Page last updated at 08:25 GMT, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 09:25 UK

Saudi blogging round-up

Blogging in Saudia Arabia can carry risks. The Saudi authorities detained one blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, for four months this year after he called for political reform.

But people are still speaking their minds online. Topics in this selection of posts include a fatwa, repressive Arab regimes, religion as empowerment, and menswear with a twist.


Blog image for Ahmed Omar

Ahmed Ba Aboud, an engineer from Dhahran, discusses the recent fatwa issued by his country's most senior judge. Sheikh Salih Ibn al-Luhaydan said it was permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV channels which broadcast immoral programmes.

Even if the Saudi-owned channels stopped broadcasting the programmes in question here, what will stop people switching to other channels?

Even if all the Arabic TV channels shut down these provocative programmes, what will stop the viewers from switching to foreign channels?

What about the internet and its content that is full of indecent material? Who can control that?

Don't people have the right to watch and then judge what they consider worthy?

In a country like Saudi Arabia, where the absence of recreational activities and space is being compensated with watching and interacting with entertainment programmes on TV, what will people do in their free time once these programmes are shut down?

How far should the authorities go in their effort to cleanse what they deem threatening to the community's values?

Translation by Global Voices


Fouad al-Farhan was the blogger imprisoned by Saudi authorities earlier this year. He is known as the "dean" of Saudi bloggers, as he was the first to write using his real name.

Photo: Yousef Raffah
Fouad was the first Saudi blogger to write using his real name

He joins a debate on Moroccan blogger Mohammed Erraji, who was sentenced to jail but eventually acquitted after criticising corruption and the Moroccan royal family in his blog.

Fouad suggests what options would be open to Erraji if he didn't blog:

1. Continue with his life earning a living without any hope that expressing his idea would improve reality or highlight where injustice is. This way he will be one of the millions of depressed young Arabs.

2. Rent his mind to an extremist who will ask him to carry arms and commit violence as a means to get out of this unjust Arab reality, as many young men have unfortunately done.

3. Find other avenues to express all this anger raging inside him, such as drugs ...

And he tackles Arab governments' hostility towards freedom of expression:

The problem with Arab governments with the new generation of young people is that they have not grasped that times have changed. This generation is fired up with feelings towards their nation; overflowing volcanoes of anger rush through their heads, demanding solutions for our depressing condition as Arabs...

With the internet, we now know everything that happens through satellite channels, radio stations, websites, email, Twitter and Facebook. Nothing can be hidden anymore.

If they did not want us to dream, to express our ideas and discuss our dreams, why did they allow the internet into our Arab countries?

Translation by Global Voices


Blog image for Aysha Alkusayer

Aysha is a Saudi Arabian script writer who has recently returned to her country with her husband and child, after two years in the US.

She comments on how men try to micro-manage every aspect of their wives' lives - and what some women do about it.

September 4:

Since arriving in Riyadh I've been noticing a pattern amongst a certain type of women who suddenly turn religious.

Some of them are immediately transformed from being just another guest in someone's house, to women who sit at the head of a meeting to preach the word of God...

Nothing shocking or sudden happened to those women. What happened, then, that might've caused this massive change in behavior and character?

I believe the gains of a transformation often explain the initial calling that has caused it.

Women whose religiousness brought power, leadership and stardom after being semi-absented, were probably yearning for what they have been lacking.

...having God at their side, could finally allow these women a word over their husband, children and the greater society.

If the husband asks them to uncover here, they tell him God said no. If he watches improper TV content they can condemn his acts and (maybe) slowly influence him.

They could challenge tradition by quoting God, the prophet and history. They could silence much of society which would not yield and adhere to them before.

Blog image for Ahmed al-Omran

Saudi Jeans is the blog of Ahmed al-Omran, a student in Riyadh. His first post was written on Saudi Arabia's national day.

23 September: On the same day two years I go, I wrote this and it has become one of my favourite posts because I felt that it says a lot about myself and the message I'm trying to deliver through this blog.

It saddens me to admit though that very little has changed since then. Have things become worse? No, because I don't think it could get any worse. The country is changing, but at a glacial pace that is leaving me and many others dejected and frustrated.

On a lighter note, Ahmed gets excited about men's fashion and new treatments for the traditional "thobe". He praises Saudi designer Yahia al-Bishri - "the man who put color back in menswear here".

11 September: His boldness also inspired others like Siraj Omar and Lomar Thobe to redefine the traditional Saudi garb.

Menswear by Lomar Thobe
A modern take on the traditional white thobe for Saudi Arabian men

However, and from what I have seen, it seems that young Hjiazi men [from the west of KSA] are embracing the new trend more than their counterparts in Najd, [central KSA] which is to be expected as people in the central area are more conservative. Although I only wear a thobe occasionally as I prefer my casual outfit of jeans and t-shirts, I personally like the idea of updating the thobe with new styles and colors.

The problem is that they are relatively expensive, as their creators admitted, but I think it is worth getting them for special occasions.

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