For the crime of receiving two unrelated men in her home, a 75-year-old Saudi woman has been sentenced to 40 lashes and four months behind bars. Once again, a nation that is both one of America’s closest allies and brutally oppressive of women finds itself in an awkward light.

The U.S.-Saudi relationship has long been fraught with contradiction. Although it is a major ally in the war on terror, Saudi Arabia was home to most of the 9/11 hijackers and was one of only three states to recognize the Taliban rule of Afghanistan. The Wahabi brand of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia is notoriously strict and zealous. This does not help the country’s image in a time when much of the world associates terrorism with religious fundamentalism.

Los Angeles Times:

Last week, a 75-year-old Saudi woman was sentenced to 40 lashes and four months in prison for receiving two unrelated men in her home.

It didn’t matter that they were only delivering bread, or that she is elderly and practically raised one of the men as her her son. In Saudi Arabia, the law strictly bans a woman from mixing with men unrelated to her by blood or marriage.

The verdict has not yet been carried out. The news created an outcry among intellectuals in the ultraconservative kingdom, where a religiously minded police and judiciary have a wide authority to implement the strict Wahabi vision of Islam.

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