Nov 24, 2016 6:20 p.m
Saudi Arabia is a young country both historically and demographically. It is an absolute monarchy, proclaimed in 1932, with over 70% of the current population being under the age of 30. Despite the high education of our young population and an internet penetration of 70%, national political participation remains limited. It’s no surprise that the Saudis enjoy viewers’ political involvement. Local social media followed the American election closely. Our Arabic news channels’ coverage could compete with their American counterparts. And like most people in the world, the Saudis were amused when Trump announced his candidacy. The odds of his winning were considered remote, and when up against a veteran politician like Clinton, the Saudis took their imminent presidency for granted. One of the first Saudis to turn around and tweet congratulations to Trump is His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.
The shock of Trump’s victory didn’t stop the Saudis from speaking out. Within minutes of the announcement, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and Twitter accounts were sharing memes expressing dismay, fear, banality, and even joy. Many expressed their indifference with a meme of a merged Trump and Clinton face declaring that they are two sides of the same coin. Others compared him to the hostile half-uncle of the Prophet Mohammed. In the Koran, the half-uncle is cursed as the father of flames and his wife as the bearer of wood. So goes the bearer of the lost wood to the father of the flames to express the candidates’ perceived animosity towards Saudis. My favorites Among them are Saudi men in traditional dress run in horror in front of a giant Trump in the background and a Snapchat photo of a Saudi college Student in the USA, with her suitcases packed and ready to go, anxiously watching the election numbers come in.
One expected reaction was the outrage from ultraconservatives and Islamic fundamentalists that the United States had not elected a woman. to memeand like Clinton started an Instagram account to sell her kitchen, a popular source of income among Saudi women, went viral. A Saudi Twitter news account with over 1.6 million followers tweeted euphorically : “A message to those who are calling for the abolition of the male guardianship system: the results of the American election are expected for a country as strong as the USA that would never allow a woman to lead.” They soon deleted it, but the same text remained on their Telegram channel.
Soon after, Saudi political analysts began to add their two cents. Mohammed Al Alshiekh wrote optimistically for the Al-Jazirah newspaper about what US foreign policy will be like in Saudi’s favor under a Trump presidency. He claims that the Democratic Party has always been bad for the region and Saudi in particular, and that the Democrat “whose father came from the jungles of Africa is the worst of them all”. Al Alshiekh blames Obama for the Arab Spring and calls him his “spiritual father”. He predicts that a Trump presidency could result in the cancellation of the Iran nuclear deal and at least a less civil administration towards sectarian Islamic factions.
At the other end of the spectrum, the most influential Jamal Khashoggi wrote for the Alhayat newspaper about his uncertain prospects for the Trump presidency. The article was shared widely among Saudis to help the Saudi Foreign Ministry issue a statement reminding people that Khashoggi’s opinions do not reflect the government’s position. In Khashoggi’s article, he warns that a President Trump is the same as candidate Trump and that Trump has consistently held his current seemingly wild views for over two decades. Khashoggi points out that Trump is a far-right populist who likely sees the Arab Gulf states as nothing more than oil wells. His worst-case scenario is that a Trump presidency could result in US-Russian cooperation in the Middle East, and the best-case scenario is that Trump’s advisers persuade him to form an effective coalition with Sunni powers in the Middle East to fight ISIS and bring stability to the region.
Currently, the Saudis are closely monitoring Trump’s statements and decisions for advisors and the administration. while a few to celebrate the comments of likely new CIA chief Mike Pompeo about the cancellation of the Iran nuclear deal, Other are suspicious when Mike Flynn compares Islam to cancer. Trump’s remarks on how he will wean the United States off Saudi oil drew an apt Comparison with King Faisal’s oil embargo threats. Meanwhile, many are content to admire the new first lady and Ivanka Trump. Naif Alsalam even wrote a poem about how “for Trump’s daughter’s sake, he won’t be upset about winning and that he will forget all their differences.” He goes on to say that “Ivanka ruled the hearts of mankind long before her father ruled the states.”