Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Absence of Alternatives in Our Society

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi • kbatarfi@al-madina.com

Whenever Islam prohibits something we naturally need, it always gives us a better alternative. Marriage, for example, is the substitute for adultery. While black magic is prohibited, science is encouraged. This divine wisdom is what we lack in our human judgment.
As we start the summer season the same old question is asked: What is the alternative to international tourism? With all our natural resources and rapid advancement in the tourism industry we still lack good preparation and organization, especially when it comes to families with limited resources and varied and conflicting interests, such as women’s needs vs. men’s, adults’ vs. children’s. Add this to high prices, phony sale offers and poor information service. Not to mention the beaches, mountain tops and public parks that somehow turned into commercial projects and private villas and palaces.
Our discussion about families leads us to the problem of singles. While families have options, bachelors don’t. What can millions of singles do for entertainment? Go to malls, beaches, cafes? Then what? Even getting accommodation for singles is becoming a challenge. Besides, treating them with suspicion (many deserve it, though) everywhere they happen to be even when walking in public parks, is forcing them into summer exile. What better options do they have?
As for entertainment, we seem to have tightened some parts too much, and opened others too wide. While we forbid cinemas, which can be censored and controlled, we let our homes’ space open for all kind of really bad programs without the slightest control. While we set rigid rules to segregate sexes, we drop all rules in tourist villages and chalets. As we spend billions on sports facilities, we forget to provide public parks and playgrounds to neighborhoods. Expensive malls and commercial tourist facilities are built everywhere, but few public beaches and children’s playgrounds are provided.
Good alternatives are not lacking only in tourism and entertainment. On our highways, we prohibit pedestrian crossing, but neglect to provide pedestrian bridges. We don’t allow private help at lessons at homes but provide no after-hour schools. Our children are not allowed to study in international schools, but we don’t provide equal alternatives. Non-Saudis are not allowed to have their own schools according to their countries’ curriculum, and yet we don’t allow them to study in our public schools.
I go back to what I started with and say: If our religion provides better alternatives to forbidden needs, and regards everything as “halal” except what is prohibited, why can’t we Saudis do the same?

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