Opinion: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince steps up to his young country’s desire for reform

11 May 2018

The 10th Arab Youth Survey finally provides reliable, quantitative data on the attitudes of Arab and Saudi youth regarding the personality and policies of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Until now, there were only anecdotal claims that Saudi youth – roughly 70 percent of the population are under the age of 30 – overwhelmingly approved of MBS and his economic and social reform policies.

Journalists, such as Thomas Friedman and others, have reported on the enthusiastic and positive opinions that many young people in Saudi Arabia has of MBS. With this survey, we now know that more than 90 percent of Saudis between 18-24 approve of his appointment as Crown Prince and are supportive of his anti-corruption drive. An overwhelming majority also believe MBS is taking the kingdom in the right direction, feel that his economic reforms are likely to succeed, and that he is a strong leader who will have the biggest impact on the region of any Arab leader over the next decade.

What is equally interesting is that a significant majority of youth across the Arab world – some 60 percent – share the same positive view. In the case of the anti-corruption campaign, 86 percent of Arab youth are supportive. This data must come as very good news to MBS and the policy team around him, and he must seek to capitalise on the goodwill and favour he enjoys.

However, to make sense of the numbers, one has to appreciate the context of the Arab world, and Saudi in particular, today. There is a deep and broad desire across these societies for reform, and the youth see MBS as the most engaged agent in its transformation.

Reform agendas

In Saudi Arabia, this desire for change is particularly acute because the country has been led for at least two decades by a gerontocracy that only paid lip service to economic and social reform and kept the country in resolute stasis – change of any kind appeared impossible. In effect, the status quo consisted of a combination of extremely conservative social policies and government handouts in the form of public sector jobs, along with subsidies and various entitlements. Rent-seeking behaviour was rewarded over entrepreneurship, private initiative and merit.

These extraordinarily high numbers in favour of MBS and his reforms are nonetheless fraught with danger. They signal very high expectations among the youth about the changes MBS can generate and the results he must deliver.

Young Saudis no doubt believe that well-paying jobs will soon be plentiful as a result of the economic reform and diversification programme, otherwise known as Vision 2030. And, in fact, more than 90 percent of those surveyed believe that “Vision 2030 will succeed in securing the future of the Saudi economy”.

It bears keeping in mind that youth in Saudi Arabia are among the most connected and networked people on the planet, and are keenly aware of the affluent lifestyles that other youth enjoy in the West or in the Far East. Their expectations have to be managed carefully, because reform and job creation will take time.

Diversification is key

In his speeches and interviews MBS has given voice to the frustrations of the young generation, which explains, in part, why so many are supportive of his policies. But MBS has also been clear that diversifying the Saudi economy away from its heavy dependence on oil revenues will be a very difficult and painful process.

It is a fact that no country in the world that has experienced the extremely rapid economic development that Saudi Arabia has witnessed has been able to successfully reform its economy. Because of this, it is worth reminding people of the difficulty of this process, not least because it will help curb the belief that MBS can single-handedly work miracles. Expectations have to be managed because if they are unmet, they will eventually spill over into discontent.

Despite the huge support this survey shows, MBS is not necessarily in an enviable position. He has to make up for the decades of wasted opportunities during which real economic reform was endlessly deferred into the future by the government. Yet he must also manage expectations while reforming the economy with the aim of producing well-paying jobs and reducing the fiscal budget’s dependence on oil revenues.

Diversifying the economy is a generational challenge and will take more than a decade to complete. There is no doubt that a generation of Saudis will face hardship and may never attain their aspirations. Therefore, it is important to find the means to reset their expectations and to explain that their hard work and sacrifice is necessary for future generations to have it better.

Nonetheless, success in effecting change is more likely with the widespread popular support of the youth – which this survey shows – than it would be if they were antagonistic and despondent.

Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University

Arab youth across the region are energised and encouraged by Mohammed Bin Salman’s promise of social reform


