U.S. 2016 election results in Saudi


“Go back to the kitchen.”

Saudi Arabia is a young country both historically and demographically. It’s an absolute monarchy that was declared in 1932 with over 70% of its current population under the age of 30. Despite our young population’s high education and a 70% internet penetration, national political participation remains limited. It’s no surprise that Saudis enjoy spectator political participation. Local social media followed the American election closely. Our Arabic news channels’ coverage could compete with their American counterparts. And just like most people in the world, Saudis were entertained when Trump announced his candidacy. The likelihood of his winning was considered slim, and when pitted against a seasoned politician like Clinton, Saudis took her upcoming presidency as given. One of the first Saudis to do an about-face and tweet congratulations to Trump is HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.

The shock of Trump’s victory did not inhibit Saudis from expressing themselves. Within minutes of the announcement, Whatsapp, Snapchat and Twitter accounts shared memes expressing dismay, fear, banality, and even joy. Many expressed their indifference with a meme of a merged Trump and Clinton face stating that they are two sides of the same coin. Others likened him to the Prophet Mohammed’s hostile half-uncle. In the Quran, the half-uncle is cursed as the father of flames and his wife the bearer of the wood.  So it goes the bearer of the wood lost to the father of the flames to express the candidates’ perceived animosity to Saudis. My favorites are one where Saudi men in traditional dress are running in horror from a giant Trump in the background and a Snapchat photo of a Saudi college student in the US anxiously watching the election numbers come in with a suitcase packed and ready to go.

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A reaction that was to be expected was the thrill of ultra-conservatives and Islamic fundamentalists at the fact that the United States had not elected a woman. A meme on how Clinton started an Instagram account to sell her cooking, a popular income generator among Saudi women, went viral. A Saudi Twitter news account boasting over 1.6 million followers euphorically tweeted : “A message to those calling for abolishing the male guardianship system: The results of the American elections are expected for a country as strong as the USA 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 put in their two cents. Mohammed Al Alshiekh optimistically wrote for Al-Jazirah newspaper about how American foreign policy will be 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 its “spiritual father.” He predicts that a Trump presidency might lead to a cancellation of the Iranian nuclear deal and at the very least a less civil administration to Islamic sectarian factions.

On the other end of the spectrum, the highly influential Jamal Khashoggi wrote for Alhayat newspaper about his uncertain Trump presidency outlook. The piece was so widely shared among Saudis that it contributed to the Saudi Foreign Ministry issuing a statement reminding people that Khashoggi’s opinions do not represent the government’s position. In Khashoggi’s piece, he forewarns that a president Trump is the same as the candidate Trump and that Trump has consistently held his current seemingly wild views for over two decades. Khashoggi points out that Trump is an extreme right wing populist who probably only thinks of the Arabian Gulf Countries as oil wells. His worst-case scenario is that a Trump presidency might lead to an American-Russian collaboration in the Middle East and the best-case scenario is that Trump’s advisers convince him to create an effective coalition with Middle Eastern Sunni powers to fight ISIS and bring stability to the region.

Currently, Saudis are closely watching Trump’s statements and choices for advisers and administration. While some are celebrating the likely new CIA chief Mike Pompeo’s comments about undoing the Iran nuclear deal, others are wary of Mike Flynn’s likening Islam to a cancer. Trump’s statements on how he’ll wean the United States off of Saudi oil drew an apt comparison to King Faisal’s oil embargo threats. Meanwhile, many are content admiring the new first lady and Ivanka Trump. Naif Alsalam even wrote a poem on how “for Trump’s daughter sake he’s not upset about the win and that he’ll forget all their differences. He goes on that “Ivanka governed humanity’s hearts long before her father governed the states.”


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19 responses to “U.S. 2016 election results in Saudi

  1. Hello SW. I think the religious right in the US will have a big influence on Trump and in turn on the new USA relations with KSA. Things like not allowing the practice of other religions in KSA, Saudi very close religious similarity to that of ISIS (sad but true), etc etc, will have consequences for KSA I believe. Time will tell.

  2. salafionpaleo

    I have noticed Saudis/and those from the Gulf look at the West as a place free from all the problems some of them tend to face especially women. I explained to my students here in the West we are fighting our own battles as muslims as women and even as minorities in some cases. Some of my students did not believe me when I told them here in the West we are still fighting racism and discrimination based on race, sexism, ageism and reglion etc… To them everything is perfect here in their eyes. One of students told me we have many issues in Saudi but racism is NOT one of them….

    I think you should write a post on racism in Saudi Arabia, I teach Saudi students and they seem to think that there is no such thing as racism in Saudi Arabia LOL. I am sure that is what white people say about America because they have white privilege . Anyways, I explained to them that we all have stereotypes of others and within every society muslim or not there is racism. I asked one of my students to tell me something she hates our conversation went something like this

    Student- “Teacher, I hate men who dress like the Nikkers”
    Me: Excuse me, do you mean niggers?
    Others- -in the back other giggling and become shy they begin to speak in Arabic telling her to correct herself because at this point I am upset..
    Student- “Laughs, no I mean like the ghetto people”
    Me: Hmm, are you sure you did not say Niggers, Reema!
    Student: “No, I do not know what that means”

    —- I know she knows what it means because I heard her talking to her friends in Arabic…. (I understand them they just don’t know it)

    Anywho, this is nothing when I discussed the topic of racism and prejudices with my students, I realized that a good portion of them really suffer from ideologies of racism, they DO NOT realize that these viewpoints are even problematic in the first place. However, I must say the VAST majority of Saudi females I have taught are are free from this which is good.

    I recall …..

    Two of my students one who was Yemeni the other Afgani both born and raised in Saudi their loyalty to Saudi Arabia can be seen in how they view the nation and their love for it in their speech and writing. However, in one class they both got extremely emotional one of my students was crying as she spoke about what prejudices she faced and a couple of my students asked her to shut her mouth or go back to her home country or just be “HAPPY with the generosity of this nation”. It would be intersting if you wrote a post on it I would love to read about your view from the lens of a Saudi woman.
    I do not face any prejudices as a teacher I think because I have a western passport and I am western educated likewise I was given a very good position so the students despite what they thought of me gave me respect.

    I remember applying for this job in Saudi Arabia, I had to hide my ethnic roots. My colleges said to me DO NOT tell them you understand Arabic in the slightest just show them your Canadian passport they will give you the job very quickly when they see this, do not worry.

    A lot of people here in the West mock Saudis because they are so clueless, I know people who are not even educated they are just WHITE yet they hold high paying jobs teaching in Saudi Arabia just because they are white and hold a western passport. It is so strange how Saudi employers tend to just love western passports, I have a Saudi friend who hold a masters degree in English yet she gets a quarter perhaps even less than that of what I would be paid with a lack of experience and just a BA. Why? It is way beyond me.

  3. I don’t think anyone can predict what Trump will bring to foreign policy vis a vis Saudi Arabia. The current US policy is a mess, the US has helped destabilize Syria and helped create a refugee crisis in the region. Trump criticized Obama’s policy but also seemed to support more military action in Syria. None of this makes sense. Given the military situation the best solution would be some kind of settlement the ends the civil war. That would mean an acceptance of the Assad regime.

  4. Please must mention the new song made by saudi women related to traffic laws of saudi arabia

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