How Saudis claim freedom




  • In World
  • 2017-05-18 19:53:47Z
  • By The Monitor's Editorial Board

For his first official trip abroad, President Trump will be in Saudi Arabia this weekend, attending a dizzying number of public events. Yet much of his experience, like that of many other visitors, will be staged by the Saudi government - one that still limits basic freedoms for its people. If Mr. Trump were to visit a local bookstore, however, he might take note of a book that has been a top seller among Saudis for weeks, "The Art of Thinking Clearly."

Written by Swiss entrepreneur Rolf Dobelli with tips for independence in thought, the book's popularity speaks volumes about what Saudis want in a society long controlled by a monarchy and clerical authorities. Also popular in neighboring Iran, the book affirms a phenomenon that is essential to create a free society: The desire to think for oneself is the first step in removing any mental shackles imposed by an autocracy.

In recent years, Saudis have taken to Twitter to speak out against government - despite the threat of a public lashing if they go too far in criticizing the monarchy. Among Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia has the highest rate of online TV watching. And as might be expected, much of the independent thinking comes from women, one of the most oppressed groups.

"Don't speak in the name of the people," wrote Nora Shanar in the Saudi newspaper Elaph about recent government attempts to stage Western-style entertainment for young people. Tamador Alyami, a famous blogger, wrote this about a religious ban on women driving: "I'm calling on men to think for themselves, not to simply follow clerics, and for the government to act."

Much of what is written in the Western press about change in Saudi Arabia assumes that it comes from the top and is driven by the need to adjust to low prices for Saudi oil exports and to reduce spending. Indeed, a powerful prince, Mohammed bin Salman, issued a plan last year called Vision 2030 that aims to create a non-oil economy and to loosen up on some social restrictions. But his plan is widely seen as a way for Saudi royalty to stay one step ahead of the country's restless youth. More than 60 percent of the population is under 30 years old.

Societies that encourage people to think for themselves do so because they know truth cannot be imposed. It must be discovered and nurtured in each person's thinking. When leaders don't yet understand that, their people will seek out books and other ways to claim their mental autonomy.

Read this story at csmonitor.com

Become a part of the Monitor community

COMMENTS

More Related News

In first, U.S. presents its evidence of Iran weaponry from Yemen
In first, U.S. presents its evidence of Iran weaponry from Yemen
  • World
  • 2017-12-14 21:14:00Z

By Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday presented for the first time pieces of what it said were Iranian weapons supplied to the Iran-aligned Houthi militia in Yemen, describing it as conclusive evidence that Tehran was violating U.N. resolutions. The arms included charred

Nikki Haley Slams Iran
Nikki Haley Slams Iran's Role In Yemen War, Neglects To Mention U.S. Part In Humanitarian Crisis

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, stood before missile remnants that she claimed were covered in Iranian "fingerprints" on Thursday while laying out what she called "irrefutable evidence" that Tehran has violated its international obligations by militarily supporting rebels in Yemen.

US gives evidence Iran supplied missiles that Yemen rebels fired at Saudi Arabia
US gives evidence Iran supplied missiles that Yemen rebels fired at Saudi Arabia

Nikki Haley unveils previously classified information at Joint Base Anacostia in Washington DC on Thursday. The US has presented evidence that officials said proved that Iran had supplied short-range ballistic missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen which were then fired at Saudi Arabia. The US envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, made the presentation at Bolling Air Force base in Washington, which is the headquarters to the Defence Intelligence Agency.

US envoy Haley to present
US envoy Haley to present 'irrefutable evidence' on Iran

US Ambassador Nikki Haley will present "irrefutable evidence" that Iran has tried to cover up violations of international obligations, the US mission said Wednesday. The United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of supplying weapons to Yemen's Huthi rebels, who fired a missile intercepted near Riyadh airport on November 4.

'Sahel coalition' wants victories against Islamist militants by mid-2018
  • World
  • 2017-12-13 18:49:15Z

By Marine Pennetier and John Irish LA CELLE-SAINT-CLOUD/PARIS (Reuters) - A French-backed West African military force to tackle Islamist militants must secure its first victories by the middle of 2018 to prove its worth and ensure more concrete support from the United Nations, the French and Malian

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: World

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.