My Name; My Identity–What is Yours?

Posted: March 19, 2010 in My Articles

It is said that Saudi people are ashamed of their women’s names. It is also said that Saudi men hide their wives’ names under ridiculous or ugly knick names.  Some say that Saudi women are oppressed, and they cannot express themselves freely because of social and tribal boundaries, so some Saudi women hide their real names when they write or blog.

Well… I know some will hate me for NOT being this stereotype, especially those who live and feed on distorting the image of Saudi women. To begin with, there are no secrets in my life starting from my name to my experiences and preferences. My blog represents me as the way I am in real life; a woman who wears hijab and niqab (willingly)…a mother who is struggling to raise her three children in this mad world … a loving wife, who is supported by her husband…a working woman with so many responsibilities…and a writer who is still exploring the world of writing.  My husband and my children know about this blog like all my other family members and friends.

I am so proud of my name and my identity, and I cannot understand people who express deep opinions on the internet without a real name! I might understand some who write under a nick name for security reasons related to the nature of their jobs, but those are very few.  I share my background with people on the internet because my name and background are part of my personality.  However, I am always accused of being oppressed because I can’t drive a car. I can’t see how those people, who are afraid to announce their names are not oppressed!  Real oppression lies when you express an opinion without being able to tell others who you are…for some people, it is freedom because it allows them to insult others, talk about politics, draw a glorious image about themselves without being caught, known, or proven to be liars. To me, those are just cowards who might have bad intentions and hidden agendas.

People often ask me, to which side do you belong? Liberal? Conservative? Anti-American? Anti-Saudi? But I usually don’t have a comforting answer for such questions.

My opinions are not polarized…I don’t belong to the East side or the West side; I see beauty and goodness in both sides. Some accuse me of standing for nothing since I refuse to take sides, but I believe that life is much more beautiful and more profound than black and white only.

I hate many things about Saudi Arabia, but this doesn’t mean that I hate my country. I like many things about the West, especially about America, but this doesn’t mean that I idolize America or that I am a suck up who cares for Americans’ point of view. Like many Saudis, I admit that we have many problems in KSA, but I refuse any interference from people who don’t belong to Saudi Arabia and who don’t speak the Arabic language and have never read a book in Arabic. Being from an economically and politically better country, doesn’t give anyone the right to criticize my country in a destructive way. Constructive criticism that aims at change doesn’t happen through the internet; it happens on higher levels addressing the people who have the authority to make the change really happen. People who constantly criticize Saudi Arabia don’t really care about Saudi women or Saudi reform; they care only about satisfying and preserving the stereotype that they have been brought upon throughout their lives.  In addition, some of those people’s major objective is to change Saudi Arabia to fit them. They’ve come to KSA to earn a living, but they find it hard to adapt to the Saudi culture, so their fight is basically to satisfy their needs while living in Saudi Arabia. They want the money without making any sacrifice … they want to enjoy the feeling of “home” in Saudi Arabia, and since they believe they’ve come from a superior culture, they think it’s their right to change.

If change should happen in Saudi Arabia, it should happen by Saudi hands ONLY! The American “savior attitude” doesn’t really convince me because of America’s black history with many countries such as Vietnam and  Japan. In the 20th century, American reformers and feminists used to claim for years that they want to emancipate the Japanese women and to improve the Japanese society, but then the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima said it all and expressed the real intentions of America towards Japan. I know that many Americans today condemn the brutal incident, but it  still remains part of the American history. If Americans or people from any other nation have the energy and the knowledge to make a change, they should focus their efforts on their own countries. Your countries need you, people…your countries need your great knowledge and efforts, so don’t waste your energies on us.

I’ve lived in the States and studied for a few years… I liked so many things about America. I also didn’t like so many things there, but I never went to a woman wearing a bikini and told her that this is haram! It’s another culture…another religion, and I was just a guest, so what gives me the right to judge people there or tell them what’s right and what’s not? I had only two choices; either take the best of what that culture was offering me and stick to my religion at the same time, or leave the country if it was really getting on my nerves and affecting me negatively.

My opinions don’t appeal to many Saudis either because I am not trying to please the Americans as many Saudis do. Some Saudis hate me because I am not the person who believes that all evil comes from the West. Probably, I am caught between two worlds, but I am glad that I can understand both worlds and hence understand my mission in life.

