The land of Hejaz and Najd, the Arabian Peninsula, the country of the Two Holy Mosques and the peninsula of Islam are some of the names used to describe the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
I will not comment on why these names are used to address Saudi Arabia as the country has the Two Holy Mosques and it does constitute “most” of the Arabian Peninsula, and yes it is Hejaz and Najd.
Now that news from Saudi Arabia make headlines across global television channels, media outlets, talk shows and social networks, many people are engaged in discussing “local” Saudi causes.
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There is nothing wrong with that, whether they engage in discussing women’s driving or other matters. This great interest in local Saudi news is all justified.
However, I want to address a certain category of people who bring up the same debate whenever we “modernize” or develop anything in the kingdom. Their point is summed up as follows: You are a holy land, the country of the two holy mosques so don’t you dare develop and modernize.
More than 20 million Saudis and 10 million residents want a good life, like people in other countries doMashari Althaydi
The religious dimension
Such a debate sums up the religious dimension of Saudi Arabia but it neutralizes many important aspects to the country that embraces the Two Holy Mosques.
After all Saudi Arabia is also a country that belongs to this current era. Its people are ambitious, and like other nations, they want to make progress and enhance their cultural, economic and educational status.
Strange people who stir such debates include a female Gulf singer who is famous for her loud songs and for her fierce criticism of those demanding that women should be allowed to drive. Her excuse is that same “selfish” defense that Saudi Arabia is the land of the two holy mosques and must not undergo any modernization.
Just for the record, this sanctity as per religious scriptures, only extends to certain kilometers around religious sites in Mecca and Medina. This means that not the entire of Mecca or Medina have religious privacy. This is not the place to explain this well-known jurisprudence issue.
Vision for the future
There is an ambitious Saudi vision to endeavor toward the future. More than 20 million Saudis and 10 million residents want a good life, like people in other countries do. They want entertainment, decent healthcare, strong economy, successful sports and influential art.
The features of time, place and history have their effect but who said that Saudi decisions and the kingdom’s approach are unaware of that? Who said modernizing and improving the way of living means harming faith?
Saudi Arabia, both as a state and society, has a religious and worldly status and wants to have a bright spot under the sun. And as late poet Ghazi Al-Gosaibi put it:
“We are Hejaz and we are Najd,
we have glory here and glory there!”
This article is also available in Arabic.
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.