Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat- 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 Asharq 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. He added that young people in general are attracted to eccentric concepts and like to follow new trends.
In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr Amal al Arfaj, associate professor of Tafsir [Quran 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.
As an example, Dr Amal explained that young people purchase clothes and other items that carry phrases that could be deemed morally or religiously offensive. These young people, she said, buy and keep these products without understanding their meanings or any dangers that they entail. She argues 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.
Dr al Arfaj expressed regret towards the weak role of the family in this regard and believes that young people are primarily influenced by their friends and peers. Moreover, according to al Arfaj, shop owners and market traders also contribute to the spread of foreign cultures in Saudi society by promoting new trends and do not differentiate between what is good and what is bad and fail to understand the effects of some new trends on the youth.
The majority of male youth who have embraced the Kabbalah-inspired fashion make their own red string bracelet by cutting a piece of thread rather than buying the bracelet from a shop like their female counterparts.
Thamir Abdullah, a secondary school student, said that many of his friends were influenced by international football players in wearing the red string bracelet. He added that he stopped wearing his own red string band after reading some of the warnings that were carried by websites.
Some young Saudi girls wear green or yellow thread around their wrists as they believe that this would bring them good luck.
Another trend that is gaining popularity amongst young Saudi girls is EMO fashion accessories such as colored rubber bracelets. Experts attribute this to an eagerness amongst the young to follow fashion regardless of any cultural or social consequences.