Saudi Arabia's dual identity
This is a discussion on Saudi Arabia's dual identity within the Global Affairs forums, part of the Main Topics category; Saudi Arabia's dual identity With Saudi Arabia now earning more than $1bn (£500m) a day in oil revenues, its rulers ...
- 20th June 2008 #1
Saudi Arabia's dual identitySaudi Arabia's dual identity
With Saudi Arabia now earning more than $1bn (£500m) a day in oil revenues, its rulers are under increasing pressure to speed up the process of social change.
The auto mall in Jeddah is a temple to the car and consumerism.
The glitzy showrooms are filled with gleaming motors. Only a few are sensible family vehicles. Most are gas-guzzling monsters.
With petrol selling at five pence (10 US cents) a litre, Saudi Arabia is the place to buy that Hummer you have always dreamed of.
But nothing in the auto mall prepared us for the fleet of modified cars that a group of young enthusiasts calling themselves the Jeddah Boyz had brought to show us.
Fahad's sleek, red Dodge Charger was my favourite. Like the owner, it was cool if not altogether understated.
Fahad and his fellow Jeddah Boyz spend tens of thousands of dollars modifying their cars.
Then they cruise around town trying to find girls.
To help get around the suffocating restrictions in the kingdom, some have stickers with their e-mail address pasted to the back windscreen.
Officials say 70% of Saudis are under 24
This, they maintain, is a failsafe way of meeting young women.
Wealth and globalisation are changing parts of Saudi Arabia.
Sure, this remains a deeply conservative kingdom, dominated by tribes and a clerical establishment, but it is also a youthful country. Officials say 70% of Saudis are under 24.
Many, especially in the cities, are heavily influenced by Western culture.
That is most obvious in the shopping malls that are springing up in Jeddah and it is in places like this that girls and boys secretly meet.
In one corridor, I spotted a teenage girl talking to a young man.
Her abaya - the black all-enveloping gown that Saudi women are obliged to wear - was open, exposing a red top and just the slightest glimpse of her cleavage.
If the religious police had seen the pair, they would have been in serious trouble, but the owners of this mall are influential enough to make it clear to the mutaween (the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) that they are not welcome here.
Indeed during my 10-day stay in Jeddah, I did not see these guardians of morality once.
That is not to say that they have disappeared though.
I was told that one evening the religious police went into a Western coffee shop in the city centre and found a couple who were unrelated, sitting together.
The pair were hauled outside.
The coffee shop then emptied and a group of young men attacked the religious police.
The boy and girl got away and the religious police were severely beaten.
If true, this story is remarkable. A direct challenge to the religious police on one of the main streets of Saudi Arabia's commercial capital.
But Jeddah is a cosmopolitan city and not, perhaps, representative of the entire kingdom.
For thousands of years, this has been a trading port, as well as the gateway for pilgrims on their way to Mecca.
It could not be more different from the capital, Riyadh, in the heart of the Nejd, the desolate centre of the country where the royal family - the House of Saud - comes from.
People in Jeddah say that it is perhaps inevitable that the monarch, King Abdullah, should choose a site near Jeddah for his pet project.
In just 15 years he is promising that a city the size of Washington DC will rise from the sands.
The reformers will tell you that the King Abdullah Economic City will be at the vanguard of social change.
The king is also believed to be in favour of a change to the law that prevents women driving. Campaigners hope that this could mean that the ban is lifted soon.
His reformist credentials received another boost when he organised a major international conference between Sunni and Shia religious leaders in Mecca recently, to increase dialogue between the sects.
But despite being the monarch, there is a sense that King Abdullah is not the sole ruler.
The Interior Minister, Prince Naif, and his son are said to be influential forces of conservatism.
There were reports that the ministry closed down three Shia mosques in the east of the country on the day that the Mecca conference began.
A warning from the traditionalists, some observers suggest.
Saudis have had opportunities for change in the past but there is a sense among the young people we met in Jeddah that this time it may be different.
