tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Saudi cleric erect over co-ed university

Saudi Arabia's new King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) doesn't exactly roll off the tongue like Oxford, Stanford, or NSCAD, but it's already dropping a lot of jaws.

The main attraction isn't the state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, the DOW-funded chemical R&D program, the eco-friendly architecture of the entire campus, the $10-billion start-up endowment, or the gorgeous landscape of the university set between the desert and the Red Sea.

Nah, the biggest draw to the school are the chicks. KAUST is Saudi Arabia's first co-educational university, a fact which has drawn the ire of conservative clerics such as Sheikh Saad bin Nasser al-Shithri, a member of the influential Council of Senior Clerics.

Sheikh al-Shithri, who also objected to the university's teaching of such controversial topics as evolution, relativity and gravity, was especially incensed at the admission of women to the school, which he believes contravenes Saudi interpretation of Islamic Law.

"Look," he said. "I've got nothing against women. It's just that, at university... well, have you seen the film Animal House? All those nice boys came to university to study in an austere environment, but when they discovered women they turned to drugs, sex, and these very improper shenanigans like 'road trips' and 'toga parties.' After that, even if they managed to graduate they'd be no good to society."*

After his comments sparked an outrage, Sheikh al-Shithri tried to back down from the controversy, saying he wasn't opposed to all forms of sexual expression at KAUST. For example, of the university's absurdly superfluous and hackneyed phallic seaside tower he approved enthusiastically. "But," he concluded, "that's the only erection we want to have on this campus."

Since the university opened last month, Sheikh al-Shithri has been asked to step down from the Council of Senior Clerics. None of them care to be reminded that they never got to go to a toga party, either.

* - What Sheikh al-Shithri actually said was more like, "When men mix with women, their hearts burn, and they will be diverted from their main goal, which is education." However, like Saudi Islamic Law, translation has many interpretations.

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