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Ethnic and Area Studies

Ethnicand Area Studies

Ethnicand Area Studies

Traversingacross a large portion of the central and northern Arabian Peninsula,Saudi Arabia is a recently born nation that is heir to a rich pastand its western high grounds along the red sea rests the Hejaz, theorigin of Islam and the location of Islam’s jolliest city, Mecca.Located at the centre of the nation’s geographical scenery is theNajd region while to the east are the large, rich oil fields thathave made the country identical with oil wealth since the 1960s. Inthe mid-twentieth century, most of the Saudi Arabians still practicedtraditional lifestyle and had transformed little over the past year.However, the late twentieth century and the twenty-first century hasseen the life of the Saudi Arabian’s accelerate, especially becauseof the consistent inflow of the pilgrims to Mecca every year as ithas offered the nation outside contacts. Moreover, the country’sinteraction with the exterior world has increased due to thetechnological innovation being witnessed in the transportation sectoramong others. The vast wealth of the nation, based on its petroleumwells, has resulted in massive changes in the education sector aswell as the industrial segment. Almost the entire population of SaudiArabia is ethnically Arab with western province individualsdescending from Turkey, Yemen, India and the like while the southernpart inhabitants belonging to the main Arabian Peninsula tribes.Social stratification is present in the country with certain socialgroups having more pre-eminence as compared to others in addition tointernal conflicts that have arisen due to power struggles within thepalace. The general picture of the Saudi Arabia socialstratification, ethnic groups, and conflicts, both internal andexternal, when compared to the United States offers a diverse view ofthe two nations.

SaudiArabia Ethnicity, Social Stratification, and Conflicts

InSaudi Arabia, status divisions are very famous and crucial toindividuals since they provide various opportunities to the kingdom.Status is not classified to any ethnic principles but according tonearness and loyalty to the royal family. Moreover, Saudi Arabiadefines status as a combination of tribal, religious, economic, andregional factors. Starting from the high status are the royal family,clerical class, Najdi tribes, other tribes then Shi’a with thelowest status (Al-Rasheed, 2015). The royal family and the Muslimclerics have the highest social status in Saudi Arabia due to theclose relationship to the Wahhabi movement and the House of Sa’udin the eighteenth century. House of Sa’ud conquered a big part ofthe Arabian Peninsula, set up, and owned the kingdom, which is themain reason why the royal family has a high status. Religion is thedominant factor of the royal family due to the location of the Islamsacred shrines in the kingdom. Clerics from the Wahhabi movement havea high position in the kingdom and the Muslim world hence, dependenton the royal family. The clerical class from Najdi tribes are chosenas of the Al al-Shaykh family who have been representing thespiritual provision to the noble family. These tribes have beenrelated for a long time to the House of Sa’ud and contributed inthe first alliance, which conquered a great part of Arabia and wasestablished by Ibn Sa’ud. Loyalty and identity to the House ofSa’ud by other groups determined their social status. Other tribesare ranked after Najdi since they were followers of other movementsapart from the Wahhabi sect. These sects of Sunni Islam weredefeated, and they are rivalries of the House of Sa’ud. People fromthis group are not considered as pure Arabs and have economic andcommercial influence. The Shi’a groups are ranked the lowest in thestatus order since their religious movement is considered asnon-Islamic and have been denied to practice their faith.

SaudiArabia faces both internal and external conflicts because of today’sera oil steered economic instability and the outside influence ofIslamic organizations. Saudi Arabia, for a long time, has encounteredvarious socio-economic and demographic challenges considering thatout of the nation’s twenty-eight million population, immigrantscomprise of nearly one-third of the whole population and more thanthree-quarters of the total labor force. Nearly seventy percent ofthe entire population is made up of individuals under the age ofthirty years, and within that age group, the rate of unemployment isaround thirty percent. Citizens and non-citizens of the country arerequired to abide by sharia laws with severe Wahhabi valuesauthorized by the royal family along with the religious leaders ofthe Ulema that mostly leads to conflicts within the settlerpopulation as well as the nationals (Van Tubergen et al., 2016).While various groups within the kingdom advocate for modernization,the radicals increasingly call for heightened rigidity in thereligious values, leading to conflict between the royal family andthe entire population of the country. In fact, the recent rise topower of King Salman led to increased strain since the insidepolitics of the royal ship add more doubt, paving the way forterrorist groups who may want to take advantage of the unsteadiness.In fact, the issue with jihadists seems to be serious consideringthat the Saudi Arabians are among the largest fighters who make upthe ISIS and with the heightened crackdown on these fighters, thefight may go back to the Saudi Arabia’s doorstep, something thathas once occurred in the past. Ethnic tension in the country has beencalmed down by the strategy of the King to increase expenditure oneducation and by the creation of jobs to more locals, even though itis still perceived as one of the factors that have led to decreasedbusiness growth.


Althoughstatus is informal, it is an important determinant in accessingeconomic and political power. Status distribution is made throughunderstated biases and assumptions based on group connection to themonarchy. Some instances that bring about the aspect ofdiscrimination are like the Shi’a being excluded from variousactivities such as denied careers, education, and freedom of speechin Saudi courts (Castellino &amp Cavanaugh, 2013). Shi’ite sacredplaces of worship are destroyed, and their cultures are prohibited.They have been considered as traitors treated harshly with severepenalties, unlike the other tribes who have low status in the Saudisociety and have implied loyalty to the kingdom. Shi’ite is theonly group that has different religious beliefs and is settled in adense region of the Saudi Arabia society. Although they occupy themajor oil-producing land, the other regions benefit greatly from therevenues of the petroleum industry. This selfishness illustrates howthe Shi’ites are discriminated by the rest of the Saudi Arabiasociety and can lead to violence as an outcome. Shi’a are deniedadmission to the government of Saudi Arabia executive career pathslike being a minister, air force officer and judge. Methods of changefor the social stratification are networks to the royal family andconnection to imperial trading groups.

