A while back I did a very short internship in my trade here in Riyadh where I got to mix with expats from all over the Middle East and Africa. Being the only non-muslim at work and starting during Ramadan, I covered my head to be sure not to offend people, and then felt weird about uncovering after Ramadan was over. This made people at work curious about my religion, and I had a few people ask me whether I was Muslim or Christian.
When I first answered that I was neither, and that I was in fact not religious at all, the looks I received from people were of complete and utter dismay and confusion. I felt like I had just told everyone my mother was a dolphin, and that's why I have flippers for hands. When I tried to explain myself, it only caused more confusion, so I gave up and just decided to tell everyone I was Christian and that I just hadn't been to church in a real long time. This calmed everyone's feathers down, except maybe God, who might have been offended by my hypocrisy. I came home and told hubster what happened at work and he nodded his head. He said that he found that certain groups of devout people here view Christianity as an acceptable alternative to being Muslim, because at least Christians are still people 'of the book' so to speak. But to not believe in God or to not be religious at all is just seen as catastrophically poor judgement...you are basically a lost soul. What kind of person would choose to be a lost soul???
Obviously that was a select group of fervent believers that I was working with, but I think it's very interesting that at home in Toronto in my circles, I am the norm, and it's the people who are religious that are 'misguided.' I've been on both sides of that fence, and I really don't think either side is right or wrong, better or worse - it's just a matter of personal preference. Whatever you choose, as long as you are happy, have love in your life, and are at peace with the world, then you have my personal approval. Just don't be surprised if you show up here as a staunch atheist and are met with double takes from a local who goes to mosque five times a day ;)
Change can happen in Saudi Arabia
1 month ago