This article was first published in  Arabian Business

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arabian Business Home

Beware: Saudi pranksters are on the prowl, and they’re ready to catch you out

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: April 16, 2018

JEDDAH: Although people have been pranking each other for thousands of years, the age of the internet paved the way for mainstream video-sharing websites such as YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, ushering in a global platform of viewers for pranksters. Famous YouTube and Instagram pranksters are quickly establishing themselves as the new generation of self-made celebrities.
They have built a fan base by creating entertaining user-friendly content, even if at others’ expense.
Pranking is entertaining on multiple levels because it serves to manipulate social power, cultural norms and status hierarchies while initiating strong human emotional responses.“Not only is a good prank harmless, but like a good story, it reveals an essential truth that would otherwise be hidden,” said American author Mac Barnett. “It is a great way to indicate the underlying absurdities of the world.”
There can be a lot to learn about human responses through this sometimes-cruel engagement. Since pranking is heavily influenced by societal and cultural norms, they function as a release of pent-up societal tensions.
Confusion, embarrassment, flattery, fear and ultimately laughter are sought when individuals are being pranked.
That feeling of losing control or being rendered powerless in a situation can illicit powerful human responses.
A well-constructed prank is a sort of social experiment on human emotions under the guise of seeking laughter.
Saudi Arabia, too, has a culture of pranksters to contribute to this trending industry, in Mohammed and Murad Salem, and Hassan and Hussein bin Mahfouz.
The two sets of twins have garnered nearly 2 million subscribers and followers combined on YouTube and Instagram by uploading entertaining skits and pranks in the Kingdom and abroad.
“Pranks have been our hobby long before social media. Now with social media, the idea has become more of a prank war between us as twins,” the Salems told Arab News.
“In Saudi Arabia, pranks are far from dangerous or intimidating. They rely on public embarrassment. We find they’re usually popular among most society groups, especially youngsters, and although not everyone will like our pranks, most encourage us to keep doing them.”
But it is imperative to not just look at pranking through rose-colored glasses, as it can deeply affect and emotionally scar some victims.
Since pranking can often involve social humiliation, a three-way relationship between the one who humiliates, the victim and the witness can create a helpless power dynamic for emotionally sensitive individuals.
“The reaction we often get from friends and family is positive,” the Salems said. “Although we don’t always agree on how bad the pranks should be, we make sure not to cross any red lines, as certain pranks have led to serious confrontations.”
Saudi prank culture has always existed, but it is only now starting to garner exposure and attention via social-media platforms. An added incentive is the potential income these content creators can accumulate via advertising revenue.
But the Salems aim to use their fame from pranking as a stepping stone to much bigger ventures. “We want to expand and enter the fields of media and acting,” they said.
“Pranks were one of the reasons that led us to fame, but we also sing. We’re currently studying some ideas to create sketches that portray everyday situations in a comedic way.”


Adaptability the key to survival in jobs market

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: April 15, 2018

With university graduation ceremonies coming up in the next couple of weeks in Saudi Arabia and all over the world, all recent graduates’ eyes and thoughts are on career days, CV writing and getting prepared for anxiety-provoking job interviews. Are our beloved fresh graduates prepared for all of this? Well, I can’t answer for all of them, but I am sure the ones that did their homework and set themselves goals and a plan to achieve them will no doubt be in a better position than their colleagues who are relying solely on their degree to land them a job. Will the courses and majors the graduates studied at university be enough to get them a good job these days? Will a degree alone help them get ahead in the fast-paced world we are living in?

A study by Singularity University shows 45 percent of today’s jobs won’t exist 10 years from now. We are starting to see this happen with the automation of a number of sectors: Transportation, customer service, and retail with the introduction of Amazon Go, for example. We have to face the inconvenient truth — that the future of jobs is changing. So ask yourself, does your job involve repetitive tasks? If it does, then I am sad to say that you might soon be replaced with a robot that can do your job more efficiently and a lot faster than us humans can.

“Graduates these days must be proactive and complement their academic education with training and workshops to expand their knowledge and prepare themselves to become lifelong learners.” 

Dr. Taghreed AlSaraj

Some people might suggest we need to look at what academic majors we currently offer at the university level and develop what looks promising while closing down majors that are considered obsolete. I couldn’t agree more with this thought, but I still say it would be too little, too late. I think what we really need to develop our educational system with a team consisting of educators, trend analysts and risk managers to come up with new interdisciplinary majors fields. We need to start combining two or more academic disciplines into one. This will help train our students to think across boundaries and understand diverse subjects in order to solve complex problems, which will be an asset both now and in the future.

Not everyone will agree with me, but what I do know is that we need to adapt to changes around us and in our jobs or careers, even if the majors we studied at university did not provide us with such skills. Employers now want employees that can adapt quickly to new changes, so people must be ready to learn fast and implement faster. Graduates these days must be proactive and complement their academic education with training and workshops to expand their knowledge and prepare themselves to become lifelong learners. So get ready to continue learning.


Seminar sets disabled Saudi youth on path to work

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: March 28, 2018

JEDDAH: Saudi youth with disabilities were challenged to “Start the Impossible” and fulfil their job potential at a workshop for people with special needs. The workshop in the Abdul Latif Jameel Hospital hall on Monday provided activities and information to help participants recognize their abilities and smooth their path into employment.
The Saudi Abdul Latif Jameel corporation has signed a partnership agreement with the Sa’ee program to employ Saudi youth with special needs and contribute to community development. Sa’ee is a non-profit initiative established this year to find job opportunities and provide training for disabled people.
“We provide psychological support and legal services to help people with special needs blend effectively into the community,” Sa’ee’s founder, Marzoog Al-Otaibi, said.
One workshop participant, Mariam Al-Sulami, 26, told Arab News that cerebral palsy — a movement disorder that appears during childhood — meant she had been unable to attend school every day.
“I had to have surgery 13 times to be able to walk,” she said. “Every summer vacation I had to have an operation on my legs and I would spend six months of the year with my legs in a cast.
“But I was determined to continue my studies — nothing could stop me.”
Al-Sulami earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and for the past two years has worked as a certified technical and vocational trainer. “I was among the best female students in the city and I received a scholarship to Batterjee Medical College in Jeddah,” she said.
“I was dreaming of studying medicine and becoming a doctor or pharmacist because my GPA in high school was excellent and qualifies me easily to join any medicine school. But when I applied they could not take me into consideration as my appearance is ‘medically unfit,’ so I decided to pursue business administration,” Al-Sulami said.
President of the Physiotherapy Association in Jeddah, Heba Felimban, said: “We are trying to show the community that physiotherapy is one of the best ways to help people get over their disability and live their everyday lives normally, depending fully on themselves.”
Chairman of Abdul Latif Jameel’s car division, Rowaid Al-Sawwaf, said: “We want to provide people with safe transport in accordance with the support the government is giving to help people with special needs overcome any obstacles they face.


