The Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias and David Guetta in Saudi Arabia? Oh my! We are used to hearing about concerts in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, even Oman, but in Saudi Arabia? Here, like in the kingdom, culture has often been the reason for “banning” concerts, but now that Saudi Arabia is moving with the times, what is our excuse, Kuwait? Culture? Do we not share the same culture as our fellow GCC members? Aren’t the majority of Kuwaitis originally from Saudi Arabian tribes? What now, Kuwait? Are we still going to hold on to a past that is slipping from our fingers, or should we make a gentle transition or even an abrupt one like our brothers and sisters in KSA?
Isn’t it time we stop pretending that we don’t enjoy music, that we don’t enjoy entertainment, that we don’t enjoy spirituality, that we don’t enjoy meditation and yoga, and all the other beautiful facets of life we are denying ourselves and others in the process? Why does everything we do here have to be done behind closed doors? Why do we have to travel to attend spiritual seminars and workshops, or concerts of our favorite artists? Why do we have to travel for book signings by authors who are censored here? When are we going to learn that what our ancestors said was, in fact, true: What is forbidden is desired. Are we going to raise children who are perverted and secretive or a future generation that is healthy and able to enjoy life’s beauty by being authentic and free?
Music is beautiful. It makes us happy, especially in a world that is filled with uncertainty. Music is a natural high and to consider it forbidden or taboo is unfair. If we don’t want to head-bang at a heavy metal concert, we don’t have to buy tickets, but why can’t others? If we don’t want to dance or sway to hip-hop, we don’t have to. It’s up to us though if we want to, or if we choose to sit in the front row of a classical concert, one leg crossed over another, clapping while looking over our shoulder, making sure nobody is looking.
The same with books and censorship. Is reading not a part of our heritage? When did we allow a group of men to berate us for what we read? Isn’t that reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451? Understandably, ratings are there to protect children from violence and adult content, but to censor a book for adults is preposterous. Especially since it’s no secret that banned books are bestsellers in our community! And apart from sating our curiosity to read what we shouldn’t, literature is a carpet ride to a magical realm. It takes us to worlds far away and increases our tolerance and understanding of those who are misunderstood. Censoring books is detrimental to our society and robs us of opportunities to connect with fellow humans. It’s no wonder why we are so fearful of change and foreigners.
And so, here we are, reticent to take any step into a future that is already here, whether we like it or not. Perhaps what we have not yet understood in our community is that culture is not fixed, no matter how much we glorify it. Change is inevitable. And we either resist it and suffer or accept it and peacefully allow change to flow. Bob Dylan reminded his peers in the sixties that the times they are a-changing, and this is a phrase still applicable today, tomorrow, and the day after. Oh, and it’s not just time that is changing. We are too.
By Nejoud Al-Yagout