The Covid-19 Pandemic in Saudi Arabia: Reinforcing National Identity and the Challenges to Religious Facets


  • Ghayda Abdullah Al-Juwaiser (PhD) Faculty of Media and Communication, King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia


COVID 19, Pandemic, Mask, Saudi Arabia, National Identity


The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic was accompanied by a fierce race in scientific and academic publications from various disciplines. However, the social and humanities fields were scant in their output. The value of protecting the country (Saudi Arabia) through the campaign, #Weareallresponsible, which necessitated staying home for the safety of others and the discomfort experienced by those who witnessed the social distancing between the ranks of the worshippers in mosques while shushing: “set the rows in order, stand shoulder to shoulder, close the gaps”, calls for research within the context of identity upon crises to revisit several social and religious taboos. Moreover, the “safe social distancing,” which was imposed at the start of the pandemic (March 2020) for a total of five months (August 2020),1 enables researchers to examine the phenomenon after the storm subsided—so to speak—and to look through the perspective of an observer rather than a participant. This work examined two questions: 1) How did the Covid-19 pandemic reinforce Saudi national identity? (2) At the same time, how did it challenge the religious identity facets? This paper tried to answer these questions by employing a qualitative approach through analysing a number of tweets and their interactions (between March and July 2020) on two Twitter accounts: a) the Saudi Ministry of Health @SaudiMOH; and b) the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs @Saudi_Moia. The results can be summarised as follows: The Saudi Ministries of Health and Islamic Affairs employed the national and religious identity facets by reinforcing the first and facing the challenges of the latter through a discourse that focused on social responsibility, heroism and duty and the concept of national health security, all to raise the level of commitment to precautionary measures during the pandemic of Covid-19. The encounters with religious identity appeared in avoiding shaking hands, disapproving of the social distance between worshippers and wearing a face mask.