Saudi students abroad are watching in hope as dramatic reforms in the Kingdom promise a new era of optimism

Time: March 26, 2018

NEW HAMPSHIRE: From 4,000 miles away, Saudi students in the US have been watching a political transformation unfold in their homeland with a renewed sense of hope for their own futures — and for the future of a country in a region beset by turmoil.
Since becoming crown prince in June, Mohammed bin Salman has embarked on a series of bold policies designed to curb corruption, push back against religious extremism and confront an expansionist Iran.
Domestically, social reforms have been high on the agenda, including the headline-grabbing decision to allow women to drive. Prohibitions on women driving had consistently been invoked by Saudi Arabia’s overseas friends and critics alike as an unacceptable restriction on civil rights.
“When I came to the US, the first thing I did was get my driving license and get my own car to drive,” said Siham Karkaah, a 33-year-old Saudi student from Riyadh. She arrived in the US in August, and is studying for a master’s degree in education at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
A month after she arrived, the crown prince issued a decree that means she will be able to drive when she returns to Saudi Arabia after completing her studies, something she plans to do.
“I have always been supportive of women’s rights, and I definitely believe in that and women’s freedom, and doing what you want to do as a woman.
“I fully support the changes that have been made. When I do go home, it will be to a different country,” she said.
Karkaah’s enthusiasm was echoed by other young Saudis studying in the US, who believe the crown prince understands their dreams and aspirations far better than previous leaders.
“It’s really important that the crown prince is close to our age; it means he understands our generation. We have a new way of thinking, and he does, too,” said Abdullah Al-Mutairi, 26, another SNHU student from the Kingdom.
He also supported the crown prince’s anti-corruption drive, which included seizing assets from some wealthy members of the Saudi royal family and prominent businessmen.
The crown prince’s methods have provoked concern in the US about respect for property rights and due process, although there is a widespread belief among US experts and Saudi expats that serious action against financial corruption was needed.
“I wasn’t expecting the crown prince to do what he did, but I’m glad he chose to,” Al-Mutairi, a business studies student, said.
Although supportive of the decision to let Saudi women drive, Al-Mutairi said the measure would run up against a strong strand of conservatism in Saudi society.
“Women may now be legally allowed to drive, but if there are men in their family who don’t want them to, that is a real barrier. The women could go to court, and they could win, but it might mean breaking ties with their family, which would be a huge sacrifice,” he said.
Saudi students typically come to the US to benefit from a learning environment they say is more open, supportive and of higher quality than they are able to get at home. Fees are usually paid by a Saudi government-funded scholarship fund, which also covers living costs.
SNHU, in the New Hampshire city of Manchester, is considered one of the most innovative higher education establishments in the US and has long been popular with Saudi students.
Another SNHU student, Hussam Samir Al-Deen, said he had longed to visit the US and had learned a great deal from his time there. He hopes to find work in the US after graduating, but expects to return home one day.
The 28-year-old from Jeddah said he tried to be a good ambassador for his nation. “Most Americans I’ve met have been very nice, but some have the wrong impression about Saudi Arabia and about Islam. I hope I have helped to improve their view,” he said.
Al-Deen said he and friends had suffered isolated cases of racism, or had been called terrorists by people in the street.
“I just ignore them, they don’t really understand what they are saying — most people are very kind,” he said.
His years studying in the US had changed him and some of his views on culture, he said. If there was one social reform that could be added to the list of those underway in Saudi, he hoped it would be a shift in the nature of personal relationships.
“In Saudi Arabia, it is more difficult to be friends with women, or to work alongside women, and it is not always accepted that you get to marry the woman you love. Instead you are supposed to marry and hope you fall in love with your wife afterwards. I would like to see those things change one day,” he said.

This article was first published Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News


Young Saudis urged to seize opportunities to shape economic future

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: March 23, 2018

WASHINGTON: Saudi students who have forged reputations as innovators are urging fellow young Saudis to seize a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape their futures.
At a packed conference room at Washington DC’s most iconic hotel, the Willard InterContinental, just across from the White House, a series of speakers took to the stage on Wednesday to call on the Saudi-majority audience to take up the challenge of reform.
“Never be afraid to do something or to be the first to do it,” said Razan Alageel, who last year won the outstanding youth delegate award at a UN youth project.
Alageel, who is studying political science at Appalachian State University in the US, said Saudis must not be intimidated by the scale of the tasks ahead as they face up to domestic and international challenges.
“You will always have a mountain to climb and another cliff to jump off. Believe in your instincts. You are powerful beyond measure, so use it,” she said.
She made her comments at a Misk Talk event in Washington DC, organized by the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Philanthropic Foundation.
Misk, as the foundation is known for short, was set up in 2011 by the crown prince to promote innovation and education opportunities for young Saudis, and to encourage media that “knows no boundaries.”
More than half of the Kingdom’s 27 million nationals are below age 30, a demographic situation that poses a serious economic challenge, and many get their news from social media outlets rather than relying on traditional sources.
Saudi Arabia has historically been able to employ young people in government agencies, paid for by the country’s massive oil wealth. But the crown prince has embarked on a bold economic reform agenda that, if successful, will radically shake up government subsidies in the state.
The Misk foundation is part of that effort. At Wednesday’s presentation, the message to young Saudis was that they, not oil, are the country’s most valuable resource.
Mohammed Bakhsh, an undergraduate at George Washington University, used his presentation to encourage young Saudis to take risks and not fear failure, both central elements of the entrepreneurship the crown prince has called for.
“Failure is one of the best teachers, failure is the essence of success,” he said, a mantra more typically associated with Silicon Valley than old-style Saudi economic policy.
Much was also said about the reforms that have taken place in Saudi, including allowing women to drive.
“Remember, less than five years ago we couldn’t have discussions about women’s rights in this formal capacity, that was impossible and unheard of,” said Jehan Al-Mahmoud, a PhD student in socio-lingustics at Georgetown University.
“It has been a journey for all of us. The Saudi youth, we are all witnessing this incredible transformation in our country and we are getting there.
“As the Saudi nation, we got lucky with the oil at first but we continue to get lucky with knowledgeable, ambitious leadership that cultivates the most valuable resource that we have — us,” she said.


