Saudi intellectual criticized for a fatherly kiss

She kissed 70-year-old poet's forehead in a seminar

نشر في:

A Saudi intellectual is facing a strong wave of criticism for kissing a poet on the forehead in a literary seminar, local press reported Saturday.

Khadeeja Najea, head of the women's committee of the poetry forum in the southwestern city of Jizan, kissed septuagenarian poet Mohamed al-Ali on the forehead as he was guest of honor at the forum's seminar.

Najea's behavior was criticized by intellectuals and a campaign was launched against her on the internet, the Saudi edition of al-Hayat reported Saturday.

Najea justified her action by saying that Ali is like a father to her and that this is a well-known custom in her hometown.

"Kissing an elderly person's forehead, whether male or female, is a sign of respect and appreciation," she said. "This is a custom in Jizan."

Najea added that people who lashed out at her cannot deny that this is a tribal custom and that they themselves kiss the foreheads of elderly women who are not related to them.

"If I had kissed the forehead of one of their fathers and even if he were younger than Ali, they wouldn't have made such a fuss."

Najea attributed the campaign launched against her to her refusal that the women's committee she heads is being run by a group of conservatives who objected to her close ties with the Ministry of Information and Culture.

After the seminar in which the incident took place, Najea received an anonymous letter warning her that ministry will not do her any good and threatened to fire her from her position as head of the committee.

"This is terrorism," she said. "Terrorism is not only about bombing. It takes various shapes."

Najea said she will send a copy of the letter to the prince of Jizan and another to the ministry. "They thought my silence is out of weakness, but I can respond and defend myself."

Najea stressed that the campaign against her is not about kissing Ali's forehead but is rather for settling scores, especially by people who always interfere in the affairs of the women's committee.

She also said that the campaign is related to other poets who did not take part in the forum and who unleashed their anger on the women's committee through this campaign.

(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)

This is terrorism. Terrorism is not only about bombing. It takes various shapes

Khadeeja Najea