Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Yoda appears in a Saudi schoolbook, and suddenly women are allowed to drive

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This post is for Star Wars fans only. Yet the facts it describes are entirely true. Jedi Master Yoda mysteriously appeared in a Saudi school textbook sitting next to illustrious late King Faisal. A few days later, Saudi Arabia current king, Salman, ordered a royal decree allowing women to drive. A huge step forward for Saudi society. Coincidence?

It seems the Force was strong these past few days. Less than a week ago, something strange happened in the very conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A school textbook featured "by mistake" a picture of Jedi Master Yoda sitting next to King Faisal, perhaps the most popular and beloved Saudi monarch. The picture went viral and the Education minister was forced to resign.


According to the BBC, "the image, which shows the diminutive Jedi Master sitting beside King Faisal as he signs the UN Charter in 1945, was created by the Saudi artist Shaweesh". The artist "stressed that he had meant no offence to the king, who helped transform Saudi Arabia into a modern state and an actor on the world stage. He said he included Yoda in the photo of King Faisal (...) because they were both “wise, strong and always calm”." 

However, he told the British network that "it was not yet clear how it had ended up in the textbook". And so far, no one was able to explain how Shaweesh’s artwork was included in the textbook’s layout and how no one noticed it as it went to print. 

In case you’re not a Star Wars fan and yet reading this, the saga’s website describes Yoda as "a legendary Jedi Master and stronger than most in his connection with the Force. Small in size but wise and powerful." After he passed away in The Empire Strikes Back, he appeared at key moments later on in the saga. One may be tempted to say: like he also appeared in the Saudi textbook!

As people all over the Internet were still enjoying the Yoda textbook story, another big surprise came from Saudi Arabia. A big surprise and a huge step forward for Saudi women and for the kingdom's society at large.

King Salman ordered a royal decree allowing women to drive, "overturning a cornerstone of Saudi conservatism that had been a cause celebre of activists demanding reforms in the fundamentalist kingdom", The Guardian writes. "It is the most significant change yet to a rigidly conservative social order in Saudi Arabia that has strictly demarcated gender roles, and severely limits the role of women in public life." 

The child in me would love to believe Yoda had something to do with it. Tonight, I'll grant him that. And I'm sure many Star Wars fans would too. The timing of the two unexpected and rather extraordinary events is striking enough! 

"Do. Or do not. There is no try", Yoda used to say. Looks like Saudi Arabia did just that. Saudi women must be celebrating. May the Force be with them.


© Claude El Khal, 2017

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