Manama: Saudi social media have been debating whether the selfie craze has gone too far after people complained that some people performing Umrah at the Grand Mosque in Makkah were causing serious problems by stopping to take selfies and stall the movement of the crowds.
“I have been waiting for ten years for this special moment when I could see the Kaaba and perform Umrah,” Abdul Rahman Yaseen, a Pakistani, said. “I want a vivacious record that stays with me forever, and that is the reason I am taking the selfie. This is definitely the best picture I will ever take with my mobile,” he said.
Nur Eddeen Husain said he did not deliberately want to cause any form of congestion or problems for fellow worshippers.
“However, I do want to put on record everything I do during my umrah because I feel that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I want to treasure these auspicious moments and cherish them with fondness when I go home. The selfie is the best way to preserve them,” he said, quoted by Saudi news site Sabq.
Hamad Al Mutairi, from Kuwait, said social media have compelled him to take the selfies.
“The sight of the Kaaba is truly wonderful and being next to it is an exhilarating experience that I would love to share with my friends and followers on social media,” he said. “We have to admit that social media have become the major preoccupation of most people.”
Khalid Al Shimrani said selfies were highly popular and could not be seen as an oddity.
“Young men and women enjoy taking selfies and have their special way of finding the right angle and the best position,” he said. “They are truly interested in establishing contacts with others and in winning their ‘Like’ on their pictures or clips,” he said.
Samia Al Asmari said that although selfies were popular across all age groups and both genders, young women in particular had a special interest in them.
“They are really active on social media and they love uploading and looking at pictures and clips,” she said.
However, several Saudis said that the trendy selfies have turned from self-expression into obsession.
“It has become a disease and we pray for these patients,” a blogger writing under the moniker of Citizen said. “It denotes a trivial mentality and a negative approach. People should go to the Grand Mosque to see tranquility and to use every second to worship God, not to take pictures.”
Al Harbi, another blogger, said fines should be imposed on those who take selfies.
“The authorities should be strict because the phenomenon has gone too far,” he said. “We now have people who during the Friday prayers, instead of listening to the imam, prefer to take pictures of worshippers or to indulge in selfies. The problem is that you cannot talk to them because these are the Friday prayers and worshippers must not speak at all,” he said.
Dahrab said the selfie phenomenon was a serious challenge that needed genuine tackling.
“People can no longer worship in tranquility and peace of mind,” he said. “You want to walk and you inevitably bump into someone who stopped to take a selfie. We need solutions.”
A volunteer helping with organizing crowds said that selfies had become a normal activity at the Grand Mosque.
“You can see people taking selfies in the vicinity of the Kaaba or anywhere at the Mosque,” he said. “Even though taking selfies could stall the movement of the crowds around the Kaaba or between Safa and Marwa, you cannot tell people to drop their mobiles and move on. Some of these people have come from far-away places or have been saving money for years to be able to come to the Grand Mosque, and they have every right to record the auspicious moments. What we usually try to do is to help them move to less crowded areas where they could take their selfies,” he said.
However, others are insisting that people, especially foreigners, had the right to take their selfies.
“I am appalled by the onslaught on people who take selfies,” Abu Salam, a blogger, said. “Many of these people have come a long way to perform Umrah and there are those who sold gold and precious belongings to afford the travel expense and perform umrah. They want to go home with wonderful memories, including selfies. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them. It is not an issue. These people are so in love with the Kaaba and have a string feeling of belonging to the Grand Mosque. Let them enjoy these precious moments,” he said.
Hassan Mohammad, an Egyptian communication expert in Bahrain, said that selfies at the Grand Mosque were not part of the people’s narcissistic fixation with appearance or status.
“Most of the people are not looking for the validation of a special status by their friends or followers,” he said. “They are people who are so content and proud to be in the House of God that they want to keep a vivid reminder of the special moments they felt truly fortunate to have lived. They are not chasing attention-seeking selfies or behaving as if they were the centre of the world,” he said.