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Saudi Arabia: May 7 Marked as Saudi Liberalism Day

On May 7 Saudi liberal activists gathered online to celebrate Saudi Liberalism Day, an initiative to acquire recognition and acceptance for liberal ideas. The gathering had to be online because it is forbidden to organize public meetings in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi liberals have been stigmatized for a long time for their progressive views and calls for human rights and democracy in a society that defines itself by its conservatism. They have been heavily attacked by the religiously-dominated ruling class. The group Saudi Liberalism aims in the long term to develop into a political organization.

7 May, 1st Saudi Liberalism Day. Image posted by Twitter user @mr_nejo.

Leading Saudi liberal activist, Souad Al Shammary, who is secretary-general of the group Saudi Liberalism, wrote:

@SouadALshammary: ‫#7مايو‬‏ دعوه لكل تيارات الوطن للحوار للمحبه للسلام للوحدة أرجوكم لاتقسمونا كلناهدفنا الإصلاح الليبراليه مجرد وسيله لاهدف لادين اعقلوافشلتونا
7 May is a call to all the factions to the country for dialogue, peace and unity. Please don't divide us. Reform is the goal of all of us. Liberalism is just a means not an end nor a religion. Use your minds, you disappointed us.

Secular university student Mohammad tweeted:

@M7mad_24: فكر بنفسك وأستعن بعقلك .. أحترم من يخالفك الرأي .. لا تؤجر عقلك لكنهة ووعاظ ‎:)‏)
Think by yourself and seek the help of your mind… Respect those who disagree with you… Don't “lease” your mind to priests and preachers.

Prominent liberal activist Wael Alqasm tweeted:

@waelalqasm: بدأ البذيئون في “تويتر” بالدعاء لي بالهداية والجنة، بعد أن عجزوا عن الانتصار بالشتائم. اللهم إن أدخلتهم جنتك، فاجعلني خالداً في النار أبداً.
Twitter's vulgar [users] started to call for me to have [religious] guidance and heaven after having failed to win through insults. O God, if you let them into your heaven, send me to hell for eternity.

Other people, however, criticized Saudi Liberalism Day as well as the idea of liberalism itself. Law graduate Jawahir Al Subaie commented:

@TheJawahir: I don't understand the purpose of Liberalism Day in ‪#Saudi‬ ‫#7مايو‬

Badr Al Rashed criticized Saudi liberals saying:

@BALRashed: الليبرالي السعودي يشجب ويتضايق من تشويه طالبان للإسلام لكنه ما يستاء من نحر أمريكا للحرية في أفغانستان والعراق ‎‫#7مايو‬‏ ‎‫
The Saudi liberal condemns and is annoyed by the Taliban's distortion of Islam but doesn't resent America's killing of the freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq

Abdullah Mohemed Al Dawood quoted [ar] Al Jazeera talk show host Faisal Al Qassem who apparently said: “I laugh very much when I see a secular man, who hasn't even convinced his family about his ideas, attacking the Islamists who control the streets everywhere.”

Abullrahman Al Kanhal criticized liberals in a blog post:

قيمهم الليبرالية تتمحور حول المرأة والهيئة والقضاء ، حتى بدا لكثير من الناس أن الليبرالية مجرد دعوات لإختلاط ومعاداة لرجال الشريعة.
الليبرالية الحقة لا تتجزأ ولا تتلون مثل حرباء الليبرالية السعودية ، فهم فجأة ضد ثورات الشعوب ، و ضد مطالب الإصلاح. […] لم يكن لهم حديث عن الفقر ولا الفساد إلا عندما منحهم الملك عبدالله الضوء الأخضر
Their liberal values are focused on women, the Committee [for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice] and the judiciary, to the extent that it seems to many people that liberalism is just a call for intermixing [between men and women] and against religious scholars.
True liberalism is indivisible and not colored like the chameleon of Saudi liberalism, as they are suddenly against the peoples’ revolutions and the demands for reforms. […] They didn't talk about either poverty or corruption, only when King Abdullah gave them the green light.

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