Saudis’ penchant for craziness knows no end. The Saudi Arabian government’s decision to officially ban use of English and Gregorian calendar is one more grand step towards looking most stupid and absurd. It is suicidal for any underdeveloped state to reject languages and calendar of the developed nations in a world so dependent on ever evolving technology whose flow is currently from the West to the East. In an interconnected world, the underdevelopment has an essential price to be paid. And that gets paid in terms of learning and using languages of the technology producers, using the norms and standards set by them, aligning one’s telecommunication, transport and commercial exchange networks with the producers of those hi-tech gizmos and gadgets in the developed world. Flights, railways, currency and commodity exchanges, technical manuals, telemedicine networks, maritime contacts, banking, equity markets, credit cards, internet and scores of other services operate by the Gregorian calendar embedded in the technology merely because their servers rest in the West. Delinking is not only risky, but may prove ruinous too. While transition to Arabic for these services may be painstaking, the question of switching on to the Hijri calendar is fraught with risk of collapse of the system. The Hijri calendar dependent as it is on myriad and varied interpretations of visibility of moon, is far from being a fixed, standard and certain determiner of dates. Future dates being unpredictable, the calendar is not amenable to modern day needs. Unless drastic reforms are affected in the light of advancements in astronomy, the Hijri calendar would have no practical use other than deciding holy months and festivals of Islam. And Saudi Arabia has been the principal introducer of confusion into it through its arbitrary moon-sighting, nay date-fixing, measures.
The nonsensical initiative seems to be in sync with the Kingdom’s self-assumed role of the leadership of the Muslim world. No wonder, if the Kingdom shortly announces Makkah to be the pivot of a new standard time, now that it has erected the largest clock tower near the Harem Mosque. Some fundamentalists have even been backing its harebrained claim to be the geographical centre of the earth, regardless of the fact that every dot on the spherical globe could lay equal claim to this idea. Contradicting realities will only make life miserable for the Saudis and all those who depend on them for their livelihood and pilgrimage. Knee-jerk steps to assert one’s cultural identity and superiority without feasible solutions in hand and the commensurate capability can make the nation a laughing stock rather than an object of awe. The sooner the Saudis realize the folly of the new initiative, it will be better for them.