Friday, June 25, 2010

Saudi youth are struggling with their identities

Young people in Saudi Arabia are torn between conservative ideology at home and the world outside

Fahad Faruqui, Friday 25 June 2010

".....They weren't talking about politics, but about themselves and their desire to live the life they choose. Their demands may seem mundane, but in a way, they are far more radical than calling for democracy or political reform because they strike at the core of Saudi Arabia's social system and its religious underpinnings.

Fatima, one of the youngsters in the programme, wants to brighten up the wardrobe of Saudi women, who are traditionally dressed from head to foot in black. Though coloured abayas may not seem a revolutionary idea, it's pretty shocking in a country where riding a bicycle wearing an Arsenal soccer shirt with a cap in order to pass as a man is enough to get a woman arrested.

Only last month, 10 emo girls in Dammam were arrested for infringing the dress code. They were released after their parents gave a written apology. But the question is: did the arrest reform the girls? Or did they turn into hardheaded rebels? I think the latter.

A decade ago, I studied with one such Saudi girl at Columbia University. She turned atheist because of how the society/religion ridiculed individualism. Nothing would convince her that society and religion are two different entities, which can overlap for better or worse – in her case for the worse.

Coercive means to impose moral laws have never had a positive outcome, which is also evident from recent incidents of a Saudi woman shooting a member of the religious police and another woman wrestling down a morality cop.....

Rather than providing guidance geared towards acquiring wisdom through hard experience – something that frankly takes time and work – Saudi society is following a different and easier tack. They are given a list of dos and don'ts, most of which make little sense to them, with the threat of imprisonment and whipping sticks if they fail to comply. What needs to be done is fairly obvious. But is the society ready for change?......"

No comments: