This comes from teh Green Truth today:

Many Saudis are lamenting the way family ties in the Kingdom have become weak, something that seems to have become one of the hallmarks of modern life and is in stark contrast to how people in the region used to live not so long ago.

I, for one, am not. I think family ties in the Kingdom are still strong. They are too strong, actually, that distant relatives somehow believe they have the freedom to intervene in your so-called modern life. This freedom, nevertheless, is limited to them and cannot be extended to you because first, who are you? and second, what do you know?

“Families are no longer what they used to be. The entire family system has disintegrated. You can nowadays find fathers and sons at loggerheads and cousins hostile to each other,” said one Saudi old man in Makkah who asked for his name not to be published.

Not what they used to be? The entire system disintegrated? I’m sorry, is there a heated debate about gay marriage in the country that I’m not aware of? And btw, fathers and sons disagreements are ancient. In other places they are called “generational differences,” and I think you should know this, especially since you like using 17th century vocabulary like loggerheads and stuff. Also, what’s up with the privacy freakishness, old man? But I will cut you some slack. I understand that you probably don’t want to get in trouble like those kids who appeared on MTV.

Saudi woman Latifa Ali said she has not been on speaking terms with her sister for over 10 years and has tried to make up on numerous occasions. “My sister is adamant in boycotting me. She wanted her son to marry my daughter but I refused for several reasons. My daughter is a university graduate while her son has only studied until secondary school. He was also unemployed at the time. My daughter refused to marry him and there was no way I could force her,” she said. Latifa Ali misses her sister whom she loved and was very close to. “I felt safe with her. I still long to be with her but she doesn’t want to be with me. She considers my daughter’s rejection of her son an insult,” she added.

Aww… inter-family marriages and their never ending drama. I have seen this happening in my family hundreds of times, but would that ever stop them? Never. Despite recent evidence to the disastrous consequences of such marriages on those much cherished ties, my mom is still willing to lose an arm just so I agree to to marry her niece. Not. Gonna. Happen. Not because I care about the oh-so-important ties, but simply because I hate congenital diseases. Not to mention that I find this way of getting married arbitrary and outdated.

Hassan Ali, another Saudi who lives in Makkah, said he fell out with his brother after he argued with his sister-in-law who used to meddle in his personal family affairs. “My brother became angry and sided with his wife. We’ve not spoken for five years. We’ve failed to make up even though I’ve tried a lot to do so,” he said. “I love his children who also love me but he’s threatened to kick them out of the house and deprive them of their inheritance if they even dare speak to me,” he added.

See? That’s exactly what I’m talking about. When close becomes too close, you are just asking for trouble. I can’t help but notice though that Hassan’s brother is too influenced by old Arabic movies and their stupid oft-repeated family feuds. Deprive his children of inheritance? Classic.

Uncle Saad is 72 years old. With tears in his eyes, he mentioned that his children are alive and yet do not see him. “My children left me and their mother who died just two years ago. They only ring me on occasions and just visit me out of duty,” he said. “My neighbors help me and take care of me. They give me money and clothes. My sons and daughters are also busy with their own families,” he added.

I won’t say anything here because this is just sad.

Huda Al-Fahim said it has been a year since she had a dispute with her brother. “He asked me to give up my share of inheritance after my father died. He had been pressured by his wife. I refused and complained to the authorities who then allotted me my share. He then kicked me out of the house and has not talked to me since,” she added. Huda has tried hard to reconcile but her brother refuses to budge. “I do not know how long this will continue. It is totally against the teachings of Islam to boycott your own kin and blood,” she said.

That is a typical case of the familiar brotherly bullying after the father’s death, and I’m afraid it has little to do with the lamented weakening of family ties allegedly caused by changes in modern life. I don’t see why Ms. Huda is so keen to make up with a brother who is acting like a jackass. Until he starts to use his brain again, I say good riddance.

Commenting on the issue, Raid Kurdi, an education expert, said family bonds are not as strong as before but that the problem has not reached a worrying level. “Families should look carefully at the reasons why they are falling out with each other,” he said. “We need to, however, deal with this issue. We need to reject it and make efforts to keep families together. This is important,” he added.

Enter the expert. Our expert analyzed this incredibly fascinating, although admittedly troubling, phenomenon and came up with the perfect solution: “We need to reject it.” Totally. Because, you know, “This is important.” You heard that? Im-freaking-portant. If you don’t realize this by now, and we are nearing the end of our very interesting “news story,” then you might as well want to kill yourself or something.

He also said such matters do not usually worry non-Muslim societies because family bonds are not very important for them in general. “We do not have the same respect for the elderly as we used to have in the past. We’ve also become impatient with each other,” he added. Kurdi also called for more efforts to inculcate love and respect among members of the same family.

However, this piece cannot be complete without some good ol’ bashing of “the other,” so before I go allow me to say: damn those infidels! It turns out the weakened family ties are not merely the result of changes in modern life — whatever that maybe in our little corner of the world — but also due to foreign influence, because we, as God honest infallible Muslims, never do anything wrong.

