JEDDAH – Despite Saudi Arabia’s attempts to spread the culture of dialogue, there are still those who reject what others say and believe, thus leading to a widening of the gap between people of the same culture.
Recently, a heated discussion over camel beauty contests threatened to split Saudi society into those for and against. That issue was resolved after senior scholars commented that such contests are permissible unless they can be shown to do irreparable damage to society.
A greater dilemma, however, is the claim of some people that Internet websites dedicated to different Saudi tribes will weaken the ties among members of Saudi society. This topic was recently discussed on one of the most frequently visited websites, when a female member spoke out against such online tribal sites.
The administration of the site immediately ended the woman’s membership raising a big question mark over the true meaning of ‘dialogue.’
In her post, Amirat Zahran (Princess of Zahran) criticized the idea of having tribal websites, which was the reason that she was eliminated from the discussion.
“Since King Abdul Aziz founded this great country, the royal family has made all possible efforts to improve and educate the people of this country,” Amirat Zahran posted in her contribution as a member of Zahran Internet Forum. (www.zahran.org)
This posting, of course, was not the reason for banning her from the forum. However, what she went on to say provoked the website’s administrators to eliminate her.
“One of King Abdul Aziz’s main concerns was to eradicate racism, which is, of course, a factor of backwardness and is, perhaps, a source of terrorism,” she added.
Furthermore, she claimed that some studies have proved that such tribal online gatherings could widen the gap between members of society.
The forum administration then took an action against her and prevented her from making any further comments, although she succeeded in receiving a number of replies before she was taken away.
Some website members expressed their discontenment on hearing people claim that there is a conflict between patriotism and loyalty to tribes.
Abu Monther, a Palestinian who said his ancestors belonged to the tribe, wondered why the woman was taking part in a discussion on the tribal website despite her beliefs.
“This is a good point to discuss, but why are you here?” he asked. He added that such forums could highlight the positive qualities of different tribes.
But Amirat Zahran was ready with a quick reply for Abu Monther.
She reminded him of a poem by a member of a different tribe who looked down upon southern tribes, although that poet is said to have apologized for his poem.
“Such poems can destroy the unity of society and can stir up hatred,” Amirat Zahran replied.
An administrative member replied that websites are no different from instruments of modern technology that can be used in both effective and destructive manners.
“We can use these sites to get to know each other and exchange experiences. Other contributions will definitely be removed,” Fahd Saud said in his reply to the female member.
Six minutes later, the reply of Amirat Zahran was ready to be posted.
“I’m not only talking about these websites, but also about the TV channels, poetry contests like the Poet of the Million and the Poet of the Deep Meaning, and tribal camel beauty competitions,” she said. All of these things, she claimed destroy the efforts of the late founder of the nation to make all of the country’s tribes into one civilized society.
“The late King Abdul Aziz found the tribes in conflict and concerned with tribal disputes, and he succeeded in turning them into one connected unity. I’m just afraid that such tribal websites will affect the unity of our society,” she added.
Before her membership from the website was suspended, Amirat Zahran tried to refer to some of the sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) against tribal discrimination. It was at that point that she was eliminated from the discussion by the administrators of the website.
However, although her words were stopped, a door was opened for a discussion of the true meaning of the culture of dialogue in our society. – SG