Gulf | Saudi Arabia

Saudis want Gregorian birthdates on national IDs

Spokesperson says dates available on passports and driving licences issued in Saudi Arabia

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 11:16 April 7, 2013
  • Gulf News

Manama: Saudi citizens have urged the authorities to add their Gregorian calendar birthdates on their identity cards, saying that it would help them whenever it is needed abroad.

The call was issued after several Saudi citizens were requested to fill in forms in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) where they were required to use their Gregorian birthdates, but they had only their Hijri (Islamic) calendar dates, Saudi daily Al Watan reported on Sunday.

“I felt embarrassed when I was filling in a form for a mobile chip in Dubai,” Umm Mohammad, a Saudi mother, said. “I needed a document that showed the date, but I did not have one since I travelled using my identity card that did not have the date, and not my passport,” she said, quoted by the daily.

However, Mohammad Bin Jasser Al Jasser, the spokesperson for civil affairs, said that there were no plans to add the Gregorian date.

“The identity card has a specific design where all essential information is clearly visible,” he said. “The card is used principally as an identity document inside the Saudi kingdom where there is no need for a non-Hijri calendar birth date since that is the official one. Those who are interested in knowing their Gregorian calendar birthdates can always refer to the Saudi birth certificate, passport and driving licence where they are mentioned,” he said, quoted by the daily.

In June last year, all Saudi government and private agencies were requested to use the Hijri calendar and Arabic language in their official dealings.

Arabic should also be to used to communicate, mainly in companies and hotels, Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, then Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, deputy premier and interior minister, said.

The decision was taken after the authorities said they noticed a violation of the royal orders governing the use of the Hijri calendar and Arabic language, while English was “massively” used in the receptions of hotels and companies, local Arabic daily Al Sharq said.

According to the Saudi authorities, the use of the Islamic calendar will help preserve the history of Islam while the use of Arabic will reinforce pride in the country’s national language.

However, they said that the Gregorian calendar could be used whenever it was needed, but it had to be associated with the corresponding Hijri date.

Saudis have often stressed that the Hijri calendar and the Arabic language had robust links with the status of their country in the Arab and Islamic world.

For many Saudis, the state had “a moral duty to preserve and protect the Arabic language”.

“We have started to feel like strangers in our own land, especially with the tsunami of foreigners who resort to marginalising Arabic in local and foreign companies and in hotels,” a Saudi blogger remarked. “They even try to impose their language at the university as part of a long-term plan to make the Saudi market wide open for foreigners and limit competition from Saudi nationals. A deep penetration of foreign language in the Saudi society will also marginalise its religion and culture,” he said.

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