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Saudi Youth Committed to Rules, But Some Lust for Romance

Saudi Arabia's courting ritual does not just involve avoiding rejection but danger as well. Young Saudis must reject romance, or risk arrest, flogging, and dishonor to one's entire family. An in-depth New York Times article on love's rules in Saudi Arabia paints a picture of youth not seduced by daring rebellion, but committed to adhering to conservative Muslim society, at least in appearance.

In Saudi Arabia, unmarried men cannot enter shopping malls populated with female shoppers. A young woman out and about by herself, as well as her absent male relatives, garner the disgust not just of the elders but of the youth that see her, too. Strangers set up by their families in arranged marriages are not allowed to see each other until their wedding party. A while back, the religious police jailed a woman for a co-ed Starbucks run.

Despite the respect for these traditions, the youth do sneak in a few romantic text messages here or there. If they are going to break the rules and secretly date, young Saudis make sure to protect their families' reputation. For example, one couple hired a matchmaker to arrange a phony introduction to help explain to their parents how they met.

Do traditions like these lead to a stronger family life in Saudi Arabia? Is it inefficient to make the youth put so much energy into avoiding the appearance of romance, when they are actually dating in secret?

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