Saudi Arabia plans first DJ party amid cultural shake-up

SOURCE:Arabian Business

20 Mar 2018

DJ Armin Van Buuren is being flown in for King Abdullah Economic City event on June 17

Saudi Arabia has announced plans to fly in world famous DJ Armin Van Buuren for the Gulf kingdom’s first DJ party.

The event will be held in King Abdullah Economic City on June 17 and is the latest event to be announced as Saudi Arabia plans to spend billions on building new venues and bringing in Western acts in a total overhaul of its entertainment sector.

Dutch national Van Buuren has been ranked the number one DJ by DJ Mag a record five times and in the United States, he holds the record for most entries (21) on the Billboard Dance and Electronic Albums chart.

Supported by Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, the event is being organised by Brackets.

It follows a series of events in recent months including concerts, a Comic-Con festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets to thumping electronic music for the first time.

Authorities have also announced plans to lift a decades-old ban on cinemas this year, with some 300 expected to open by 2030.

The newfound openness, which includes plans to allow women to drive from June this year, has been hailed by some as a crucial liberalisation of Saudi society.

Critics have pointed to continued restrictions however, especially on women who remain under a strict “guardianship” system that gives male relatives significant control over their lives.

The reforms are part of Prince Mohammed’s ambitious “Vision 2030” programme, which seeks to diversify the Saudi economy as it reels from a slump in energy prices, with the entertainment sector seen as a key potential source of growth.

Saudis splurge billions annually on movies and visits to amusement parks in the neighbouring tourist hubs of Dubai and Bahrain, which is accessible by a land causeway.


Young women reflect on year’s changes

SOURCE: Saudi Gazette

Time: March 07, 2018

Recent reforms and lifting of barriers have challenged social norms in Saudi Arabia at a rapid pace that have caused society to be split between two camps, one deeming them too fast and another — often the youth — to find it to be “just the right pace”.

Many Saudi women wonder how daily life has transformed in their country socially and economically since the past. Most have wondered throughout their lives when they would witness the day women will be able to drive.

Today’s generation live in a different Saudi Arabia than their parents’ age and believe the possibilities are now more than the impossibilities.

“There’s been an apparent focus on women this year,” says Aljohara Al-Ghamdi, an undergraduate student at Effat University, commenting on the recent liberation occurring in the Kingdom, such as new jobs for women, allowing for family entertainment and promoting more female leaders. “Indeed, it is fast”, she admits, “but it’s in our benefit”.

When asked about the career opportunities women can pursue, she, like many of her friends, sees unlimited possibilities now that new avenues of work have opened for women. “If she can handle the pressure of any job she wants, she can do it,” she said.

Most young women would agree change is “positive” and that it’s time to catch up with the rest of the world, especially in breaking the glass ceiling in careers and leadership posts.

“Who new we would see female pilots, policewomen, and all these new jobs opening up today?” said 21-year-old Fatima Al-Twerki. “The recent changes, such as allowing women to drive and work alongside with men in organizations make women’s lives so much easier.”

“Everybody should support these reforms,” she further said. “It’s a great and yet radical change that took the world by storm. Once driving was allowed, it triggered a series of changes.”

However, society could be not as fast to adapt to the many changes that have shook the country throughout one year’s time. As with anything new, resistance is bound to happen in the beginning.

“It’s always challenging in the beginning,” said Fatima, who is not sure yet whether her father will allow her to drive in June. “There’s still peer pressure on men to prevent their family members to enjoy full freedoms.”

Aljohara commented, “What’s still holding us back are old-fashioned traditions and mentalities. Lots of men in our society are still attached to them.”

23-year-old Hanouf Al-Aamri said the many changes send a shockwave to society. “I think it’s good that the reforms happened all at once. Even if we still don’t see mentalities changing, eventually it will appear because when there’s a law, it will lead to changes on the ground.”

She added, “You see some guys mocking us that we can now ‘do anything we want’. With time, the same people joking about it will be the ones supporting their sisters and wives just like with education and other things that were first introduced in the past.”

Her younger sister, Shada, says she’d like to see women “more independent”. “Women should be able to be independent whether they are married or not. Single moms, for example, still don’t have it easy especially those who work,” she said.

22-year-old Raghad Alamri, who is married, believes “it matters a great deal whether your father or husband you’re living with is supportive and open-minded. Men in the family play a role in a woman’s independence.”

