This is just a new term for cultural imperialism. It is the ideology of empire. One caller rightly called his fellow Canadians out on this one. Are not the Saudis themselves more likely to be able to judge and run their own affairs? Do they not in any case have that human right? Are we so confident in our own superiority? Sorry, that is downright racist.
I am against capital punishment. But the programme host seemed to be upset with Saudi Arabia not because they, unlike Canada, have it, but because they execute by beheading, unlike the supposedly civilized practices of our southern neighbour in lethal injection, or electrocution, or the old Canadian and British method of hanging. The truth is that beheading is a good deal more surely painless than these other methods. We reject it only because we care more about the sight of blood than the pain of the executed, to our shame. When Europe regularly practiced capital punishment, being beheaded instead of hanged was a privilege of the upper classes.
The other rap raised against the Saudi justice system is that executions are held publicly. Does nobody stop to think that this is, and was in the old days in Canada and Europe, an important protection for our rights? If government executes someone the general public believes does not deserve it, by doing it publicly they risk a riot. By becoming queasy about our duty here, we Westerners have made it much easier for tyrants.
The faculty union rep on the programme also actually claimed, in so many words, that not all those executed recently by the Saudi government were violent. "Many," he said, 'were peaceful dissidents." That is an incendiary claim, shown to be unlikely, as noted, by the fact that they were publicly executed, and needs to be defended, not just asserted. According to the Saudi government, they were all violent terrorists. Fact and logic seems to be entirely on the Saudi side. These people had been through the Saudi justice system. Is it not the competent legal authority? Do we know better?
Inevitably, Saudi Arabia also comes under fire in the broadcast for not supporting the current Canadian craze for LGBT pride. Would Premier Wynne herself be free to visit with her partner?
Homosexuality is indeed technically illegal in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it should be; putting everything else aside, homosexuality is a public health risk. You may have heard of AIDS. But there is a serious distortion here in the perceptions of how homosexuality is in practice treated in more traditional societies like Saudi Arabia or, to cite a Christian example, the Philippines. In fact, homosexuals are almost always let alone to live and let live. The only difference appears to be that they are not allowed, any more than heterosexuals, to publicly flaunt or advertise their sexual appetites. Unlike in Canada, homosexuals and heterosexuals are treated the same way. I know a good many homosexuals in the Gulf; I would not know they were homosexuals if they were not perfectly open about it. In fact, Saudi Arabia is a kind of paradise for gays, due in part to the sexual segregation, and an unusually high percentage of expats here are homosexuals who have chosen to live here as a happy hunting ground. My impression is that, for the law to intervene, you have to be an adult going after teenagers or younger, who do not already have an established homosexual orientation. In other words, what passes for a law against homosexuality in Saudi Arabia is just the same law Canada has against pedophilia.
In the Philippines homosexuality is legal, but the great majority of Filipinos are devout Catholics, who are supposedly out to persecute gays wherever possible. Instead, Filipinos to a man and a woman seem to have no problem whatsoever with homosexuality. Like masturbatiion, it is a matter between oneself and one's God, and nobody else's business. Not only are Filipinos free to be gay or lesbian without any loss of social standing, there is a large and open culture of transgenderism. Nobody cares.
It is traditionally more oppressive in Canada.