Hala al-Masaad, an eighteen year old Saudi girl decided to invite a few girl friends over on her birthday for a piece of cake and some juice only to discover she had aroused the fury of Saudi clerics for her failure to behave like a nice Muslim girl. Saudi Arabia’s mot senior cleric has denounced the concept of birthday celebrations as an unwanted foreign intrusion into traditional Saudi life and customs. The youngster mused as to whether “I sometimes feel that I am doing something haram.”(banned). The Saudi ban on birthdays is based on a strict interpretation of Islam that is followed by the Wahhabi sect which controls religion in the country. The latest controversy arose when a prominent cleric Salman al-Audah said on a TV program it was OK to mark birthdays and weddings with parties as long as the Arabic word “eid”–feast–is used.
Each society has its own customs and values. There is sufficient evidence many Saudi families do celebrate birthdays and weddings and even Valentine Day. One can only wonder in a world in which there is poverty and hate, the need for clerics to concern themselves with things that bring forth love and joy.