When I first heard about Michael Jackson passing away, I was sad. But when a friend suggested that I should post about him, I said no, this blog is about Saudi Arabia and MJ is an American icon. However the more I think about it I find that there is no way that anyone could say that he is only American. He has had such an impact all over the world and a very special impact here in Saudi Arabia. In the eighties he was the first non Arab to penetrate the thick muttawa influence. I remember the huge VCR thriller tape that was obtained on the black market and considered so valuable that people would not lend it to anyone. My cousins and friends would watch it over and over until the tape would go gray and choppy and they didn’t even understand English! I remember a religious lecture I attended in which the muttawa lady was telling us about a Saudi who was led astray through listening to music. The Saudi, she claims, got in a horrific car accident while listening to MJ’s music and died singing along instead of saying al shahada. At the time, all I could think was wow this muttawa knows MJ!?
Before the internet and satellite TV, most Saudis didn’t know the names of world leaders and got most of their information filtered by fanatical and political agendas, but MJ was the only person that was able to cut through all that and reach even here.