Mind your language, Saudi tweeps urged

Arjuwan Lakkdawala

Published — Sunday 25 November 2012

Last update 25 November 2012 5:50 am

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JEDDAH:The Kingdom is witnessing an online boom in social media. And the mini blog Twitter is especially popular with Saudis.
Thanks to applications such as Google Translate, language is no longer a barrier in disseminating words across a large and multicultural audience. On the Internet, just about everyone can be bilingual with just a click.
Many social media users have commended how social issues faced by Saudis and non-Saudis are discussed openly on these applications.
Putting aside all our social issues and the pros and cons of social media, what also has come to the notice of many Saudis is the appalling language used by some young tweeps, not to mention the vulgar topics that are being discussed on these sites.
Hadeel A. F., a tweep, 22, says that she has often come across young Saudi and non-Saudi women whose profiles indicate they reside in the Kingdom, cracking vulgar jokes on the blog.
“I remember a girl who was tweeting about indecent things, and she had many male followers. This is not decent conduct,” said A. F.
A.F says that even in the month of Ramadan many men and women on the social networking site were discussing sex.
Islamic scholar Sheikh Ahmed Nazimuddin says the Internet and social networking sites can be used positively or negatively depending on the user.
“My advice to the Muslim youth is to conduct themselves decently and politely on the Internet. We should show the West the beauty of our culture and clear misconceptions about Islam. Show the West that we are kind and polite people. The Internet should also be used to expand our knowledge. These are all positive ways to use the Internet,” he said.
“I also advise youth not to use the Internet negatively, and to avoid socializing with people online in an indecent manner,” he added.
Ahmed Al-Jabaly, 28, says that in many cases any attempt to advise these youths will be responded with them either blocking, un-following, or giving a rude sarcastic reply.
“They think that it’s cool and modern to discuss such obscenities. Many of these youths tweet in English and make fun of Arab culture.”
Al-Jabaly says his point is not what language is being used, but rather what is being said.
“Our culture and our roots are who we are. Those who study abroad and come back fluent in English and well-versed with Western culture should use their knowledge to clear misconceptions about Arab culture, and not jeer and make fun of it.”
“If we don’t respect our culture nobody else will either,” he said.
He adds: “Even though these youth preach that we should engage in dialogue exchange, what they really mean is for the dialogue to take place amongst themselves, in which they later all collectively criticize people like me who try to advise them.”
Shaima, who prefers to give her first name only, said she uses Twitter to speak about everything under the sun. She agrees that topics that are considered indecent in Saudi culture should be avoided, especially if there is no necessity to discuss them.
“I like that I can speak with so many people from around the world. And it’s very convenient and safe to communicate on the Internet as opposed to real life. The block button is quite handy,” she said.
Shaima says the Internet allows a person to get to know other people from a safe distance.
Noor says she expresses herself online and doesn’t care what people think. “I like to be myself, and talk about whatever I like. If people don’t like what I say, they don’t have to talk to me,” she said.

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