Simple Things

abeer21_Arab News offers this glimpse into the lives of some Saudi girls who are studying in the Netherlands. They talk about adapting to life in a liberal society; about how does it feel to be independent and free. They also talk about things like riding a bicycle or doing their own paperwork. Simple things, sure, but are they going to accept being denied of these things, let alone other much more important things, when they come back?

When I wrote about the scholarships girls back in November and suggested that they will play a pivotal role in reforming the country, some people disagreed and argued that this will not happen because the girls are simply as hypocrite as the guys. I think that’s a possibility, but I’d like to remain optimistic.

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25 thoughts on “Simple Things

  1. good questions..

    i wonder – if the girls dont return or even worse if they do and start to break rules.. will that cause impact the prospects of others to have access to such education? can it?

  2. Even if the women do result as hypocritical as the men, that too can have a reforming effect.

    In a sense, a growing level of hypocrisy (a situation in which one says one thing, thinks another thing, and acts in a third manner) will itself bring change.

    Eventually society will recognize that thoughts, words and deeds must more closely align.

    And, we will all recognize that the current situation with a society too dominated by the ulemaa is untenable, and that this must change.

  3. I wouldn’t be that optimistic!
    I think that the kind of mentality we grow up with here in KSA transcends time and place.
    nearly every professor who taught me as a students showed the same typical mentality we’ve been witnessing here for years. Keep in mind that all of those professors got their PhD abroad.
    A person’s mentality can change regardless of the circumstances if that person is ready to seek reason and logic. But if that person is still living the illusion that his or her country is perfect, they would resist positive change, viewing it as a form of brainwashing, or a Zionist plan on the part of an unknown third party (the popular conspiracy theory)

    Also, keep in mind that if those scholarship girls went back, they’d be afraid to express their views so as not to face the same old accusations every single person who had been abroad faced.
    I haven’t been out the country since the day I was born, still I was described as westernized whenever I expressed my opinion. why? cause I speak English.
    in the simple opinion of our population, language can truly affect your brains! which is why people demanded some universities to close down English departments, claiming that they would make their kids morally corrupt

    can our mentality get even more superficial?

  4. I read the article, They are not only studying in the Netherlands, actually in my city: Groningen!
    Groningen has an excellent university!

    If anybody studying here needs any help in Groningen, I’d be happy to be of service! ;)

    I do not see any reason to think these students would suddenly start ”breaking rules”! What are they nothing but programmed automatons? to be naturally and irrevocally re-programmed just by spending a few years abroad?

    They seemed to me to be very intelligent well-balanced persons, perfectely capable of making up their own minds, and holding on to their own values.

  5. I’s like to know what those women studying abroad think. Given that they’ve been outside their home country and have experienced different attitudes and cultures, what are their views? Are they ready to go home to a country that forbids them to drive a car or take a full, equal role in society?

    As a women who grew up in a society that denigrated my rights as a full human being, I fought against the old culture, even to my parents. I hated being thought of or treated as something less than a capable, intelligent human being. Even with a college education, I was still considered a lesser being than men who barely – or not even – had a high school education.

    Do you know how much that hurt?

    Mohammad said that Allah gave equal rights to woman as to men. Mohammad’s own wife owned the caravans that supported Mohammad. His daughter was a revered leader.

    Why, then, do antiquated tribal rules, predating Mohammad, continue to exist regarding women’s right and opportunities? And why do women have to fight for the right to be considered a full human being, with potentially a superior intellect? Are men so afraid of women’s abilities and talents and intellect that they are afraid to compete based on their own merits? Do men, in any society, really need women to be inferior in order for them – the men – to feel superior and, thus, good about themselves?

    If Saudi society truly followed Allah, they would be the first and foremost to grant full rights to women.

    Pray Allah that will soon occur.

  6. “I haven’t been out the country since the day I was born, still I was described as westernized whenever I expressed my opinion. why? cause I speak English.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong but we speak a language where it delivers the message beyond the barriers of our community.

    “I do not see any reason to think these students would suddenly start ”breaking rules”!”

    True to that, because studying from another country & coming back won’t be a problem but more like it’s our choice weather to speak out or shut up. But really I have to give credit to those who spent abroad studying & came back that you guys will know better of how the world runs & make a better judgement. In the end like I said it starts from within us to make a difference.

    “It’s incredible how spending a few years abroad transforms people. Clearly, we are missing too much here in Saudi.”

    Yupp imagine that… the people in Saudi Arabia should reach to the world & embrace it. Forget of being narrow minded or being afraid of changes. I mean it’s there so all we have to do is accept it & work things out.


  7. My thoughts as an expat of many years in Morocco is that if these women are ALLOWED to go and study in Europe, and live alone, then they are NOT coming from conservative families. If and when they go back to Saudi, CONSERVATIVE families might not want their sons to marry these girls (even if their “honor” is intact) just because they might have picked up more modern ideas. On the other hand, these girls will probably enjoy the full support of their own families when then return, in living a more modern lifestyle (at least within the family) than a girl who was never allowed to go and study abroad.

    A very interesting post.

    Madame Monet, in Morocco
    Writing, Painting, Music, and Wine

  8. I think the idea that these girls will be picking up foreign ways is much too paranoid. These young women will be the forerunners of change in your country inshaallah and they and their fellow young men will form a new generation of Saudis who will work together for the country’s development.

  9. off topic

    I have not yet read anything about the bloodshed in Gaza on Saudi Blogs , any idea why ? Do saudis still care about the palestinian issue , since most blogs are very casual talking about routine daily life , shopping , gossiping .

