Controversy over the new Saudi-backed golf league came to a head last week when a Tournament organized by Donald Trump at his namesake course in New Jersey.
But apart from some sycophantic coverage from the fashion press, little attention was paid to a fashion show on Manhattan’s West 23rd Street that is another facet of an ongoing Saudi effort to pass itself off as modern and progressive.
“SAUDI HERITAGE; EXHIBITION OF FASHION PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE”, read the flyer handed out by a well-groomed young American at the entrance.
For Americans, and New Yorkers in particular, the Saudi past stretches back two decades to 9/11. The entrance to another exhibit, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, just over two miles south of the current fashion show, has photos of the 19 hijackers, 17 of whom were Saudi, as was the al Qaeda leader. , Osama bin Laden. An FBI report released earlier this year found “there is a 50/50 chance” that a Saudi intelligence agent named Omar al-Bayoumi “I had advance knowledge that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were going to happen.” The report says that at the time of the attack, al-Bayoumi was being paid by Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, the Saudi ambassador to the US. One question still unanswered is whether Bandar was aware that al-Bayoumi provided logistical support. to the first two hijackers, who arrived in the United States in 2000.
The more recent Saudi past is reflected in another report, this one from the US Director of National Intelligence on the death and dismemberment by bone saw of Washington Point of Salecolumnist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
“We assess that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the executive summary of the February 2021 report says. “We base this assessment on the the Crown Prince’s control of decision-making in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for the use of violent measures to silence dissidents in abroad. including Khashoggi.”
The summary adds: “Since 2017, the Crown Prince has been in complete control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, so it is highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without authorization from the Kingdom.” Heir Prince”.
With the entire kingdom under his control, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) heads into a future outlined on an official government website, “Saudi Vision 2030.”
“A roadmap drawn up by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, to harness the strengths God gave us: our strategic position, investment power, and place at the center of the Arab and Islamic worlds,” the site says. “The full attention of the Kingdom and our Leadership is on harnessing our potential to achieve our ambitions.”
He continues: “Since the launch of the vision, we have built a foundation, during which unprecedented reforms were made to the operating model of the public sector, the economy and society as a whole. This laid the foundation for future success.”
The reforms included a moderate relaxation of restrictions on what women can wear in public. There was also a modest expansion in the roles they can take on in the workplace. One notable example was the appointment in 2019 of the first woman to serve as a foreign envoy. Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud was appointed Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States in February 2019. Her father held the same position at the time of 9/11, and her appointment could be seen as a way of telling Americans who called the accomplices. to be held accountable for the attack to piss off. It may also have been simple indifference.
The timing of the quote suggests another message, one that came five months after Khashoggi’s assassination at a Saudi consulate in Turkey. The use of a bone saw on an ultimately harmless critic may have caused many people to see MBS as a murderous barbarian, but there was also this historic first for Saudi women. And with her Vision of her 2030, MBS said that there would be more firsts and great things to come.
On July 26, the Saudi Fashion Commission, under the auspices of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture, opened the New York Fashion Expo of 100 Saudi Arabian Brands, comprised of 1,500 Saudi designers. Ambassador Princess Reema, a figure with ties to Saudi Arabia’s past, present and future, delivered a speech at the opening of the 12-day show.
“The collections you see here are inspired by Arabia, but they’re made for the world,” Reema said. “Creativity is not born in a single country. Culture is not defined by a border. And what you’re about to see is a symbol that has nothing to do with politics, that has nothing to do with governments, but has everything to do with the human spirit.”
Late Friday morning, West 23rd Street was packed with New Yorkers and tourists, but they walked past the young man with a stack of flyers in front of the Saudi fashion show. Aside from the staff, there were only three people inside, a female reporter who put on a mask as she entered.
“Masks are optional,” said a security guard at the entrance.
Neither the guard nor the two women at the check-in counter covered their faces. But the whole display seemed to be a big cover-up of some other kind. Or maybe the best way to view the show was as a gold bone saw; finery displayed by a murderous barbarian. There are dazzling variations on traditional abayas, ones a woman might want even though the religious police have stopped forcing them to wear robe-like dresses. The first section of the show has “MODEST” emblazoned on the wall in large black letters. The mannequins in the exhibition do not have facial features, so veils are not a problem.
The show also has clothes for men, including a stylish outfit from a fashion line called JINA headed by a woman, Princess Noura bint Talal Al Saud. An explanatory note says that the piece was inspired by what is “typically worn during the ‘Majdi Ardha,’ the dance of war and victory.”