A green day for Saudi liberalism

A green day for Saudi liberalism

A group of young Saudi activists announced last week that on May 7 would be celebrated every year as the Saudi Liberal Day. They planned activities and events to promote the idea of liberal thinking as a new ideology that could bring modern solutions to the speedily developing Saudi society.
If we took a deeper look at the so-called Saudi liberal movement we would discover that it had emerged during the last two decades. However, the idea that it is becoming the only rival to the prevailing conservative Islamic movement is somewhat irrational.
Saudi activist Souad Al-Shammary, presents herself as the secretary general of the Saudi Liberal Network. She claimed in an interview with France Press and Deutsche Welle, that Saudi liberals represent more than 70% of the population, but are hesitant to revel themselves in fear of radical Islamist retaliation, but In reality this percentage highly contradicts the conservative nature of Saudi society.
The Saudi Liberal Day was supposed to start in a peaceful atmosphere, trying to build a channel of communication within the Saudi community and even with opponents to their ideology. Instead, it transformed into a conflict of insults and accusations on social media sites and local newspapers. Some conservative writers even went as far as declaring that this day would be the end of the liberal movement in Saudi Arabia.
The main challenge facing the liberal movement comes from negative connotations associated with the term 'liberal'. Society here is not only critical of the Saudi liberal movement, they are comparing it with the history of western liberal movements that go back to more than two hundred years with a very different backdrop of religious and social challenges.
In addition, society is trying to mold and categorize the growing number of social activists, reformists and human rights advocates under one broad label of 'liberals' while in reality these activists refuse to be labeled as such.
So what we are really witnessing here is a growing Saudi social and civil movement seeking to modernize society and promote civic values. The fact is that Saudi liberals are only a small faction of this movement. They both stand for freedom, justice and equality but the efforts cannot be attributed to the liberal movement alone.
At the end of the day, the Saudi liberal movement cannot be compared to western or even Arab liberal ideologies since all of them are bound with their particular historical and geographical boundaries. And no matter how appealing the idea of a “liberal Saudi society” is, the fact remains that the Saudi Liberal Day didn’t achieve the anticipated results.

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