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How Muslim World Sees Halloween in Saudi Arabia?

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has made history by celebrating Halloween for the first time. The pagan festival was previously banned in the Islamic nation, and deviants used to get arrested. It appears that now it will be normalized on an annual basis due to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s vision of modernizing the conservative country. Halloween in Saudi Arabia marks the latest reform in an effort to deviate from the Kingdom’s interpretation of Islamic Law. However, it has stirred interesting responses from the Muslim world.

Muslims Refuse to Accept Halloween in Saudi Arabia

The event named “Scary Weekend”, took place in Riyadh on the 27th and 28th of October. It was a part of Riyadh Season, an annual state-sponsored sports and entertainment festival in Riyadh. It is itself a part of the Saudi Seasons initiative, launched in 2019. It occurs every winter from October to March, with 11 events in different regions of KSA.

Out of all the activities, Halloween in Saudi Arabia particularly interested pleasure seekers. The attendees dressed in fancy dresses and costumes to pose for pictures and videos that have been going viral on social media. KSA fully embraced the festival by decorating one of its biggest economic zone, The Boulevard Riyadh. From homes to stores to shopping malls, every structure was furnished with lights and evil-face pumpkins. Supermarkets were selling Halloween products, clothes, makeup, and props on prominent offers.

However, several Muslims saw this celebration as something disrespectful to the land they consider Holy. KSA is the most important country for Muslims as it contains Makkah, where they perform the Hajj pilgrimage annually. They expect the government not to entertain anything that contradicts the teachings of Islam. So, people walking around in dreadful getups made critics question the purpose of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan.

Double Standards

Some critics highlighted the Saudi practice of banning a Muslim event and promoting a non-Muslim one. KSA has banned the celebration of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s birthday because it thinks it’s Bidah (something which is fabricated and has no roots in Islam). Mawlid or Eid Milad-un-Nabi is celebrated by Muslims in many countries, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the UK, Germany, and Russia. Despite having no religious obligation, Muslims still commemorate their Prophet’s (PBUH) date of birth by organizing processions and decorating mosques, streets, and homes with lights. They criticized the Kingdom’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) and compared the importance of Mawlid with Halloween in Saudi Arabia. It shows that despite modernization, KSA is not inclusive of diverse schools of thought among Muslims. They have raised questions about why Muslims from certain sects like Shia or Brelvi are not given much freedom to celebrate events like Eid Milad-un-Nabi, or Muharram.

The Role Model

There are also hilarious reactions to this historical development in KSA. Here is one wondering if his local mosque would follow Saudi Arabia in choosing the date for Halloween. The joke is a reference to the practice common in the northwestern region of Pakistan, which traditionally follows KSA when it comes to choosing dates for Ramadan or Eid. The clerics of these areas assume that if there’s Eid today in Saudi then it must be in Pakistan on the next day. They also use KSA as the perfect example of an Islamic country in matters of observing Parda and the permissible practice of Azan. So there are rather sarcastic questions like whether local mosques will now order Halloween celebrations because their role model has done so. Interestingly, the criticism here is more on those who think Islam is what Saudi Arabia has been practising since it came into being in its present form since the 1930s. The question they are raising is will the followers of KSA also modernize accordingly now.

Origin of Halloween

As seen from the pictures, a massive crowd gathered to celebrate Halloween in Saudi Arabia, showcasing thier creativity in making horrifying disguises. The costumes included film characters, zombies, aliens, cannibals, and various bloodthirsty creatures. Originally, Halloween was named Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival which marked the end of the harvest season (summer) and the beginning of the death season (winter). Celtic pagans believed that on this day, the spirits of the dead ancestors visited the living. They celebrated it by placing bones, skulls, and skeletons to represent the spirits, but the celebrations have evolved over time. Now, it includes different activities like trick or treating, carving pumpkins (jack-o-lanterns), wearing scary costumes, and feasting.

A I Butt
A I Butt
The purpose of my writing is to record the same voices that are repressed by manual systems.
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