So…hide your name or reveal your true is totally up to you, and I understand the various reasons that might lead some to make such a decision, but just think of the freedom my name has given me… I may not be able to sit behind the driving wheel in a car, but I am surly not the mystery woman who hides behind the computer screen and insults people or brags about something she doesn’t have!

  1. Mai says:

    Mashaa’Allah, so clearly and beautifully stated. I pray more and more will come to your frame of mind and understanding – ameen! As Muslims, we should take the good from each and every culture, for the good is what is pleasing to Allah. However, just as we take the good, we also leave the bad…including inshaa’Allah, the bad from our own cultures. The bad has nothing to do with Islam, it is just man-made fabrication and failure. The good, however, is always a source of benefit when teamed with Right Guidance. Jazaaki Allahu khayran.

    P.S. We went for Umrah during the end of semester break and spent a day in Jeddah. As we drove around, I thought of you. I had a warm, fuzzy feeling that I was visiting a place where a kindred spirit lived!

    • مها نور إلهي says:

      Thank you so much Mai for your sweet comment….I am terribly sorry for not replying to you any earlier…I am glad that you share the same views with me.
      Next time when you visit Jeddah, let me know , so we can meet 🙂

  2. Well said Maha …

    It is not about the names, it is about the minds!

    Whenever the conspiracy culture grips a society, it becomes blind of its own mistakes. and this is, I am afraid, one of Saudis biggest problems. And as you said, why should we be right or left? And who says it is only right or left?

    You spoke the mind of a lot of us …

    Take Care …

  3. Chiara says:

    Great topic and elaboration!

    Self-identification is more and more considered the norm in social sciences. Eg Deborah self-identifies as a Jew though she has not been raised in the Jewish culture and is not a hakachal Jew.

    This is valid in many circumstances, and up to a point. Sometimes identifications posed by others have as much or more validity and most people construct an identity that this a combination of their self-identifications in relation to external realities.

    I self-identify as Chiara Baschetti but others seem doubtful. They are of course being foolish. LOL 🙂 😛

  4. susanne430 says:

    Nice to read more about you! Thank you for the comment you left on the Arab-American blog. We’ve neglected it for a long time, but I appreciate your taking time to leave an encouraging comment. 🙂

  5. coralbead says:


    Well said. In fact I’m reminded of my professor’s words on the subject: “We don’t have the right to criticize something that’s not in our culture or religion. It’s their affair, and they don’t have that right to do the same to us, either!

  6. مها نور إلهي says:

    I am so sorry guys for not replying any earlier…i had two very busy weeks…
    Thanks a million to all of you!

  7. saudimajix says:

    you should see the look I get when I share my mom name ^.^ PRICELESS

    my mom is a writer and been on TV few time, matter of fact she is having an interview right now ^.^

    I have no problem with female name in my family, I have pride with what women in my family did ^.^

    I supported my mom by writing with her own name, her father said he didn’t mind he was all for it, he was “that my girl right there” her brother was a bit not so into it but now he is okay with it ^.^

    great post ^.^

    • مها نور إلهي says:

      Thanks Saudi majix…good for you and your mother…I wish I could get to know her some time 🙂

  8. TTGore says:

    I am not Arab. I am an American. And I am a woman. And as both I would venture to say we still deal with the very oppression that America’s mouthpieces claim to want to free other’s from.
    It plays out in many different ways in our culture and in our society. Instead of choosing faith based attire we are told the less is best and a size 2 is what is new. And so those who do not fit that stereotypical figament of someone’s imagination finds themselves struggling to be free from the oppression of other’s opinions and acceptance. So much so our daughters and nieces have no clue who they are or who they should be.

    The funny thing I find about most mouthpieces are that they are often loud and often wrong. They speak out of their own ego rooted in fear. Those who know real freedom understand that change comes at a high price that each individual must choose to pay in his or her own time…simply because they have paid it themselves in one form or another.

    I applaud you and am really enjoy your writings. I am a Christian, an American, and a Woman and yet I feel ultimately what I believe God wants all of us to feel… LOVE…here. Your gift is very much needed so please continue to bless us with it. Thank you.

    • مها نور إلهي says:

      That was the most refreshing and objective comment I’ve ever got! It makes me stick to my belief in good regardless of culture or religion…
      I totally agree with you about what God wants us to be and feel…Love should guide all our actions, but unfortunately, some hearts are full of hate and negativity that they forgot the meaning of being human beings.