Love and respect. Hell yeah.

14 thoughts on “Untie

  1. While I do think family ties are weakening in Saudi Arabia I still think Arab News is making a mountain out of a molehill here.

    Didn’t people use to have duels to the death in the olden days? Glad those things are over.

  2. LMAO! that was hilarious!

    Man, we are a confused society! we mix religion and tradition, now we mix family ties with bullying-i-want-my-way-coz-we-are-related mentality.

    the stories range from: bullying money-grabbing, archaic marriage methods, to senior-citizen feeling lonely with no activities whatsoever beyond the kindness of their kids directed at them.

    We are in dire need of entertainment.

  3. Great post! Insightful and hilarious!

    The “family ties are weakening” argument is the standard one for those who want a return to “family values” ie social and economic conservatives/traditionalists.

    They overlook the problems that families have, in part from overcloseness, in part from isolation from others, and in part from fear of public shaming. They also overlook the social problems that result from insufficient attention to social programs for those who have few family resources, or problems to complex for a family to handle.

    Those not from traditional cultures often overestimate the beauty of the large family ties and underestimate the conflicts that are hidden, since discussing the family outside the family is verboten.

    As a therapist a lot of this makes me laugh and wince at the same time. The use of children as leverage is powerful, universal, and at best deceptive (it usually hides the real agenda) and at worst harmful to the children one professes to love so dearly.

    I had to laugh at the boycotting. Traditional Italians do this too. My grand uncle and grandfather (brothers in law) didn’t speak for decades over a fight about graves and who was to be buried where. Probably not wise for that to occur as my grandfather’s first child and only daughter lay dying, but still…My grandmother used to see her brother after church, across the street, and sit with him in his car, because she wasn’t allowed to invite him in.

    After my father died recently, I solo, contacted a Moroccan inlaw I haven’t spoken to in a long time, because there was a disagreement in the family…about…?who knows…and…I guess I’m married into the other side or something…Anyway, it was a wonderful and welcome phone call–he expressed his condolences and said “I am your family, your cousin, your brother, your father, your uncle…whatever you want”. Subsequent phone calls with him and his wife were just as warm…but…they would prefer no one knows we are in contact. So no one does! :)

    Ah yes, the West have no family ties, must not imitate them. I love this one because it is so false but people choose not to believe it. It is also one of the tactics my evil BIL uses (not the nice biological BIL, the other one who married into the family). He is highly educated in the West and none the less says things like “People like us have family we cannot live abroad so easily. People like you don’t care, it is easy”. He and he alone has many of the people like us and people like you statements. No convincing him otherwise, no matter what evidence I use, including spending hours of clinic time with people crying about their family ties that they care about so desperately. We may not be so overtly close or physically close, but the ties are as strong if different. Oh, and I know enough about family dynamics in Arab culture not to say “Can’t get that job overseas, eh?”

    Your mother’s marriage imprecations made me laugh too (sorry). I have a Saudi friend who has been going through this most acutely in the last year. Rapidly losing cousin friends because of whom she won’t marry and who would be upset if she did marry the other one, not to mention disappointed mother.

    Outstanding post!

  4. Without a doubt, this is the finest “rank” that I have read in many, many months. It could have been written by any American who finds him/herself in the same position as the people you describe. Especially family inheritances. Sign me “A Houston Fan.”

  5. Haha. Love your commentary! And DAMN IT do they HAVE to always have the “western/infidel” world bashing as usual? I’m living in Canada right now and I cannot disagree more -family ties are very important to almost all the people I met! I wish the Saudis would stop thinking the same way all the time and try to explore and open their minds, but, as we all know, hell will freeze over before that happens.

  6. I just have to say that this is by far my favorite post of yours!! You PERFECTLY stated these matters in such an ideal sarcastic way! Keep this style of writing coming :)

  7. Everyone beat me to it. I was going to say something about this comment in the article:

    “He also said such matters do not usually worry non-Muslim societies because family bonds are not very important for them in general.”

    Where on earth do so called Saudi experts get their information about the “infidel’s family structure”? I haven’t heard or seen any surveys.

    Family is important is us infidels, too. Just because we don’t all live together or marry our cousins, doesn’t mean family isn’t important to us.

    Our society used to operate just like yours with large extended families living together or close by. But as i’m sure you already know, our culture is more mobile. With job moves and people just wanting to experience something new by living somewhere else, people live far away from family.

    I, like others, get so tired of being accused that we don’t value family.

    And, Ahmed, love your writing. You are single handly opening up Saudi culture. Keep it up.

  8. Its interesting that “non-Muslim” generalisations always completely ignore the large majority of non-Muslims (ie, Hindu, Buddhist etc) who live in the East and whose lives are a lot more like the Muslims they speak of than the non-Muslims they refer to.

    I’d say their expert gets all his qualifications from watching too much Showtime in the evenings.

  9. Non-Muslims don’t have strong family ties???!?!?

    I guess he’s never been around Italians! God I wish my family would sometimes back off a bit!

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