Commenting on recent steps promoting women empowerment, she said, “You can easily notice that women in public are generally braver and more confident.

It’s positive for us as long as this liberation will still preserve our values as an Islamic country in the future.”


Meet Generation M: the young, affluent Muslims changing the world

Time: September 3, 2016

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case they’re wrong. In the foreground is a young woman with fuchsia lipstick, Jackie O-style sunglasses and a colourful headscarf. Behind her is a young man, with a hip, trimmed beard, headphones jammed in his ears and one hand casually resting in his pocket.

They are part of Generation M, and the eponymous book, subtitled Young Muslims Changing the World, is the first detailed portrait of this influential constituency of the world’s fastest growing religion. According to author Shelina Janmohamed, they are proud of their faith, enthusiastic consumers, dynamic, engaged, creative and demanding. And the change they will bring about won’t depend on the benevolence of others: instead, the Muslim pound, like the pink pound before it, will force soft cultural change by means of hard economics.

To demonstrate all that, the cover image was crucial. “When you’re talking about Muslims in particular, but actually people of religion in general, the images you get are really quite depressing,” she says over coffee and baklava in her garden in the outer suburbs of London. “But I think this really captures it. It’s bold, it’s vibrant, the woman’s got so much attitude. They are exactly the kind of people I’m writing about.”

Janmohamed recalls going into a bookshop some years ago. “They had this display of books about Muslims, and it was all misery memoirs of women in veils with cast-down eyes who’d been kidnapped and sold, and people riding on camels in faraway deserts,” she says.

“But young Muslims are crying out for a voice to say this is not what we’re like, we do ordinary things like everyone else, and we have interesting things to say – particularly when the conversation is about Muslims.” There are precious few mainstream publications about the experience of being a young Muslim, beyond politics and theology, she says.

Generation M are the Muslim millennials, the global generation born in the past 30 years, but with a twist. Unlike their Christian counterparts in the US and western Europe, most of whom are turning their backs on organised religion, Generation M has “one over-riding characteristic, which is that they believe that being faithful and living a modern life go hand in hand, and there is absolutely no contradiction between the two,” says Janmohamed.

In the book, she writes: “Their faith affects everything, and they want the world to know it. This is what sets them apart from their non-Muslim peers. It’s the single factor that will shape them and a world that they are determined should cater to their needs … They are a tech-savvy, self-empowered, youthful group who believe that their identity encompasses both faith and modernity.”

The demographics depict an extraordinary trajectory. In 2010, there were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, a figure forecast to grow by 73% in the next four decades – more than double the general rate of growth. By 2050, according to the Pew Research Center, there will be 2.8 billion Muslims globally, more than a quarter of the world’s population.

Working in Bahrain ‘opened my eyes to the global experience of being Muslim,’ says Janmohamed.
 Working in Bahrain ‘opened my eyes to the global experience of being Muslim,’ says Janmohamed. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Of the 11 countries expected to join the world’s largest economies this century, six have overwhelmingly Muslim populations and two have big Muslim minorities. By 2050, India will have the largest Muslim population in the world, at an estimated 311 million, although they will still be a minority among the country’s vast numbers. Muslim minorities in Britain, Europe and North America are young, affluent and growing. One-third of all Muslims are under the age of 15, and two-thirds under 30.

The Muslim middle class is expected to triple to 900 million by 2030, driving consumption as well as social and political change. Their spending power is enormous: the most recent State of the Global Islamic Economy Report forecasts the halal food and lifestyle industry to be worth $2.6tn by the end of this decade, and Islamic finance is on a similar trajectory. Muslim travel could be worth $233bn. In 2014, Muslim fashion was estimated to be worth $230bn, and $54bn was spent on Muslim cosmetics.

“Through their sheer numbers, their growing middle-class stature, the shift of economic and political power towards the Middle East and Asia, home to most of the world’s Muslims, through the Muslim minorities that act as influential and well-connected leaders, by the inspirational force of their faith and their refusal to accept the status quo, Generation M are determined to make change. And what a change it’s going to be,” writes Janmohamed.

She charts the beginnings of this change. The demand for halal (permitted) products has been the impetus for growth in a range of businesses, such as food, fashion, cosmetics and travel. Among dozens of entrepreneurs cited in the book are the Radwan family, who started an organic halal farm in Oxfordshire; the producers of non-alcoholic beer – a sector that grew 80% in the five years to 2012, according to the Economist; Shazia Saleem, who launched ieat, a range of halal ready-meals including shepherd’s pie and lasagne, which are now sold at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco; and “a whole new Muslim fashion industry”, incorporating online retailers, video bloggers, catwalk shows and haute couture.

But Generation M, according to the book, wants to go beyond halal to tayyab, which roughly translates as “ethical and wholesome”. They want the entire supply chain of production and consumption to have integrity. “Resources must be properly respected, workers in primary industries must not be exploited. Sustainability and renewability are part of the Islamic idea of ‘stewardship of the Earth’, which Generation M eco-Muslims … are championing.”

Lutfi Radwan with his family on his organic halal farm near Oxford.
 Lutfi Radwan with his family on his organic halal farm near Oxford. Photograph: Sam Frost for the Guardian

According to Janmohamed, this Muslim millennial generation has been shaped by two monumental factors. One is the events of the past 15 years, since 9/11, and the global response to Islamic extremism and terrorism; the other is the internet, described in the book as “the glue that binds [Generation M] together and creates the critical mass that turns them into a globally influential force”.

