We use Twitter to connect with people we idolise – friends, maybe even family. You write about your day, share interesting articles you come across and post pictures of an event you are at. But if you’re around the Saudi religious police’s honcho, he will let you know that you’re going to go straight to hell for using Twitter.
Sheikh Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh has warned Saudi citizens against using Twitter, which according to him is a “platform for those who did not have any platform.” Anyone who uses social media sites – especially Twitter – “has lost this world and his afterlife,” according to BBC. Kind of drastic, we think.
Kind of harsh, no?
Earlier, the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca had voiced his opinions about Twitter being a threat to national unity and the Grand Mufti had dismissed Twitter users as “fools”.
The fact that Saudi Arabia’s religious heads do not take kindly to social media has been established. The question is why are they so averse to the Internet? It would seem like the biggest concern of the Saudi government is currently political uprisings that could make inroads into the country if social media goes unchecked. After all, Twitter and Facebook were one main tool using which the Arab Spring spread in most middle eastern countries.
Twitter usage within Saudi Arabia too has been growing rapidly and not just for fun. There have been many Twitter accounts from the country that have defied norms to tweet about protests in the country.
The growing concern about Twitter posing as a window into Saudi Arabia is so much so that late in March, the government was mulling limiting Twitter access to people who register their identification documents.
A billionaire businessman, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, one of the Saudi elite feels that an attempt to restrict social media is akin to fighting a losing battle, and we concur. The social network can turn into a very powerful tool of change when presented to the masses. Restricting freedom of speech will probably manifest into a problem bigger than one could imagine. Going to hell or not, social media users are here to stay – even in the Arab world.