      Whether Christians or Muslims, we are all human beings who have feelings and families to love and care for.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Good afternoon, Sabah el ghair,
    from the Netherlands, where unfortunately we have the most opposing islam politician in the whole of Europe at the moment, I am writing to tell you that I love what you wrote about all these “conspiracy theories”. It is all over the world. It is the disease of this era. We don’t feel well with something, and we point our fingers to another culture. We talk about the veil in Arabia, but what we need is to unveil our eyes here in the West. That is a worse veil then “your” veil. I have lived in Saudi Arabia, and I have many very good experiences there. There is good and bad in any culture, that is right. I am doing a study about the Islam, and it is truly interesting. I also believe that the main message of the Koran and the Bible is mercy, forgiveness, and love and acceptance. Let’s reunite in trying to get rid of all the conspiracy theories at both sites, and see and enjoy all the beauty of eachothers cultures. There is so much to enjoy on this planet. Even in the Koran it says that there are signs of God. Sleep in the night, the languages, cultures and different skincolours God blessed us with. If you are positive you will find and meet positive in any culture, and you will find friendlyness, kindness, trust. Faults and negative things are easy to find. But it does not bring anything. Keep on writing your lines. I truly enjoyed it, because it said everything I always thought about Saudi women !

  10. mohammad says:

    Saudi people are slaves of family of Saudi . their
    identity means they belongs to a family of Saudi name man .the country is named to this family
    by the British government after the end of Islamic
    empire .it is Arabian peninsula or aljzeera alarabia
    it is not proud to be called Saudi it is shame and
    disgrace hope people understand that

  11. passing thru says:

    this caught my eye and i couldn’t disagree more ,quote “Constructive criticism that aims at change doesn’t happen through the internet” unquote
    YES it DOES, isn’t this what you are trying to do with this very blog? not only change, but revolutions are now happening and raging all over the arab world all fueled by facebook and twitter. are you saying that unless non-saudies go and talk to gov officials directly then, they shouldn’t criticise Saudi Arabia??! this hypersensetivesm isn’t gonna get us any where, no body is immune to criticism…and unless we start questioning and doubting with no fear, backwards is the only way we will go.
    I have also found your article to be reeking of cultural relativism. If a certain hideous act or tradition is a part of a culture that doesn’t mean it is right, every human being is equiped with a faculty to see right from wrong regardless of culture , religion or nationality, this why we all agree that the cannibals living in some jungle in africa are wrong for eating human flesh, we don’t brush it off as “let them be its thier culture”, this is why we all agree that torture in any way shape or form is wrong, this is why we know that forcing people to practice a religion is wrong, preaching hate is wrong, undermining individual freedom is wrong, controlling people in the name of religion is wrong, stealing money by the billions while the country lacks even basic infrastructure is wrong, abusing power is wrong……rant over, u get the point
    lets be honest here, we all know the US or the UK are not without flaws, but to say that they are comparable to KSA or any arab country for that matter, is ludicrous to say the least…which is the lesser of the two evils? any honest person knows which.
    on a side note, i actually think that Canda, Japan and the Scandinavian countries are the best when it comes to quality of life as a whole, including personal freedom, econmics , tech, social justice, environment…etc
    you also seem to think that there is a Saudi culture, dare i say, there isn’t, what we have there is a number of regional cultures each with its own dialect , cuisine , costums, outlook on life…etc
    all these cultures are being eradicated by the advent of Wahhabism “for lack of a better word”..a very strict and literalist version of Islam that goes back to the foundation of the state it self…it isn’t the west thats threatning our local cultures, go figure…

    thank you, and sorry if i sounded a bit harsh

  12. Ya Right! says:


    Nice article. However, I would like to add that your country has serious problems. You cannot live in isolation. I dont agree with you that foreigners living in your country dont have any right to object. Your argument about the bikini is spurious. That lady wearing her bikini isnt abusing workers, or treating them as second class citizens, as you Saudis do. She isnt being a hypocrite, going around preaching to the world and practicing something else. Your country and government follows whatever part of Islam as and when it suites them. You people are racists. It is you all who think yourselves superior to others, and not the other way around. If as you say foreigners are guests in your country, then treat them as guests. You people are uneducated, and the sad part is you all dont even want to change.
    Your country goes up buying useless weapons from USA for overrated prices for the princes personal amusement, while your Muslim brothers and sisters are being killed around the world. You people dont even lift a finger to help your Palestinian brethren. You simply pass the buck to a Non-Muslim country (America). You all should be ashamed of yourselves.


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