The internet has also, she tells me, “given space for [traditionally] marginalised voices within the community – younger Muslims and women – to express their views”.

Among those views are frustration and resentment at being defined by their hijabs or being told they are oppressed by their faith. Janmohamed quotes Azra, 20: “I’m a young Muslim woman. I am not oppressed by my hijab, I’m liberated by it. If you don’t understand that, that’s completely fine, you don’t need to … The emotion you’re seeing in my eyes is not a plea to ‘help me’ but one for you to take your self-righteous bullshit and shove it up your arse.”

Rather than being downtrodden and subjugated, Muslim women are experiencing increasing empowerment in education, employment, public life, marriage and childbearing, says Janmohamed. “If we were to pick a face that captures the global pace of change, it would most likely be a Muslim woman – she is part of the largest population, in nations where change is happening fastest, and in the segment where change is most potent. In short, Muslim women are where it’s happening.”

Although beyond the cusp of Generation M at 42, Janmohamed in many ways embodies the young Muslim woman she describes.

She was born in London to immigrant parents who arrived in the UK with a suitcase and £75 in cash, and she went to a school at which there were few non-white faces. “Religion was important in our family – I remember my parents praying and fasting, going to the mosque was extremely regular; the Muslim community they were part of was the foundation of the family’s social life. But at school, I spent my time hiding my hennaed hands, not telling people I was eating curry at home, being very shy about being Muslim.”

Only when she went to Oxford did she start to wear a headscarf. “I found university a liberating experience. I got to explore who I was, and part of that was my Muslim identity, which had been very suppressed at school.”

After university, she joined a graduate trainee scheme in marketing, and later spent a year working in Bahrain, which “opened my eyes to the global experience of being Muslim”. She returned to the UK shortly before 9/11, and following the London bombings in July 2005, began writing a blog “talking about what it’s like to be British and Muslim and a woman. It felt like that conversation, about someone who straddles different heritages and feels comfortable in all of them, just wasn’t being heard.”

A catwalk show at the Saverah expo in London this year – a fashion, lifestyle and networking event billed as Muslim women’s ‘ultimate day out’.
 A catwalk show at the Saverah expo in London this year – a fashion, lifestyle and networking event billed as Muslim women’s ‘ultimate day out’. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian

The blog led to a book, Love in a Headscarf, published in 2009, about her 10-year quest for love via the route of a traditional arranged marriage. Janmohamed was headhunted to help launch Ogilvy Noor, a division of advertising and marketing agency Ogilvy & Mather, which advises brands on engaging with Muslim consumers.

Ogilvy hired her when she was eight months pregnant with her first child, and Generation M was largely written during her second pregnancy and since the birth of her younger daughter 18 months ago. In the book’s dedication, Janmohamed writes: “To my girls. Because you can do anything. Take it from Mummy.”

Generation M, she says, has high aspirations. “They want to be astronauts, you’ve got fencers at the Olympics and ice skaters going to the Winter Olympicsfemale air crew for Brunei airways – these are young people who are really battling the fact that they have aspirations that should be unfettered versus a reality that is trying to confine them to a particular box.”

But, she acknowledges, not all young Muslims are Generation M. Inclusion does not depend on disposable income or level of education, but sharing the characteristics of faith and modernity. “Their counterparts might be called the Traditionalists … more socially conservative, believing in maintaining harmony, more deference to authority and, as their name suggests, trying to hold firmly on to what they see as the good elements of family, community and tradition,” she writes.

And a few young Muslims, of course, become radicalised, hijacking Islam for violent extremism and hatred, the polar opposite of Generation M.

I ask her who the book is aimed at. One of her goals was to offer a platform for Generation M, she replies, “for people to have their voices heard”. “So there’s a recognition of their own identity, a consolidation of who they are, how they talk to one another.”

Then, she adds: “There’s a conversation for the wider Muslim community to have, to understand some of the dynamics that are happening within it, some of the challenges young Muslims are facing and how they can be resolved.”

But the book is also – and perhaps mainly – for a wider audience. “People who work in business, politics, culture, development. The UK [Muslim] population is just shy of 3 million, the European population is 50 million and growing, there’s a worldwide population of 1.6bn. I think anyone who’s quite serious about understanding what’s happening around the world has something to gain.”

And the marketing executive in Janmohamed wants global brands and multinational corporations to wake up to the power of the Muslim pound, dollar, rupee, rupiah or euro. “Brands have been a little bit over-cautious,” she says, pointing out that business is not immune to prevailing tropes and stereotypes. “It seems to be a really radical idea that Muslims actually buy stuff. Muslims are saying: ‘Hello, we’ve got lots of money to spend, we’re young, we’re cool, please can you deal with us in the same way you deal with everyone else?’”

 This article was first published The Guardian

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link The Guardian


The Arab women making themselves heard online

SOURCE: Arabian Business

Time: March 18, 2016


Four years ago, Jeddah-based AlJuhara Sajer launched a channel on YouTube called Jay’s Cherry. She did not expect a huge following, but wanted to offer women practical advice that she felt was hard to come by in her part of Saudi Arabia. A budding entrepreneur, she also wanted to build a platform through which she could one day launch a business.

