by R. Jason Huf
Jokes about snakes in the road aside, I have always considered being an attorney to be a great honor and privilege. I practice law, and the law is the ultimate guardian of equality and fair play. I cannot imagine wanting to do anything else for a living.
Some of the really great aspects of being a lawyer, especially one with my particular practice areas, are the things I learn and the people I meet.
Just last year, young Miss Renad T. Amjad became only the third lady in the entire history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to officially register as a Female Trainee Lawyer with the Saudi Ministry of Justice.
You can imagine how deeply honored I was when Renad asked to meet with me in New York. She is a fascinating, intelligent, courageous and cheerful young lady who, after being one of those to break a Concrete Ceiling, has a bright future ahead of her. In my line of work, this was akin to meeting Jackie Robinson, and was one of the great thrills of my career.
(I should note here that, being modest and outwardly humble, Renad is not entirely comfortable with the comparison to Jackie Robinson, citing her lack of experience as a lawyer thus far. I will also note here that as she becomes more experienced as a lawyer, she will get used to it - because she's stuck with it.)
That's on a personal note. Professionally, Renad is a living, breathing demonstration of the fact that change is coming to Saudi Arabia.
Such change may be incremental, but incremental does not mean insignificant. Just look this young lady in the eye and tell her that her accomplishments are "insignificant". I dare you.
There are those who advocate for a faster pace of reforms in Saudi Arabia on the subject of women's rights, and more generally. However, I strongly believe that King Abdullah has been shrewd in his implementation of incremental, but meaningful, reform. A broader, faster-paced program of reform would risk destabilizing the Kingdom, which would, in turn, risk destabilizing the region and threaten to send economic shock waves throughout the world.
Saudi Arabia may be insular, but it's not isolated. Just as events there impact the global economy, international economic activity - including and especially trade - has had an impact on the Kingdom. And, it shall continue to do so.
I have never been one to liberally laud Middle Eastern rulers, but King Abdullah knows his people and is familiar with the different elements in his country with whom he exercises power. To maintain stability, his people need to enjoy greater freedom and feel a larger sense of "ownership" of their lives and their country. But, to move too quickly in that direction would innately threaten such stability. It is a difficult balance beam to walk successfully.
The subject matters and pace of reforms in Saudi Arabia have been thoughtful, and ably executed, thus far. We will see how things progress from here.
For now, I think I will just enjoy drinking tea with Jackie Robinson.
- Jason Huf
New York, NY, USA
May 15, 2014