The royal succession will be critical though.
The monarch is an old man and the crown prince, Sultan, is unwell.
King Abdullah is believed to want the next generation of 60-somethings to take control of the monarchy after his death.
The process of choosing the King of Saudi Arabia is even more opaque than the business of selecting a new pope.
But the competing sections of the House of Saud are believed to be in extensive negotiations at the moment.
The choices that they make will have a great bearing on the future of the kingdom.
For youngsters like the Jeddah Boyz and that couple in the mall, the choice is clear.
Yes, they say, the kingdom may be founded on Islam but, if the country is to move forward, there must be social freedoms to accompany the wealth and economic reform.
From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Thursday, 19 June, 2008 at 1100 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/06/19 14:38:43 GMT...and Allah has preferred the Mujahideen above those who sit by a huge reward - An Nisaa 95
- 20th June 2008 #2
It seems like every single Kaafir journalist in Saudi Arabia is on holy mission to find all kinds of filth: stupid teenagers, greedy secularist filthy rich merchants, juvenile delinquents.
That's the nature of journalism.
I have been for 3 weeks in S.Arabia and all I noticed were signs of organized piety.
To really appreciate what is the preciousness of the environment in S. Arabia to a Muslim is, I advise to take a trip for 3 weeks and return back to your Kuffaar neighborhoods and see a difference.
Those BBC journalists are pigs who in every even most clean environment will find what they want: filth.
Surely the situation in S.Arabia could be improved.
How about stoning that couple in the coffee shop right on the spot?
How about chopping the heads of every teenager that attacked religious police right on the spot?
How about publicly flogging the owners of the filthy market that forbids Good and enjoins Evil by not allowing the religious police in there?
- 20th June 2008 #3
I assume if you only came for 3 weeks then you came on a umrah/hajj visa which would restrict you to the cities of Makkah and Madinah.
Never the less your rebuttal of the journalist, in all honesty, seems somewhat ill informed.
Anyone living here is very aware that these things do go on. The shuyukh are well aware of the state of the youth and speak out against the evils that they see. Evils, which are often very visible.
It's much better than any Western city (which is why I'm here) but don't be under the delusion that there is nothing rotten going on.
I don't think it was perceptive journalism on the BBC's part at all they were merely stating the obvious.
You don't have to drive very far to find some Saudi youth in a flash car with his email address on the back window. They spend their weekends driving around in circles in the shopping areas blasting loud music, singing and clapping to attract attention to themselves.
Visiting a mall is saddening, particularly the fun fairs. It's like a discreet meat market. Groups of young Muslims walking around checking each other out, quickly meeting up to exchange brief conversations or phone numbers for later rendezvous.
Young men constantly checking their bluetooth to see who's in the area so that they can start sending pictures/video clips to them.
Young ladies who take money to pretend to be young men's family in order to get them past guards into the "family" only malls.
The reality is that there is a lot of boy/girl courting going on (and boy/boy to be absolutely frank), some less discreet than others.
The quality of women covering is declining. You get young ladies walking with open abayas, see through niqabs/hijabs/abayas, some even not wearing head covering at all (and I don't mean just the ex-pats and maids).
Just last Wednesday on the way home from work we drove past a group of four men and three women, all the women were wearing shorts. We felt like we'd taken a wrong turning and ended up in London.
The religious police are under a lot of pressure from influential secularists and their media. The papers love stories about their "mistakes" and call for a reduction in their power. Even their visibility is reduced compared to years gone by. I think I've seen the religious police walking around, maybe three times in two years.
The scholars are aware that their is something amiss in the society, they do speak out against it and there are pious individuals with clout who support them.
There is a big psychological battle for the minds and hearts of the people going on in Saudi Arabia at the moment, between the religious and the secularists.
But the solution is certainly not in what you described below.
Rich people can and do get away with a lot of things. It tends to be the poorer that actually get punished for what they're caught doing rather than the rich.