Over the next three years, 25-year-old Sajer produced about 100 videos — a mix of product reviews, recipes and beauty tips — and built up a following of more than 200,000 subscribers. By 2015, the videos on her channel, now called JaySajer, had had 30 million views.

Yet nobody knew who she was. Like all women in conservative Saudi Arabia, Sajer faced restrictions on her words and actions and opted to keep her identity secret until she had established her channel and garnered a loyal following.

Her father persuaded her to reveal her identity last year. Sajer announced the planned date of her appearance on the channel and started a countdown to create a buzz.

Since then her popularity has soared — at the time of writing she had more than 335,000 subscribers. She says in an email exchange with Arabian Business: “At the beginning, it was a mystery road. I didn’t want to involve myself when I didn’t know how it would work out.

“Three years ago, there were hardly any girls on YouTube in the Middle East. I wanted to enjoy my privacy for as long as possible, and for people to focus on what I had to say rather than just think, ‘Oh, a Saudi girl turned rebel’.

“I did get negative feedback from men, telling me to quit YouTube because it’s not the place for girls and I should focus on being a good housewife.

“I showed my father some of these comments and he explained to me how these men think sometimes and how it’s weird for them to hear a Saudi girl on YouTube.

“I told him how sad this was and he said: ‘If you want to change this sad thinking, keep on doing what you do and someday they will accept it’.”

Jay’s Cherry is now one of the four most-watched YouTube channels produced by women in Saudi Arabia, and Sajer’s videos are increasingly wide-ranging in topic. They include clips from before and after her first live TV interview since revealing her identity, a round-up of her favourite products, a spontaneous video filmed at 2am telling her computer “not to give up”, and even videos featuring her father.

She also created a series entitled ‘Kong enti’, which means ‘Be Yourself’, after receiving comments from people telling her how to talk and trying to change the way she was. “My father saw the comments, came to me and told me to be myself and never listen to them.”

Sajer is one of a growing number of Arab women who are using YouTube to express themselves — whether that is by sharing beauty tips, reporting on their travels or creating comedy and other entertainment that highlights issues in their societies.

YouTube can also help launch women’s careers in a region where the workforce remains dominated by men. Creators are increasingly benefitting from advertising revenue as the region’s top advertisers seek to use high-profile online personalities to push products — though none of the women Arabian Business spoke to for this article would reveal figures.

Saudi Arabia has been cited as having the highest YouTube penetration rate in the world and 41 percent of Saudi females watch online videos every day, according to Analysys Mason’s Connected Consumer Survey 2015. There also has been a 200 percent increase in the number of subscribers on the top four Saudi female-led channels (JaySajer, Miva Flowers, es2almujarib and AnaWHeya) in the past two years, claims YouTube.

However, the trend is region-wide. YouTube ‘watch time’ across MENA grew by 60 percent between 2014 and 2015, the company says, and YouTube watch time via mobile devices grew by 90 percent over the same period. Within that, watch time of female content grew by 50 percent year-on-year.

Women under 25 in the UAE and Saudi Arabia watch online videos more frequently than they check their emails, according to Google’s Consumer Barometer — specifically, the watch time of beauty and fashion channels grew by 50 percent year-on-year in 2015. And Arabic language content is in high demand, says YouTube, reporting that the number of hours of uploaded Arabic content grew by 40 percent year-on-year in 2015.

The surge in interest has not happened overnight. YouTube, which was acquired by Google for $1.6bn in 2007, has been working to generate more Arab female-produced content on the platform, claiming viewers demand it, advertisers are hungry for it and more women are inspired to become creators as a result.

Diana Baddar, head of YouTube partnerships at Google MENA, says: “It was a personal mandate of mine to increase the number of female YouTube creators because there wasn’t enough.

“We looked at Europe, North America and Asia and saw these rising superstars — California’s Bethany Mota, beauty ‘guru’ Michelle Phan, all these names that booked deals, had their own product lines, did endorsements, whereas here in the Middle East, perhaps due to our more conservative culture, you do not find so many girls on the platform.”

Baddar began working with a number of emerging female creators in the region, showing them how to generate a following and encouraging them to create more. “A lot of the people we spoke to thought YouTube was some sort of abyss and nobody cared about what they were doing. When they got the phone call from us, they felt this was their ‘OMG’ moment — they’d been spotted!

“They all had the same reasons [for creating YouTube content] — that it was something fun for them to do and they wanted to share their experiences with other girls.”

She says creators find YouTube an attractive medium because it gives them the freedom to tell their story how they wish, without the restrictions of traditional broadcast media. YouTube also allows them to be more targeted, “to drill right down to very specific aspects of the community they are living in”, in a way that pan-regional television does not.

“YouTube has become the search engine of video,” says Baddar. “It’s so diverse, there’s something for everyone.” The quality of content distinguishes YouTube from other social media, she adds, as arguably a greater effort is made to produce, edit, annotate and upload.

AlJuhara says: “For me, the appeal is the freedom and unlimited creative ways in which you can express yourself and your ideas. A girl can film a video talking about what she likes and thinks, put it out there in YouTube land and find girls from everywhere that relate to her and share her interests, which provides security and makes you feel you’re not alone.”

