I want to thank King Abdullah, again, for his decision to make the national day a public holiday. Would this increase the national spirit of Saudis in a positive way? Since it is just the second time we live this occasion, it is still early to tell, but hopefully it will. Was this decision prompted by terrorist attacks, thinking that patriotism would discourage the so-called “misguided group”? Maybe, but this by all means is no excuse for not enjoying the day off.
During the long weekend, I had the chance to meet a fellow Kuwaiti blogger. It was around 11 pm, and we were stuck in the congested Olaya St. Next to us, there were a few young men waving Saudi flags cheerfully inside their car. Few minutes later, a police car appeared and blocked off the road of the flag wavers. They forced them to break out of the stream to a side street. I followed them, partly out of curiosity, but mainly to get rid of the tension of driving very slowly in a crowded street. There they were, the officer was questioning the boys, while I was trying to imagine what kind of conversation they were having. “These boys are struggling to express their patriotism,” I told my friend, who was rather amused and entertained by the previous scene.
For years, Islamists have opposed celebrating the national day, because according to them “Muslims have only two occasions to celebrate: Eid Al Adha and Eid Al Fitr.” They also use the same lame excuse to ban celebrating any occasion related to dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. However, two years ago they surrendered to a middle ground solution: it is permissible to celebrate the National Day provided you won’t call it “National Eid,” which was totally fine with the rest of us, because if a play on words is all what it takes to make these stubborns change their wicked minds, then be it.
The National Day is a time of pride and joy, but it is also a time to read our history and think about the future. Abdul Aziz was an extraordinary man, and unifying this huge country was a tremendous achievement; this is something we all agree on. That was 74 years ago, and we have gone a long way since then. However, we need to admit that some mistakes were made, and turning a blind eye to these mistakes did not, and will never, do us any good. The domination of a certain extreme mindset on many life aspects here has delivered many problems, including terrorism, which we saw first exported to different parts of the world, and later we found it hitting us in the heart of our homeland.
Many people would disagree, and that’s alright. We would be much, much better off if we can disagree, but still respect each other regardless of our differences. And no matter how hard the disagreement can get, no one should be allowed to question the loyalty of the rest of his countrymen. As I said before, Saudi Arabia is huge country, where people come from different origins and backgrounds, therefor, diversity is inevitable. No one should be denied the right to maintain his heritage, and no one should be allowed to force others to his own agenda. In this case, our differences does not matter, because I believe we have one much more important thing in common after all: we love this country.
Looking forward to the future, I wonder: do we dare to dream? I, for one, do. I dare. And I don’t have only one dream; I have many dreams actually: I want to live to see the day when this country becomes a real democracy with a fully elected parliament; when freedom of expression is guaranteed to all, and no one is afraid to speak his mind no more; when women have their full rights and stand on equal foot with men. This was to name a few. Call me a dreamer. Maybe I am. I know one thing for sure, however: change is coming. This country is changing, not as quickly as I wish maybe, but it is changing nevertheless. Probably I’m just a young lad who can’t wait for this to happen, but who can blame me? If it wasn’t for the young to push change then who would?
My friend and I went to Java Cafe on King Abdul Aziz Rd., and on the other side of the road, we could see the building of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. He was amazed by how big and stylish this coffeehouse was. “Revolution is coming to Saudi Arabia,” my friend said. I was startled by the word revolution. The increase and popularity of coffee shops means that people want to talk, he explained, and this is how the French Revolution was started, one cup of coffee at a time. It was getting late, so I dropped my friend at the hotel. Meanwhile, my head was turning between the ideas of revolution and my mentioned above dreams.