Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. When In Riyadh

 

Drudge is making a big deal of Michelle Obama’s decision not to hide her hair while in Riyadh with the President. Kudos to the First Lady? 

Pretend, for a moment, that the story does not concern two vile people who would sooner spit on you than respect you as a political opponent. What should be the general rule in regard to diplomatic presentation, as opposed to diplomatic content? When in Riyadh, do as the Saudis do? Or dress and behave like an American, always and everywhere?

Also, this story is a far cry from the hubbub years ago about President Obama bowing to a Saudi leader. Did the President learn something from his critics? Why cater to foreign customs then and not now? Or are the President’s concerns irrelevant to his wife’s behavior?

Image Credit: Flickr user US Department of State.

There are 70 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    I would say the general rule should be American everywhere. Now, if one is living in a place where Americans are hated, one might consider blending in a bit. But as an American elected official on a diplomatic visit, definitely American style within reason. For instance, a mini-skirt might be taking it too far.

    Aaron Miller: Or are the President’s concerns irrelevant to his wife’s behavior?

    Hahahahaha! What do you think? I suspect that everyone’s concerns are irrelevant to the First Lady.

    • #1
    • January 28, 2015, at 8:38 AM PST
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  2. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I say: As a general rule, it is almost always better to err on the side of respecting the other culture’s customs, but when the other culture enforces its customs via STONING, BEHEADING, and FLOGGING, there is an argument to be made about showing a little rebellious cultural chauvinism.

    In other words, take your shoes off when you enter a Japanese home, don’t hug the Queen of England without her expressed invitation, and feel free to slurp your noodles in China. Those are all customs that are not enforced via torture and execution.

    Heck, I even think womenfolk should probably cover their hair when visiting a Muslim country that doesn’t enforce its rules via torture and execution. It’s simply a sign of respect in that caselike taking off your hat in a church or wearing a hat in a synagogue.

    Saudi Arabia? Where women are stoned for the crime of being raped? Let your freaky hair flow in the breeze, baybee.

    (Should John Adams have refused to go through the cultural motions?)

    • #2
    • January 28, 2015, at 8:59 AM PST
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  3. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Rule of thumb (yes, completely intended):

    Vacationing or visiting? Follow Their customs.

    Invited? American always and everywhere.

    Personally, I’m TEXAN always and everywhere regardless.

    • #3
    • January 28, 2015, at 9:11 AM PST
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  4. 1967mustangman Inactive

    Hey even a broken First Lady is right every now and then.

    • #4
    • January 28, 2015, at 9:15 AM PST
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  5. MarciN Member

    I understand that Muslim women wear a head covering for some reason that I don’t understand.

    But why would Muslims expect non-Muslims to cover their head and hair? Do they think God is offended by all women everywhere? The very sight of a woman’s hair makes God angry? Any woman at all? Really? Is this a modesty thing–so a woman’s hair and head is obscene for some reason to Muslims? Like a swear word would be to me?

    Presumably, given how they feel about infidels, why would a Muslim care about a non-Muslim not covering her hair and her head? The way I understand things, the Muslims think that God hates all non-Muslim women and is sending them all to hell anyway.

    If it is a modesty thing, that is, if I’m supposed to cover my head and hair because God supposedly finds the sight of me obscene and offensive, I wouldn’t wear a head covering either.

    I’m on Michelle’s side all the way here.

    And by the way, Drudge just points to interesting stories. Drudge doesn’t express an opinion them.

    • #5
    • January 28, 2015, at 10:01 AM PST
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  6. Arahant Member

    MarciN: Do they think God is offended by all women everywhere? The very sight of a woman’s hair makes God angry? Any woman at all? Really? Is this a modesty thing–so a woman’s hair and head is obscene for some reason to Muslims? Like a swear word would be to me?

    It is a modesty thing. The hair is a woman’s glory, in their culture, so she should only be sharing it with her husband, not every man who passes by. Likewise, the veils can be the same. They hide her beauty so that men are not tempted. Again, their view, certainly not mine.

    • #6
    • January 28, 2015, at 10:05 AM PST
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  7. Richard Fulmer Member

    Two thumbs way up for the First Lady. (I can’t believe I just wrote that)

    • #7
    • January 28, 2015, at 10:15 AM PST
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  8. MarciN Member

    Arahant: It is a modesty thing. The hair is a woman’s glory, in their culture, so she should only be sharing it with her husband, not every man who passes by. Likewise, the veils can be the same. They hide her beauty so that men are not tempted. Again, their view, certainly not mine.

    Okay. So it is not a religious issue. It’s a convention and tradition issue.

