Janadriyah: Celebrating the Past in Changing Times

The Guardian’s Ian Black writes about Janadriyah:

Its purpose, the organisers say, is “to enforce a sense of religious, national and social unity” – a timely message given the undercurrents of unrest and nervousness in the kingdom. Recent months have seen protests in the Shia eastern province, the imprisonment of human rights activists and an ominous call to register Twitter users – all against a background of speculation about the health of ageing royals. On Tuesday, the billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the king’s nephew, dropped a bombshell by calling for elections.

As the country changes, events like Janadriyah come to serve as interesting points to to reflect on what it means to be Saudi. Conservatives in particular are becoming increasingly concerned that the social arena they once controlled is slipping out of their hands. Last year, a prominent cleric urged people to boycott Janadriyah, leading conservative youth to clash with security forces there. Similar remarks were made few days ago by Sheikh Saleh al-Fawzan, member of the Council of Senior Ulema, who reportedly warned families from going to Janadriyah. “Families should not go to such events,” he said, “because they are full of sins.”