Saudi Jeans Turns Six

I celebrate the sixth anniversary of Saudi Jeans today. The blog that I started just for fun has claimed a life of its own, and has in many ways become central to my own life. It has been a great journey. Like a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, turns and twists, joy and fear. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Sometimes nice, sometimes nasty. But always, always interesting.

Some argue that although I say the goal of this blog is to push for change in Saudi Arabia, little has changed in the country and this little has nothing to do with Saudi Jeans or blogging. That could be true, and I’m okay with it. Changing a nation is too great of an endeavour for a humble blog like mine to meet. But for me the question is not if blogging has changed (or can change) Saudi Arabia or not. The question I keep asking myself is: is it wroth trying? And my answer is absolutely yes.

I know that I aim too high. That’s just me. I can’t settle for less, I want everything. I’m greedy like that, but I don’t accept injustice and I believe that we, as people, deserve better. My dreams are big and wild, but I will never suppress them. You can share those dreams, or laugh at them, but you can’t stop me, and you can’t shut me up.

What the future holds for Saudi Jeans? I don’t know, to be honest. After I wrote this blogpost on new year’s eve, some readers had the impression that I was laying the ground to announce later the end of the blog. It certainly wasn’t the case. Saudi Jeans will be around for at least one more year. There is a big chance I might leave the country in the coming few weeks. I will be away from KSA for a while, and I’m still unsure what is that going to mean for Saudi Jeans. I, however, plan to continue blogging from abroad.

Allow me in the end to express my gratitude to my family and friends for I’m nothing without them, and thank you readers for giving me some of your attention over these years.

The kid in the video is my little brother Mohammed. I took this video about two weeks ago in an amusement park here in Hofuf, east of Saudi Arabia.

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Unhappy Birthday

As someone born and raised in Saudi Arabia, I am quite familiar with the kind and amount of hostility Wahhabi teachings hold against the display of joy in most aspects of daily life because they view such display in contradiction with the piety and solemnity that is required in a Muslim. This can be explained by their obsession over superficialities and their disregard of all things mortal. The hostility is clearly seen in their attitude towards celebrating occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

So when I heard Sheikh Salman al-Awdah speaking on his TV show last week on the permissibility of such celebrations I was sure that he would get a lot a of heat for that statement. Al-Awdah, a former poster boy of Sahwa, has been increasingly distancing himself from the official religious establishment of the country, promoting more tolerant fatwas and opinions that obviously deviates from orthodox Wahhabism. His new approach gained him some popularity with the public, but not much from the old guard who seemed to ignore him.

This time, however, they think that he has gone too far. The matter of birthdays and anniversaries, silly and insignificant as it may sound, was just too much for them that the Grand Mufti himself came out saying “such a call is against righteousness.” Other scholars such as Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manie said al-Awdah made a mistake and urged him to retract what he had said.

The Wahhabis’ rationale (if you can call it that) for their contempt of celebrating birthdays and anniversaries is because they consider it to be in imitation of non-Muslim practices, but they don’t go out of their way to explain what is exactly so un-Islamic about it. The lame excuse of imitating others is xenophobic, but that is of course not surprising because xenophobia is very characteristic of Wahhabism.

Although the official religious establishment here is disturbingly zealous when it come to such trivial matters, they don’t mind twisting and zigzagging for political gain. For instance, until recently, marking the national day which falls on the 23rd of this month, was a big no-no. Then, and for reasons that I leave to your imagination, they said it is ok to dignify the day provided you won’t call it “Eid.” It seems to me like a mere technicality, but what do I know?

Saudi Jeans Turns Four

So, four years, huh? Who would have thought? :-)

Looking back today, I can’t help but feel nostalgic about the good ole days of 2004-05, when there was only a handful of Saudi blogs out there and almost everyone knew each other. I miss the over-excitement of Farooha over a lot of things, I miss the deliberately-politically-incorrect dark sense of humor by Wasma, and I certainly miss the shining thoughtfulness of Riyadhawi.

But don’t get me wrong. I am proud of the fact that I’ve worked to help create the active lively community that is the Saudi blogosphere, and incidents like Fouad’s detention and Hadeel’s illness have proved what a long way we have come. I just miss the good smell of freshness, witnessing the birth bangs of something new.

I wanted to say that this blog has changed my life, but I think it makes more sense to say that this blog is changing my life: it is introducing me to interesting people, it is opening doors of opportunity for me, and it is an amazing ongoing learning experience.

I never planned for any of this, and sometimes it can be overwhelming and exhausting, but I know one thing for sure: I don’t want to stop now.