The Kingdom’s Taboos..


     In over 2 Million square kilometers of space, Saudi Arabia’s 30 Million inhabitants have very limited options of things to do or places to go to for fun. Due to its exceptionally strict interpretation of Islamic verses, the Saudi Arabian government bans public theaters, cinemas, magic shows, musicals, and prohibits playing music at all public places including restaurants and cafes. Needless to say, clubs and bars do not exist in the Land of the Two Holy mosques.  The nature of the kingdom’s dry climate together with the neglect of the decision makers take public parks out of the picture too. Sport centers are rare and expensive and mostly for men only. As much as it is very unlikely that you’ll find a beach open for public, but even if you do, you are not allowed to enjoy it if you are female, plus there will be no lifeguards. To make a long story short, shopping or dining _without music_ are pretty much the only outdoor pastime on hand. Those factors among others like unemployment, lack of awareness, abnormal gender segregation as well as social taboos, in my opinion, have for long contributed in the formation and empowerment of deviant behavior and out of the ordinary interests.

    A relatively exposed guilty pleasure is that of a local car racing kind of sport that attracts roughly over 2000 Saudi youth aged between 18 and 28. Those whom practice this sport rent cars, drive them to the outskirts of cities and use them for unauthorized deadly stunts. What’s more, according to a wide spread notion, the daredevil sport is where Saudi homosexuality and pedophilia bloom. The sport’s enthusiasts are known by nicknames only and tend to disguise their faces while at it. The Saudi government only recently passed a law that criminalizes the sport after hundreds of victims, injuries and fatalities.

     Another side of the story is lesbianism which in spite of the absence of statistics again, no truthful Saudi dares deny its presence among Saudi girls. Although it is found everywhere else, but it might come as a shock to foreigners and also to some nationals who would rather live in denial; the fact that homosexuality may exist in an Islamic country as strict as the Kingdom. But I myself and many people I know have personally witnessed it in several occasions, be it in schools or universities and at times very openly and shamelessly in all-female gatherings away from parents’ watch. Same sex relationships are forbidden in Islam and condemned by the Saudi law, circumstances under which an individual who is found guilty is not only considered an outlaw but also an outcast.

    One least detectable Saudi social taboo and probably the most primitive taboo worldwide, is the incest. Apart from third-degree relatives’ marriages which are very common in the Saudi culture and historically rooted, like most cultures, marriage of first and second-degree relatives as well as milk-siblings is illegal. In that context, sexual activity between two unmarriageable relatives belonging to the mentioned groups is not only considered “Mahram adultery” thus legally punishable by death, but yet it is socially an unforgivable sin. Abandoned infants are found every now and then, but other than the natural assumption that they are illegitimate, details remain unknown.

For ages such veiled leisure pursuits and orientations have ceaselessly found fertile grounds to grow amidst a reserved culture that does not handle confessions very well. In most cases, whether simple or exhaustive, coming out of the closet is not welcomed with open arms; even yet, it is considered a disgraceful act that brings shame to the family and tribe, and which by itself calls for punishment. Such conditions make it extremely tough if possible at all to come up with related statistics let along repairs.

 In all fairness, many bright journalists, writers and comedians have been trying to shed light on social chains lately, risking being frowned at by society or banned from writing by the government or even worse consequences, after they came to believe that for reforms to take place, the people must obviously deal with these taboo areas.

About Tamador Alyami

Saudi Columnist. An advocate of equality, peace & common sense!
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