    So no Muslim should be offended by a woman’s not wearing a head covering in front of a Muslim man. That’s his problem, not Michelle Obama’s. :)

    • #8
    • January 28, 2015, at 10:15 AM PST
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  9. MarciN Member

    Me too. I am all the way behind Michele Obama on this.

    At the height of the Bush Derangement Syndrome during George’s second term, Laura Bush got an approval rating of something like 98 percent when George’s was at something like 20 percent. Too funny.

    Go Michele!

    P.S.: A funny story from Cape Cod: At some point, the girls’ volleyball team (think beaches) did something so amazing that they were invited to the White House. The White House staffers had a fit because the young ladies were wearing flip-flops. George and Laura waved away the worriers and let the girls in the way they were. (Of course, maybe George had some special election campaign affection for any and all flip-flops. :) )

    • #9
    • January 28, 2015, at 10:17 AM PST
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  10. Arahant Member

    MarciN:So it is not a religious issue. It’s a convention and tradition issue.

    So no Muslim should be offended by a woman’s not wearing a head covering in front of a Muslim man.

    Well, yes, it is a religious issue for them, because their “religion” governs all aspects of life. As for a man’s being “offended,” if a young woman wears a string bikini to a classical concert or fine restaurant, should men be offended? Not at all. Might get an eye-full. But is it modest behavior? Is it appropriate attire? Is the man going to respect the woman for her sartorial choices? No. He may wonder if he can bed such a loose woman or rent her favors, but she’s not marrying material. This is the equivalent to a woman in Saudi Arabia with her hair exposed.

    If a man is offended, it is because he thinks of this “loose woman” as a temptress who is engendering impure thoughts in his head.

    To say the least, it is a very different world view.

    • #10
    • January 28, 2015, at 10:28 AM PST
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  11. MarciN Member

    Thank you, Arahant. I have never known why the rule was there.

    I sort of get it. The bikini at the symphony is a good analogy.

    I remember when I was kid women and girls had to wear a head covering in a Catholic church. I was Protestant, and my best friend was Catholic. My mom said it was an issue of respect, and I needed to wear a head covering. But I wasn’t to make the sign of the cross or kneel during Mass. (My mother may have been incorrect about the not kneeling thing. Hard to believe my mother was incorrect about some rule of etiquette, but perhaps.) There were so many rules of etiquette involved for when Catholics and Protestants worshiped together.

    So perhaps Michele is being impolite, but I think it’s her call.

    I’ve always found it interesting that the head coverings in the Catholic Church just went away–no fiat involved.

    • #11
    • January 28, 2015, at 10:34 AM PST
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  12. Arahant Member

    MarciN: So perhaps Michele is being impolite, but I think it’s her call.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with what Michelle was wearing or that she didn’t bother to cover for the Saudis. I may be able to coherently voice their concerns, but that doesn’t mean I agree or even like their culture.

    • #12
    • January 28, 2015, at 10:45 AM PST
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  13. KC Mulville Inactive

    Well she is in Riyadh with her husband, first and foremost, to show respect for the dead. That ought to count for something.

    • #13
    • January 28, 2015, at 11:46 AM PST
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  14. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MarciN: the girls’ volleyball team (think beaches)

    I usually do.

    • #14
    • January 28, 2015, at 12:08 PM PST
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  15. EThompson Inactive

    Civilized societies allow for cultural differences. For example, Americans are not required to curtsy to the Queen and apparently are even allowed to give her a bear hug even though I may never recover from that inappropriate political statement and tacky behavior.

    Pls note, however, that W was criticized heavily for giving Angela Merkel a friendly shoulder rub.

    • #15
    • January 28, 2015, at 12:45 PM PST
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  16. EThompson Inactive

    MarciN:But why would Muslims expect non-Muslims to cover their head and hair? Do they think God is offended by all women everywhere?

    Yes.

    • #16
    • January 28, 2015, at 1:18 PM PST
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  17. Zafar Member

    Imagine that a woman came to officially represent her country at a US President’s funeral and insisted on going bare breasted because that’s what they feel is normal in her country. Would you be good with that?

    • #17
    • January 28, 2015, at 2:11 PM PST
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  18. Arahant Member

    Zafar:Would you be good with that?

    Oh, yeah. Definitely.

    • #18
    • January 28, 2015, at 2:25 PM PST
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  19. Richard Fulmer Member

    Zafar,
    No, just as I wouldn’t expect the woman to eat human flesh when visiting a tribe of cannibals. “When in Rome” has limits. Those limits include treating women like dirt.