ExpertsView on Ethnic Problems in Saudi Arabia

SaudiArabia has been struggling with various ethnic problems especiallyduring the present political unrest that is being witnessed in Arabiccountries. The transfer of power was one of the areas that wereperceived to be of interest from the various ethnic communities inthe region especially because of the advanced age of leadership thatthe nationals have had for a long time. Additionally, the probablefallout from discussions regarding the various political reforms thatneed to be implemented could agonize the Ulema, religious groups, andpro-reforms within the royal family (McLeod, 2013). However, thereforms that have so far been implemented have calmed the situationdown with other feelings that there is an impending unrest in thecountry steered by ethical issues. In that, the royal family hasstruggled to implement social reforms without provoking the Ulema,but the ongoing regional reforms will likely lead to both nationaland non-nationals demanding additional social reforms. Ethnicity inSaudi Arabia has also led to the poor allocation of resourcesconsidering that the Shi’a have access to limited resources, eventhough they sit on the nation’s largest reserves of oil.

Similaritiesand Differences Related To Ethnic Groups, Stratification, andConflict

TheSociety of the United States is stratified according to social class,which can be defined as hierarchical groups of individuals that arefounded on education levels, the wealth amassed, the level of income,occupation, and social network. Most of the citizens identify withthree main groups of people, which include the upper class, middleclass, and the lower class. Regarding ethnicity, the black in theUnited States are three times most likely to perish in poverty ascompared to the white Americans. The rate of unemployment among theAfrican Americans is currently double that of white Americans whilethe minorities also have lower education levels as compared to theCaucasian Americans. Concerning comparison with Saudi Arabia, theroyal family can be compared to the Caucasian Americans because theyare the ones who have accumulated the most wealth in the twocountries (Sernau, 2013). Moreover, the royal family can beclassified into the upper class of the United States that comprisesof the political figures and the chief executive officers ofhigh-ranking organizations. In that, the royal family has financialinfluence in the kingdom similar to the upper class of the UnitedStates. The clerical class in Saudi Arabia may also be ranked underthe upper middle class of the United States that is mostlyrepresented by the white Americans among other few individuals fromthe minority communities. Thus, the Shi’a and Najdi tribes and aresimilar to the minority groups in the United States represented bythe blacks and Asians as they have accumulated less wealth and haveweak political influence. There are differences depicted between thetwo countries regarding ethnicity and social stratification with thefirst one being the level of education. In that, the level ofeducation among the ethnic community in the United States is quitehigh as compared to that of the ethnic communities in Saudi Arabia(Shaw, DeSipio. Pinderhughes, &amp Travis, 2014). Moreover, whereastribal affiliation is the main contributor to the level of wealthamassed in Saudi Arabia, the United States is quite lenient becausethe minorities can also amass considerable wealth in the country.

Conflictsin the two countries also have many similarities and differences withone likeness being on the perception of minor communities. Forexample, the African Americans are seen to be in conflict with thewhite Americans regarding their discrimination being witnessed in thenation. The situation is different in Saudi Arabia considering thatconflict between the ethnic communities has been controlled, thuspreventing it from reaching levels where people take to the streetsin protests. However, conflicts associated with political affiliationare common in both nations considering that the United States justwitnessed tension in the concluded general elections in which HillaryClinton lost. Additionally, Saudi Arabia witnessed a similar tensionbefore the prince ascend to power as many people thought that anuprising was imminent (Moaddel &amp Karabenick, 2013). Conflict withother states is also a characteristic of the two nations consideringthat the United States has been seen intervening in the varioussituations like Syria’s ISIS insurgency while Saudi Arabia is seento be in disagreement with Iran. Another similarity noted isconcerning attacks in the United States because the country haswitnessed many attacks associated with the Muslim groups like theISIS. For example, the San Bernardino, California attack in whichextremists associated gun attackers shot and killed fourteenindividuals and wounded twenty-one. Saudi Arabia has also witnessedmany extremists’ attacks with the example of Fourth of July seriesof attacks in which various people died.

TheWorld is a multicultural society that is rich in a wide range oftraditions and ethnic groups with other comprising of the minoritycommunities while others are making up the majority of the community.Ethnicity ties people to strong geographical roots but is importantfor people to see the diversity as a chance for comprehending theworld around us. It is wonderful how a family can be loving andcaring, yet it as founded by two individuals who may have haddifferent ethnic and social backgrounds. In that, the two tend toleave behind all their ethnic and cultural identities from thenecessary social setting that is a family and the addition of otherstrangers in the name of kids still does not change the family. Inthat, families have realized that they need a lot of acceptance andtolerance to live together in harmony and that the basis is acceptingeach other. A nation like Nigeria has more than four hundred ethniccommunities with diverse cultural and religious beliefs, yet theylive with one another under the umbrella of a nation, thus is shouldnot be hard to comprehend why we need to live together in harmony.Countries have had their fair share of ethnic disagreements andhatred that has led to the demise of thousands of people, which showshow ignorant people are of their being family. Discriminationregarding skin color and the ethnic community has resulted in unfairallocation of resources allocation as communities and individualspursue their interests.


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