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Saudi Arabia Brands Feminists, Atheists and Homosexuals as 'Extremists'


Be warned! Saudi Arabia is a confusing and contradictory place at the moment.

If you’re involved in doing business in Saudi Arabia, then you need to be aware of some of the current changes taking place at a cultural level.

Despite the country’s best efforts to portray itself as ‘open for business’ and welcoming of foreign investment and tourism, we are witnessing a culture clash at a societal level.

One that has only really started to gather pace.

One Day A Sin, The Next, It’s Fine

Essentially, what we are seeing unravel in Saudi Arabia is a clash between the new ‘modernising’ ideas of MBS (The Crown Prince) and the religious element of his country (which is most of them).

You have generations of Saudis who have been raised to believe something is a sin who are now being asked to recalibrate their whole understanding of their religion, to now believe it is not a sin.

That’s a huge leap, for any society, let alone one that already has a reputation for insularity.

A perfect example happened only last week when a Saudi man ran onto the stage of a performance in Riyadh and stabbed some of the performers.

Why? Because in the traditional Saudi understanding of Islam and the Sharia law, this is a complete abomination. It’s a sin not only to watch performing, but also to allow it.

His actions represented the disbelief of many Saudis that such a sinful action was taking place on their land.


Feminism, Atheism and Homosexuality

What we saw happen in Riyadh last week will unfortunately happen again as the backlash against the perceived cultural invasion of Saudi Arabia continues.

Another example we see of this is the current confusion caused by the General Department for Counter-Extremism over feminism, atheism and homosexuality.

A video published by the Department in which it branded “all forms of extremism and perversion,” as “unacceptable,” and listed feminism, atheism, and homosexuality as all being extremist viewpoints.

“Don’t forget that excess of anything at the expense of the homeland is considered extremism,” the friendly voiceover reminds Saudis in the video.

However, the Department soon removed and deleted the video after a huge backlash from human rights organisations, LGBT activists and many on social media.

Incredibly, the Presidency of State Security has now issued a statement claiming the view is incorrect, was not the opinion of the Department and was solely the fault of the video producer.

Many people are not convinced.

Saudi Arabia and Sharia Law

The reason many people are not convinced is because of Saudi Arabia’s historical stance on all of these “extremist ideas”.

Their understanding of Sharia law, which is imparted through scholars, books and Friday sermons, has long the evils of feminism and its plot to destroy the family; of the wickedness of atheism and the depraved immorality of homosexuality.

These are deeply held ideas which are considered threats to Islam and the Saudi way of life.


What to Believe?

As a travelling foreigner to Saudi Arabia its hard to know what to believe.

Women are told they don’t need to wear a hijab only to arrive at an airport to be shouted at because they have no hijab.

It’s a confusing place, and the reason why is because what is being put out at an international level for PR does not tie up with what’s happening on the ground.

Until it does, be very careful in Saudi Arabia about what you say and who you say it to. Always err on the side of caution.

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