    • #19
    • January 28, 2015, at 2:28 PM PST
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  20. MarciN Member

    Zafar: Imagine that a woman came to officially represent her country at a US President’s funeral and insisted on going bare breasted because that’s what they feel is normal in her country. Would you be good with that?

    So a woman’s hair is offensive like nudity.

    Wow.

    Again, put me on Michele’s team here. :)

    • #20
    • January 28, 2015, at 3:03 PM PST
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  21. EThompson Inactive

    Zafar:Imagine that a woman came to officially represent her country at a US President’s funeral and insisted on going bare breasted because that’s what they feel is normal in her country.Would you be good with that?

    I think that’s an unusual comparison to make.

    • #21
    • January 28, 2015, at 3:06 PM PST
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  22. Zafar Member

    MarciN: So a woman’s hair is offensive like nudity.

    Nudity is offensive?

    • #22
    • January 28, 2015, at 3:59 PM PST
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  23. Richard Fulmer Member

    Zafar,
    Dressing in accordance with a nation’s customs implies respect for that nation. What is it that you respect about Saudi Arabia? Their flogging of people who support freedom? What about stoning women accused of burning pages in the Koran or of infidelity? Perhaps their torture of gays? Maybe it’s their funding of schools of hate around the world? Their support for the violent Wahabi sect? Their anti-Semitism?

    • #23
    • January 28, 2015, at 4:21 PM PST
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  24. Zafar Member

    Richard Fulmer: Dressing in accordance with a nation’s customs implies respect for that nation.

    Wrt funerals – If I went to your funeral/condolence thingie I would show respect for your family’s beliefs. If I felt I couldn’t in good conscience do that, I wouldn’t go.

    Wrt diplomacy, Michelle Obama might better have stayed away.

    Wrt domestic politics, she did a smart thing.

    • #24
    • January 28, 2015, at 4:51 PM PST
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  25. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I agree that the particular circumstances matter. A funeral is not a time to make a statement against the grieving.

    On the other hand, I agree that some cultures and customs merit tolerance while others don’t. Saudi Arabia should never have been treated as an ally nation, in which case funeral attendance would not have been an issue.

    There are settings in which it might reasonably be deemed appropriate to limit individuality through attire. In business, for example, Western men are often expected to wear nearly identical suits, presumably to promote a team culture and even footing between negotiating partners (though these reasons have long been forgotten, if they ever existed). In church worship, dress standards often exist to limit distractions and to discourage vain competition (dressing to impress each other, rather than dressing to honor God).

    I would not object to women being completely covered in limited situations. But the Saudi practice is not so limited. It is oppressive and thus intolerable.

    • #25
    • January 28, 2015, at 5:18 PM PST
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  26. Richard Fulmer Member

    Zafar:

    Richard Fulmer: Dressing in accordance with a nation’s customs implies respect for that nation.

    Wrt funerals – If I went to your funeral/condolence thingie I would show respect for your family’s beliefs. If I felt I couldn’t in good conscience do that, I wouldn’t go.

    Wrt diplomacy, Michelle Obama might better have stayed away.

    Wrt domestic politics, she did a smart thing.

    Agreed. A funeral is neither the time or the place to make a political statement. Let’s hope that you don’t have to come to my funeral/condolence thingie for quite some time.

    • #26
    • January 28, 2015, at 6:56 PM PST
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  27. Zafar Member

    Richard Fulmer: Let’s hope that you don’t have to come to my funeral/condolence thingie for quite some time.

    Please do come to mine first.

    Dress code: casual.

    • #27
    • January 28, 2015, at 8:56 PM PST
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  28. The Question Inactive

    Thank you all for this. I had earlier expressed my support for the First Lady on Facebook, and I had hard time believing what I was saying. Thank you for the confirmation. It’s nice to have reassurance that I don’t just oppose the Obamas as a reflex, but because of their actions and policies.

    • #28
    • January 29, 2015, at 7:50 AM PST
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  29. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    Zafar:Imagine that a woman came to officially represent her country at a US President’s funeral and insisted on going bare breasted because that’s what they feel is normal in her country.Would you be good with that?

    That depends. Is she a cheerleader?

    • #29
    • January 29, 2015, at 7:52 AM PST
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  30. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian Clendinen Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Aaron Miller: When in Riyadh, do as the Saudis do?

     

    Only if the Saudis when in D.C. do as Americans do, but since they don’t, screw your customs because you can’t respect ours.

    This is a nation that won’t let a single church building in their capital but are somehow offended when New Yorkers don’t want an Islam center next to one of their holy sites, that is only a holy site because of Islam.

    • #30
    • January 29, 2015, at 7:52 AM PST
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