Coming for 'umrah or visiting Madinah won't really expose you to the society as a whole. You'll likely be on a spiritual high and not notice some things or be surrounded by others on a similar high and assume that this is what it's like.
But even then you can still see a lot of wrong. On my first 'umrah I saw these two guys driving around sort of kerb crawling whistling at some sisters within a 2 minute walk from the haram!
- 20th June 2008 #4
Thanks for the comments akhi Ibn Adam. for many of us it is a rare insight. Just goes to prove that maybe there are more aspects of the direction KSA is taking that are frankly disturbing.
JK...and Allah has preferred the Mujahideen above those who sit by a huge reward - An Nisaa 95
- 20th June 2008 #5
- Join Date
- Mar 2008
- arlington, virginia
- 20th June 2008 #6
You missed two of my points completely:
1. I was talking about BBC seeing only dirt. Your comments are missing this point.
2. (a) Khulafa can suspend or increase the punishment for Hudd crimes. (b) I did not say there is no Qadhi on the spot. (c) I admit exaggeration, but my point was not what exactly what would happen, my point was that the government should crack down on all types of behavior like this, Talibaan style.
- 20th June 2008 #7
When was the last time you turned on the BBC and heard the news anchor say?
London man returns home to find his house hasn't been broken into.
Thousands of people still alive and well all around the country.
Majority of children in the UK have never suffered any form of abuse."
Regarding the Taliban analogy then I'd disagree. We shouldn't just eradicate the symptoms of disease, we should treat the causes.
Ask yourself why do the youth run around like salivating wolves when they see the opposite sex here?
A large part of it is because the "culture" over here places unaffordably high mahr rates on marriage and there is, I'm sorry to say, tribalism in who you can or can't marry (Oh, he doesn't have a tribe you can't marry him).
So imagine you're a Saudi youth and you're looking at working until your 35 to be able to afford the wedding ceremony, mahr, car, house, maid and driver that your potential bride's family is requiring upfront; and you've got hormones running through on overdrive. Of course some of them are going astray and they're not just going astray with the opposite sex some are also going astray with their own.
Is the solution running through the streets whipping people to ensure marriage is made easy for the young or is it educating the people to prefer the Sunnah over their culture?
Even when you speak to some of the scholars here you here statements like "In these days you cannot deal with the people harshly because they'll run from the knowledge."
- 20th June 2008 #8
Bro Ibn Adam, is it *really* a battle between secularism and Islam, or is it a battle between the pious and 'reformists' etc? I'm assuming there are a zillion distinct gradations in the debate- surely out-and-out secularism is very, very rare?
- 21st June 2008 #9
- Join Date
- May 2008
Salaams I think the trend is to follow what they think the punters want’ people are not bothered about the effects of sin’ just the sell’ I have been to these malls in Jeddah and personally I feel they are much the same as the ones here in my home town in blighty’ but regardless people have chosen to build just as they have built around the sacred house’ the price of all things has been to drop Islamic shariah for new government regulations adopted those in charge of planning have not heeded the advice from the people of knowledge’ the secularist that promote business and enterprise’ have no considerations for the effects of this growth for instance all the steel imported to build in Saudi is from Germany on a buy now pay latter scheme’ the blessings of hajj and omarah have been sold and packaged in a “dream holiday type scenario’ the price of everything has doubled and tripled for the seeker of Allah’s pleasure the peak periods night prayers Ramadan’ the hajj’ we are watching a corruption of everything that we held as sacred, little honour has been left’ the feelings of charity’ and loving for Allah’s sake have been exploited by the greedy and the selfish imposters who daily act the role of the lost and impoverished’ Mecca seems to be a magnet for everything good and bad’ money has taken over people to such an extent that you can often feel that is the main stay of my trip to Saudi to be fleeced’ the heart can be heavy like lead at the decline and the memory of how things were!
- 21st June 2008 #10
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