What's happening in Saudi Arabia?

Time for Islamic scholars to review the situation and rein in the slide

Published: 05:11 PM, 13 Feb, 2020
What's happening in Saudi Arabia?
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An agency report has been published by a Karachi-based English newspaper about the rapidly changing culture of Saudi Arabia, which depicts the sea change that has taken place in the recent past and which should be matter of serious concern for Muslims across the world for whom Islamic values are important.

Since Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, Muslim countries take it as a role model and try to emulate all what is possible for them. And if what is happening in the kingdom under the young leadership is permissible then followers of the sacred religion would have to redefine the prohibited areas.

The changes reported in the report may be liked and appreciated by the West but they are not in line with what is allowed in an Islamic society.  And if the same course is treaded in times ahead, then destruction, nothing else, will be the only result.

The Islamic scholars across the world should hold a conference to review the situation as early as possible and work out a course of action to stop the slide in a society from where all Muslims take inspiration.  Any delay in this regard will not be in the interest of Muslims.

The report which should be an eye-opener for Muslims says:

“In Saudi Arabia's rigid past, religious police once swooped down on rose-sellers and anyone peddling red paraphernalia around Valentine's Day, but now a more open -- albeit risky -- dating culture is taking root.

“Pursuing relationships outside of marriage in the conservative Islamic kingdom once amounted to a death wish, and would-be Romeos resorted to pressing phone numbers up against their car window in hope of making contact with women.

Now a sweeping liberalisation drive -- which has rendered the religious police toothless and allowed gender mixing like never before -- has made it easier for young couples to meet in cafes and restaurants”.

The report further says: "Selling red roses was like selling drugs," one young Saudi filmmaker told AFP, sitting in a music-filled Riyadh cafe with his girlfriend while a courting couple gazed into each other's eyes on the next table.

"Even this was once unthinkable -- a woman sitting next to an unrelated man," said the girlfriend, a media professional. "Now women are asking men out."

“Pre-marital relationships remain a cultural minefield though in a country steeped in Islamic tradition and where matchmaking is typically overseen by family elders, forcing couples to keep unsanctioned romance under wraps.

“Covert dating operations illustrate how Saudi Arabia's mainly young population is often compelled to lead dual lives in the pursuit of social liberties that may outstrip the kingdom's capacity for change”.

The report continues: In scenes unimaginable until just two years ago, women have been seen swaying on the shoulders of men at music concerts as the kingdom tears down the walls of sex segregation.

There is no doubt that Crown Prince MBS has done a lot to give the women their rights. He is introducing what he calls moderate Islam. He is also doing his best for further economic development of the oil-rich kingdom.

His reforms and policy of openness may be likened to the initiatives taken by Mikhail Gorbachev for the Soviet Union, which was once the only power to challenge the United States. Needless to recall that within years the Soviet Union disintegrated, changing the world politics.

Political observers say that the Saudi leadership should do whatever it can for the wellbeing and prosperity of the country but nothing at the cost of religious and cultural values of Muslims.

There are millions of Muslim and non-Muslim expatriates in the kingdom who are closely watching the changes taking place in various Saudi walks of life. Then millions of Muslims from all over the world visit the kingdom every year to perform Hajj and Umrah. Whatever they see in the kingdom has a lasting effect on them. Back home they share their memories with their friends and relatives.

The Saudi leadership should win praise from the Islamic countries, not the West.

Ashraf Mumtaz

The writer is the Deputy Editor of 24 Digital.