Human Rights

“exotic practices”


A few weeks ago I watched a clip that was circulating through social media of a young Saudi man walking through one of Saudi’s busy streets giving out (Free hugs).

Nothing new here right? I mean, we have all seen these nice touchy-feely short clips of people doing admirable things to each other just for the sake of being nice. They leave you feeling nice and fuzzy inside.

Only this one didn’t… leave me feeling nice and fuzzy inside…

First let me assert that after deciding to write this post, I hunted EVERYWHERE for the original YouTube video in order to show it to you but alas, it has been (removed by the user) who initially made it. The clip has vanished!

Having said that, shorter copies of the video remain in circulation but not the original.

One is left questioning why?? Why would you go through all the trouble of producing it only to take it down?

Your answer is here . 

Allow me to clarify why I was not left feeling warm and fuzzy after watching the (Saudi Free Hugs) MIA video. The YouTube production was made with marvelous intentions and was altogether rather inspiring. Here was a young Saudi man walking through the street holding a sign that read (Free Hug), being filmed as people ran towards him and in many circumstances literally jumped on him to get their free hugs.

Pause here….

When I say “people” one would infer that we are talking about men and women of diverse ages and nationalities but essentially men AND woman accordingly. Well, that wasn’t the case here. The clip unveiled no women. None walking, or sitting, or standing, or in the distance, or behind the corner, and most notably none participating in the (free hug) sessions. To put it bluntly, the women were just missing and his filmed exhibition of this fact – as unintended as it was – speaks volumes of truth to the general state of Saudi women.

Though Saudi Arabia surely has women, they are for the most part behind the scenes…invisible. Well, minus those who claim to be female activists yet whole-heartedly support the Saudi Regime and the extreme form of Wahhabi Sharia law it enforces. You know, the ones being manipulated to lie to the world.

But back to the topic; The clip unintentionally showcased the startling non-existent state of an entire gender of a species in a country most of the world still accommodates to in this day and age. It was an eye opening hard capture of how distressingly mangled Saudi society is.

Call it gender segregation, call it female body shaming, call it tradition, or bastardized modesty. I prefer to call it Islam.

But why is it this way? Is it religion or is it tradition?

Though I imagine the guy giving away the free hugs might have done some editing to essentially bypass any areas with women, to avoid disciplinary action by the religious police, the whole setting seemed schizophrenic to me.

PDA (public display of affection) is absolutely anti-Islamic. Why? For starters, because the prophet never did it.

Add to that Quranic verses like this

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.” (Al-Noor Verse No:31)

Innocent acts like holding the hand of your wife in public can place you under the direct line of fire of religious authorities. Growing up both Muslim and Saudi I can tell you that zero interaction is expected between members of the opposite sex in public. Now as for men jumping on each other for hugs… that could easily land you in jail with a (homosexuality) accusation and a potential death sentence.

Knowing the above, I was perplexed as to why this young man was challenging a rigid system this way? After all, who dares to poke the sleeping bear and why?! Surely he is cognizant of the human rights breaches of Saudi Arabia and it’s barbaric implementation of Islamic law.

So why go there??

One week later I read that the two men involved in the creation of this project have been arrested for their unholy and anti-Islamic “exotic practices”. The arresting body was, as always, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice  (i.e The Religious Police). But the men of god did not stop at the arrest of the two corrupt young adults. They went further by forcing them to sign a pledge that they would not commit this atrocity ever again.

They went there because we can’t all leave…

From “You are lucky to have been able to escape” to “You are a coward that ran away” to “instead of speaking out against Saudi in an ill manner, you could have stayed and created change” you name it I have heard it. If I had thought for a moment that I could change anything in Saudi by remaining in it I might have indeed returned or never left in the first place but I knew my limits. I knew I could do more on the outside than from within.

These young men are trying to create change.

So, Kudos to the young Saudi generation bringing about the waves of change – however they choose to do so. The waves might look and feel minuscule but they are a force you have created in an attempt to bring down an iron wall that is rotten to it’s core. Keep adding to the waves from the inside while people like us work at bringing the wall down from the outside.

Together one day we will bring the wall down and the rot will all wash away.

(For more media coverage on this topic click here)

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