These girls are not solely focused on beauty, though this is the most popular sector. But Baddar says in the Middle East, YouTubers “do things with a twist. Where else would you find a review channel where you’ve never seen the creator herself? Who takes years of building up the channel and then reveals herself?”

Many creators seek to highlight social and cultural issues using comedy, which Baddar says is groundbreaking in itself as Arabic female comedians are few and far between. One channel in particular may surprise Western viewers who presume discussing male-female relationships is taboo in Saudi Arabia.

Twenty-year-old Darin Al Bayed, a Lebanese, Saudi-raised creator whose channel AnaWHeya (‘Me and Her’) has 414,000 subscribers and 30 million views, acts out conversations between men and women from each sex’s perspective in a lighthearted yet incisive manner. Meanwhile, Hatoun Al Kadi uses her YouTube channel Noun Al Niswa to document scenarios in which she finds herself, for example with her driver, husband and kids, in the form of short satirical sketches.

Many Arab female creators say it is easier for them to express themselves online than offline. Aljuhara admits that her father has received threats from people trying to force her to stop her channel but says that, on the whole, feedback has been positive.

“We have the freedom to express ourselves online and create our own rules far away from the judgemental society.”

“Screaming from the rooftops does not work for every country in the world,” explains Baddar. “These girls are smart and intelligent and know they don’t have to tackle an issue head on; they can draw attention to it through shrewd, witty observations based on their awareness of what is acceptable in the society around them and what is not.”

Baddar’s work reached a peak this year with the appointment of Dubai-based YouTube video creator, Hayla Ghazal, as a United Nations (UN) Ambassador for Gender Equality. The 20-year-old was chosen along with six other female creators from across the world as part of a campaign by YouTube and the UN to encourage women to use digital media as an empowerment tool.

Ghazal tells Arabian Business she started her channel, HaylaTV, two years ago as a way of becoming less shy. She is self-taught, confessing she “literally keyed ‘video editing’ into Google” to produce what is now a portfolio of more than 150 videos.

She aims to present basic life tips to other girls, as well as lightheartedly poke fun at societal issues and trends. In one of her clips, Girls at Weddings, she acts out the role of various women at weddings, from the ecstatic and slightly smug bride, to the jealous older sister and the social climbing mother of the bride’s best friend, pushing her embarrassed daughter to go and dance with all the eligible bachelors.

Ghazal says Arabs in particular would understand the scenarios and laugh because marriage, and marrying well, is culturally very important. Another video shows her mimicking Arab dialects, from Khaleeji, to Syrian, to Egyptian. Ghazal has 663,000 subscribers and some of her videos receive millions of hits each.

“It’s great to see more women recognising how technology can empower them to own their own voice, speak up and share anything they want,” she says.

The rise of female YouTubers is working for advertisers, too, meaning there are commercial opportunities for creators — although Baddar claims generating revenue is a secondary goal for most of the creators with whom she works.

A spokesperson for Procter & Gamble, one of the 10 biggest advertisers in MENA, says: “Women YouTube bloggers are fast creating a unique media awareness tool. In MENA, when partnering with leading YouTube beauty bloggers to educate followers on a product, we found that engagement is almost 30-50 times higher than traditional brand-owned platforms. Consumers trust influencers’ voices, and this is having tangible results.”

YouTube is unlikely to overtake television in MENA, says Baddar, “but they can definitely sit side-by-side”. And, while the knotty, contentious issues are likely to be left to the male creators for the foreseeable future (watch Saudi comedian Hisham Fagheeh’s parody of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’, playfully titled ‘No Woman, No Drive’, on his channel Telfaz11), YouTube looks set to play a growing role in the professional and personal development of women in the Middle East.

Meet the MENA creators

1. Hessa Al Awwad, 27, Dammam, creator of Miva Flowers: “My show focuses on nail art and hairstyling and has 44 million views. My goal is to spread happiness and beauty and my motivation is my fans, I call them my ‘flowers’. My most popular video is one of my simplest — a clip about what’s in my handbag. It has had more than 2 million views. YouTube gives [Muslim] women the opportunity to show others our way of living and spread knowledge that hijabs and niqabs are not a wall from the world; we can do anything we like.”

Miva Flowers shares ideas on nail art and hairstyling and has 44 million views on YouTube.

2. Darin Al Bayed, 20, Jeddah (Lebanese), creator of AnaWHeya: “I co-present AnaWHeya [‘Me and Her’], which uses comedy to explore the social dynamics between men and women. I have been approached by a major broadcaster but cannot reveal details at present. I started my channel in 2013 because I love the camera and want to spearhead equality and raise awareness of the issues women face in Saudi Arabia. Here, women have more freedom to speak online than offline.”

Darin Al Bayed, creator of AnaWHeya.

3. Haifa Beseisso, 25, Dubai (Palestinian), creator of Fly With Haifa: “I focus on empowering women to follow their dreams through travel. Ten months ago, I quit my fancy job to follow my own dreams. I launched my channel in 2014 but published just five videos while I was working. Now, I’ve produced 39 and attracted 59,000 subscribers and 2 million views! Many of us dream of adding something significant to the world and I want to do that through YouTube. It makes me upset when I watch a movie or the news and see Arabs getting portrayed in a way most of us are not. In my videos, I do things that show I’m a normal girl: I’m crazy, I jump from mountains, I dive, I go on a zipwire, I’m a human being who loves other human beings and wants to understand different cultures.”