I came across Loujain Hathloul on Twitter (@LoujainHathloul) two days ago. I arrived at her live tweeting 17 hours into her stand-off at the Saudi borders coming from UAE. She was driving her car armed with a valid Emirate’s license, which gives her the right to drive across all GCC, countries and a Saudi passport. When I met her on Twitter, customs officers had taken her license and her passport and were not allowing her to enter Saudi Arabia. She held her ground: “I am a Saudi citizen you cannot prevent me from entering my country- I have a valid license and I can drive”. Well few hours later I saw her video of the police cars arriving on the scene and her tweet feed went silent. It has been four days since.
Loujain is pretty, funny, young, priviliged, irreverent and courageous. She is the prototype of our times for the people we are conditioned to admire – in fact to hold in awe. I wanted to know her better. It is not that hard in this age of exhibitionism to know someone so well without ever meeting them. She has her whole life documented in photos on Instagram. She has Keeks (www.keek.com/LoujainHathloul) talking to us in soundbites about her views. Making her case on this or that. I got some facts – 25/26 years of age, studied in Canada, married just a couple of days before her border protest, her mom is Fatmah Hussein Al-Hathloul, her Dad is Hathlool Abdallah Al-Hathlool, her narrow cause and the one that takes the bulk of her activism is women’s right to drive, work and dress as they choose. Her broader cause is a more ethical, just, rational and scientific country.
With my search about Loujain I found a whole counter world of arguing against Loujain and berating her to debase her currency. Lots of people utterly offended by her sheer presence. There is a whole YouTube channel dedicating itself to countering the influence of people like Loujain (CLiberalih Ch its name in Arabic translates Liberals Buster). The most tragic aspects of this world of counter attack is the obscenity of the language and tools used and the strength and cruelty of women attacks on those who are often claiming for them some limited freedoms.
If one was to create a “word cloud” of all the conversations in this sphere this is what you would get: women, westernization, conservative, society, homeland, self-protection, decency, secularism, liberalism, communism, attacks, propriety, obedience, mixing, religion, scholars, and few more.
We have reduced the manifestations of our faith and the debates within it to the following five or six topics: women dress, mixing and segregation, alcohol, religious punishments (Hudud), death penalty for leaving the faith, and “suicidal Jihad”. Then we occasionally find he eccentric debates about oddities like “drinking the camel’s urine” or “breastfeeding the fully-grown man.”
I have been searching for a religious conversation to join that focuses on the civilizational dimension of this faith and its grand paradigms. My search always lead to conversations that do not go beyond those themes above and the related themes of decency and propriety or themes of ritual and rules of worship.
Petty issues such as the right to drive in Saudi are very convenient. They take away all the civic energy of those who are inclined towards activism. It splits the society into camps for and against this petty right. Meanwhile corruption, human right abuses and injustice permeate the Saudi society unchecked.
The same service is rendered to a global predatory civilization. While we Muslims rot in conversations over the small things of our religion; injustice, marginalization, materialism, environmental destruction, joblessness and spiritual vacuity are ripping at the heart of this world and threatening our human existence and its purpose.
All I am seeking is a conversation that puts this religion to task. The task of finding alternatives to a decaying way of being and organizing ourselves.