May 29, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1939

London Arabic-Language Daily: "Kabbalah-Inspired Fashion Reaches Saudi Youth"

May 29, 2008
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 1939

On May 22, 2008, the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat posted on its website an article titled "Kabbalah-Inspired Fashion Reaches Saudi Youth," along with an image of a bracelet of red string and silver beads with Hebrew lettering. The following are excerpts from the article.[1]

"Today it is common to see large numbers of young Saudi men sporting a piece of red string around their wrists. This trend has spread all over the world in recent years, especially since A-list celebrities and football players were spotted wearing the red string bracelet that is believed to ward off the evil eye.

"However, the cultural connotations of this trend, that include a religious or ideological belief in the Jewish sect known as Kabbalah, are a cause for concern amongst some Saudi experts, who are against what they consider a form of 'cultural invasion.'

"The wearing of the red string is practiced by followers of the Kabbalah, a school of thought that focuses on the mystical aspects of Judaism.

"A number of Arabic websites have warned against this trend that is gaining popularity amongst secondary school students in Saudi Arabia.

"Dr Abdullah Al-Yusuf, professor of sociology at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that any imported foreign trend will have an influence on the society to which it has been introduced and that the consequences of such a trend are considered a form of cultural invasion as new behaviors are adopted...

"Dr. Amal Al-Arfaj, associate professor of tafsir [Koran interpretation] at the Faculty of Arts in Dammam, who is also active in preaching the Islamic faith, said that young people often follow trends without fully understanding what they represent... [She] explained that young people purchase clothes and other items that carry phrases that could be deemed morally or religiously offensive... and [do not understand] their meanings or any dangers that they entail [and that] if young people were asked about the significance of the red string that is worn around the wrist, they would not be able to give an adequate answer.

"She expressed regret [over] the weak role of the family in this regard, and believes that young people are primarily influenced by their friends and peers... [and that] shop owners and market traders also contribute to the spread of foreign cultures in Saudi society by promoting new trends... and fail to understand the effects of some new trends on the youth..."

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 22, 2008, The text has been lightly edited for clarity.

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