  10. *

    off topic

    I have not yet read anything about the bloodshed in Gaza on Saudi Blogs , any idea why ? Do saudis still care about the palestinian issue , since most blogs are very casual talking about routine daily life , shopping , gossiping .
    Because the government would arrest us.

    Back on topic:

    I don’t believe that they will play a “pivotal” role in reforming the country.


    By the time you’re 20 years old, it is very difficult to change what you have already been accustomed to in your formative childhood years.

    Add to that the fact that most of these girls probably already come from liberal families that allow them to travel abroad alone and it probably won’t increase the number of liberals in the country.

    BTW, I’m probably the most conservative guy commenting on your blog but would you believe I’ve spent 8 years of my life living abroad as a child in Canada during elementary school and then highschool? The “western effect” is far too exaggerated.

  11. yaa, they will make a difference for sure…. having the chance to interact and live in diff. culture will add defiantly, however it is depend on many factor such as age and background of those girls…I am there now and I start to look inside me as human… sadly to sau this but living in Riyadh always highlight how u look rather than who ur?
    I am not driving and not intending to do cause the public transportation is enough and sometime I walk if it is for 15- 20 mins.
    What I want to say is that I do believe change will be in positive direction

  12. off topic

    I have not yet read anything about the bloodshed in Gaza on Saudi Blogs , any idea why ? Do saudis still care about the palestinian issue , since most blogs are very casual talking about routine daily life , shopping , gossiping

    That’s because saudis don’t give a SHIT about anybody but themselves, if you been to saudi you would know that.

  13. I would urge everyone NOT to denigrate Saudis.

    We are all too often treated by everyone with a simple-minded prejudice as being little more than a petrol refueling station in the midst of sand dunes.

    Prejudice of all kinds, and sweeping generalizations of all kinds are ab initio false.

    Just as there are some self-centered and callous Saudis, there are similar people in all nations on earth.

    Saudis are also war, generous, kind and friendly.

    Much depends on the individual Saudi.

    Just as perhaps we have a tendency [like all peoples] to see only the good within ourselves, outsiders can see only the imperfections.

    Saudis are human beings like all of you — with strengths, hopes, fears, and weaknesses like all of you.

    Please do not reduce us to a cartoon like villain.

  14. @ both anon…”idiots”, Saudi are probably the most genrous people on earth, and that shows on their contribution to many causes which is a matter of record.

    In just over 12 hours last night Saudis have donated over 12 million dollars to the people of Gaza.

    Enough said.

  15. reforming it’s not just about studying abroad..
    in America, so many Saudi students studying and most of them spent many years so far, but their mentality still the same or even worse..

    i wouldn’t say scholarships are useless either but let’s not overestimate it, if change would occur, it would be acceptable from the inside, if these student come back determined to make a difference, they would be judged and labeled as Americanised and so on..

  16. The positive changes will come slowly but surely. Those girls who are studying abroad, as well as all us mothers and future mothers, hold the key for the changes in our hands. How? It depends on us what crucial values we quietly instill in our children before they fly out of the nest, so then THEY can make positive contributions to society.

  17. As I read the article, I couldn’t help to give my own 18 year old daughter a thought. In november she and a classmate bought tickets for a Kanay West concert in London, they booked their own plane tickets ( they have earned the money themselves by working in the local supermarked), and yes they returned with the morning plane to Denmark – alive and went to school ( a couple of hours late).
    I think they are well prepared for the demands of the 21. century.

  18. It is always good for people to be exposed to other cultures and to live in different environments than their own.

    They may learn many positive things but that does not necessarily mean they will bring about change when they return. If the situation remains the same, they will either learn to adapt (by living the double lifestyle) or simply revert to their previous lifestyle.

    These girls are certainly not the first to go abroad and there have been many who have been exposed to other cultures; in the past 30+ years certainly many females have accompanied their husbands on postgraduate studies as well if not also to continue their own studies.

    I hope that times have changed and perhaps there will be more of a positive movement in the years ahead.

  19. assalaamu alaykum,

    Alhamdulillaah, this is quite a nice blog! I was surfing on info about Gaza and what are the average Saudi people are saying and doing about the affair.

    This article (especially the comments) is confusing because it seems that Saudis feel like they are missing out on so much and the West has lots to offer them! Do you hate your country or what is it you would like to change?

  20. ummu muslim:

    I know of no Saudi who hates his country.

    I would also say that one ought not to set up a discussion in which the only choices are either our nation or the West as models.

    One can believe that our nation requires some important changes, yet not believe that our nation should become identical to the West.

    There are many other alternatives.

    I often hear this binary approach, when in fact we have many more than just two choices.

    We must progress in a manner that preserves all that is good within ourselves, yet not fear that positive change must equal a transformation into the West.

  21. I have been reading your blog recently as part of an assignment (I’m an American university student) and I think you do a great job in choosing meaningful topics for Saudi readers while also making posts accessible to others. I read the entry that you posted back in November and you’re right: it will be very interesting to see where this issue stands in the near future. How long do you think it might be before any such change begins to affect Saudi society?

  22. I am a college student here in the US, and I was very interested in this blog because it showed how women of Saudi Arabia can be affected by those who go to live beyond the borders of the country. Do you think that change for Saudi women has become more influenced by those who have been in another culture and brought their perspectives back, or by women who have remained in Saudi Arabia and want to alter how they are percieved without a foreign outlook? Today, it is very difficult to not see how others in the world live and not compare and contrast, but in general, I’m curious to know if those who have international perspectives are listened to more than women who have not been to other countries, or vice versa? Both have strengths and weaknesses, but does the female demographic in Saudi Arabia pay more attention to the words of one over the other?

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