Saudi society is changing


Al-Jazirah daily Newspaper

My family and I were present at the celebrations of National Day that took place inside King Fahd Stadium in September. After the celebrations were over, we left the stadium and walked to our car just like thousands of families who attended the event. Everything was going fine and smooth. No women were harassed. Men were not staring at women or trying to harass women. Police vehicles could be seen everywhere.

There is no doubt that the police presence helped control the situation. However, the amazing thing was the transformation of the behavior of Saudi men; men no longer harass women in the public. Today, men have recognized women as partners in building society and all aspects of life. This would not have been possible without the decisions of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman.

These decisions have empowered Saudi women. Eventually, women will be given full rights and treated as equals to men according to the Shariah. If we read the biography of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), we will see that the Prophet empowered his wives Khadija Bint Khuwaylid and Aisha. Both of his wives made important decisions that contributed to the spread of the Prophet’s great message.

Today, the Kingdom is going through a huge economic and social transformation. Social values have changed. Women have been given more and more roles to play. Young Saudi women, who in the past did not have educational and job opportunities, now compete with men over jobs. Social values have changed but women have stayed committed to the Shariah dress code. Women still wear the hijab and abide by Saudi traditions, which emphasize the importance of family security and support.

The question is: How has our society changed so fast so that it can now accept the unacceptable? In the near past, the intermingling of men and women in public places, including the workplace, was a taboo. Today, it is a reality. Today, we see women at the helm and in leading roles as decision-makers.

To understand the reason for this swift change, we need to look deep into the Kingdom’s history. The winds of change have never stopped blowing since the foundation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 by late King Abdulaziz. Social change efforts gained momentum following the discovery of oil, which helped the country embark on a development journey in 1970. Because of development, schools, hospitals and houses were constructed while a modern infrastructure was built. At the time, the government was trying to build a modern state. Citizens were more loyal to the country than to the tribe.

However, the Gulf wars and the Islamic revival (which was characterized by more conservatism and the literalism of Islamic values) led many members of society to view “the Other” with worry and fear. In fact, many members of society went with the current of Islamic revival while others pulled themselves back.

Sociologically speaking, a human being who lives in a certain social system cannot criticize or refuse that system; he will accept it and that is what millions of people have done over the past 30 years. They had to accept the system because it was the only dominant system and there was no other choice.

But in what way has this situation changed? The scales have fallen from people’s eyes. People can see clearly now. Parents who sent their sons and daughters abroad on scholarships have changed from inside. Society is changing and the picture has become clearer now, thanks to education and social media websites. Our society has changed and is no longer in the grip of some influential groups who used to control civil institutions and drive us into clashes with our own selves and the whole world.

King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad have chosen to show the world the real face of Islamic history, not the one that talks about jihad, which terrorized the whole world and led to the killing of many. Our society is changing. For those who blame us for change, I say: you should have blamed us for waiting so long before we decided to change.