The liberals in Saudi are asleep. They are cowards. They do not attempt to challenge the mainstream. They cannot even criticise the smallest things.
The liberals are divided.
What distinguishes the Salafist stream from the liberals is that the Salafists are daring enough to criticise anything, even if their criticism is political in its nature occasionally. Does the place that religious leaders occupy in politics, or the relationship of religion with the state, have a role to play in their bravery? Maybe. However, I believe that their belief in their principles is very strong, as opposed to the liberals who prove, day after day, that they are no more than another voice in the crowd.
Saudi liberals differ from the liberals of the Arab World, even if they are all agreed upon one issue, that they do not have any real projects for the future. What will liberal thinking do amongst the revolutions and the crazy essence of freedom? They cave in on themselves more and more. To find out that they were nothing to begin with. They were whimsical, mad. They were everything apart from a sector which had faith in itself, a programme of action.
The liberals are liars and hypocrites.
I ask one of them: Are you a liberal?
He replies: Well, it depends on your understanding of liberalism.
I ask again: Are you a liberal or not?
He replies: I am but a humane person who wishes to see moderation and reform.
So I ask again: Are you a liberal? Yes or No.
He replies: No.
They are demagogues, skirting around the question, and never acting upon their words.
Cultured Saudis call for freedom and openness, and they believe that they are initiating change and reform. I believe that they are destroying the country, and taking it backwards more than the hardliners are. For values like freedom and reform do not go hand in hand with fear and cowardliness.
What they plant is hypocrisy. You find them everywhere observing and analysing. They talk of freedom, but it is a fake freedom. They hang onto the force of liberalism so as to be assured of their civility and modernity, whilst in fact they are traditional to their core. Women who are predominantly still in their abayas, women who predominantly do not uncover to a living soul, women who only love their own parties. They have become famous for these parties. This leaves us with two options, to either join the ranks of the Islamists and the conservatives, or a life that goes along a route which has disappeared from Arab life. The idea of being religious and free. A woman who is religious and yet does not wear the hijab. A religious man who mixes with women. A believer who lets his thoughts run free, and who asks questions about this world. Lovers who are known by their tribes, and who sing poems telling their tales.
Common sense has gone. Free mixing, even if it is in the workplace, is immoral and kufr in the eyes of the Salafists. Yet a simple, moderate life is reprehensible to liberals. Has liberalism become an extreme reaction to religious hardliners?
He says he is against Islamism, he calls for freedoms and respect for human rights, and he calls for civil society organisations, and he calls for freedom for women and love and all these other things… but just answer the one question; are you a liberal?
He does not agree with me that he is a liberal, but that he is a rights advocate. He is afraid of his liberalism reaching the ears of the Islamists and the politicians who will then accuse him of treachery. The most daring thing he will do is to write a sexual story featuring an orgasm, or imagining the intimate details of a homosexual relationship brought about by extremism and conservatism. He is ready to criticise his society with his sexual writings, this is the extent of his patriotism. Political matters on the other hand? He is accepting of these. Of course, the other side, the Islamists, are happy with his patriotism that only goes from the belt and below. Even if they criticise him, and call him an infidel, they are happy as long as it does not come in the way of their principal goal.
The other side worries about what is more important. Power. It is organised and possesses unending programmes. However we may disagree with how it wants to organise our lives we cannot deny that it is the most organised strand in society, and probably the most influential. Its goal is political empowerment. Its political fortunes rise because of the excesses of liberal thought, which are concerned with the bedroom and the caresses that come within it. This free person sees that his country is about to explode, a victim of narrow minded thought, and yet carries on silently. His slogans calling for freedom do not extend outside the realm of obedience. His hypocrisy has increased in the recent past and he has become a poet in the houses of the Sultans.
He praises and glorifies, and does not see a problem with being a free thinker, and yet a slave in practice.
Whilst the Arab World is undergoing a period of great change and awaits the politics and the ideologies of the post-revolution period, some analyses talk of the rise of Islamism. Others talk of the rise of the liberals, especially that this is supposedly an age of surprises. During all this the cultured Saudi awaits the decision of those in charge in order to make clear his desire, which will match theirs, and so that he can decide the title of his article, which will match theirs. He has nothing new, nothing up his sleeve.
His icons? There are no liberal icons in Saudi Arabia, there is no doubt here that the Islamists are dominant. Not because the politicians want this, but more because they are the only ones in the Salafist field who are on an upward trend. This should be respected, as it is our patriotic duty to promote pluralism. The real crime is that we allow one form of thinking to become dominant, and that real pluralism disappears, the real reason why all these free Arab youths went out to fight for freedom and an Arab renaissance, and those Arab girls attempted to get their voices heard. The liberal was not inspired to follow these youths and show his bravery. He stayed the same, and carried on hiding his identity, so that he is not tarnished with the same brush as those who are calling for change. The most he will do is to say he is against religions, even though liberalism and secularism are not against religions. On the contrary, secularism guarantees freedom of religion, and the freedom to practice whatever they believe in, as religion is separate to the state.
Of course my article will not even anger a Saudi liberal, for they are even afraid of being angry. They are afraid of expressing themselves, or defending their beliefs, in case their so called liberalism is exposed. This is enough of a reason for me to talk of the rottenness that I see expanding everyday, and expanding with it is the rift in a country that is now unable to bear this religious extremism and this liberal fear.
The only hope is in the new generation of youth. A generation that is unsure about what it will become. Is it extremist? Or shaking with fear? Or affected by its revolutionary Arab neighbours, and latches onto a renaissance that will take us to a future more rational and intellectual than the current Saudi experience, madness.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
This article is translated from Arabic and was originally published here
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