November 22, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10332

Saudi Writer: Saudi Youths Celebrate Halloween As A Way To Renounce The Suffocating Prohibitions Of Their Strict Upbringing

November 22, 2022
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 10332

Halloween celebrations by locals in Saudi Arabia recently sparked a debate in the country, on social and mainstream media. Among those who addressed the issue was writer and columnist 'Abdallah Bin Bakhit. In a November 4, 2022 article in the daily 'Okaz, he wrote that the Halloween parties reflect the young people's rejection of the many Islamic prohibitions that were imposed on them for decades and of the culture of repression and death that dominated their upbringing.  

'Abdallah Bin Bakhit (image: Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

The following are translated excerpts from his article:[1]

"Years ago they told us that we must not follow the Gregorian calendar. None of us needed any explanation for this, because the name of this calendar clearly indicates that it is Christian. Yet we [continued to] use this calendar for years, and I have not met a single Muslim who converted to Christianity, or whose faith flagged, or who strayed from the right path [because of this].

"Years ago [in 2010] a bitter debate emerged [in Saudi Arabia] after the government decided that to merge the departments for boys' and girls' education [in the Education Ministry]… We were [then] required to prove that the sun is shining in the sky [i.e., to prove the obvious]: we had to prove that merging the departments had nothing to do with mixing boys and girls [in the same class].

"Anyone who was alive six years ago and was aware of events surely remembers the war  against [Valentine's Day] roses.[2] For the first time in human history, roses became a threat, [in particular] to people's faith and the religion. The war on roses was the climax, after the previous wars against beauty, music, theatre, novels, paintings, photography and happiness… There was a ban on displaying roses [in public], especially red roses, regarded by young people as a symbol of love. The defeat of the roses was a resounding victory for ugliness.

"Over the years beauty faded and ugliness spread. The wars against beauty were replaced by attempts to sap people's human emotions. They used to take children to graveyards. Each child had to lie in an open grave, and any child who failed to cry was ordered to examine his evil heart. Since women are not allowed to enter graveyards, women preachers undertook to spread [this] ugliness among girls [in other ways]. They started storming women's celebrations, breaking them up and, instead [of the party], giving demonstrations on how to wash the dead, wrap them in shrouds and weep over them. [3]

"These teens had nightmares about being tormented by the brave bald serpent that awaits them in the grave,[4] and about the sorcerer that will separate their parents and another sorcerer who will cause them to fail in their studies. After breaking the family television set and tearing up their photographs and the photographs of their friends,  these graveyard boys took things into their own hands. Having been deprived of their joy in life, they started chasing people in the markets and invading their privacy. Then they proceeded to the really important tasks: blowing up mosques, government ministries and the homes of peaceful citizens, ripping up their ID cards and passports and joining [terror] organizations that seek to kill people around the world. 

"Today, using the same tactic of filling people with terror and fear using pagan rituals and customs, the members of the Sahwa[5] have turned their attention to Halloween parties, which they regard as devil-worship rooted in paganism… They think they can fight joy, just as they fought against the roses. But the young people [celebrating] Halloween not only experience joy and have fun, but are also avenging the roses." 


[1] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), November 4, 2022.

[2] Until 2017 public Valentine's Day celebrations were illegal in Saudi Arabia, and members of the religious police used to break up Valentine's Day parties and even prevent people from selling and buying items associated with this holiday, such as red roses. The prohibition sparked considerable criticism in the kingdom; see e.g., MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2811 - Debate in Saudi Press over Ban on Celebrating Valentine's Day – February 16, 2010.

[3] On the preoccupation with death in Saudi schools, see MEMRI reports: Special Dispatch No. 730 - Educators and Parents Protest Against 'The Culture of Death' Taught In Saudi Schools – June 11, 2004; Special Dispatch No. 3084 - Mock Funeral at Saudi High School Sparks Widespread Condemnation in the Country – July 7, 2010.

[4] According to Muslim traditions, a "brave bald serpent" torments the dead who neglected their prayers in life.

[5] The Islamic Sahwa (Awakening) movement, established in the 1980s by Saudi clerics, combined Wahhabi and Salafi Islam with the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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