toby singer
Opinion | Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last
The crown prince has big plans for his society.
By Thomas L. Friedman

A lawyer by training, who rose up in his family’s education-social welfare foundation, M.B.S. is on a mission to bring Saudi Islam back to the center. He has not only curbed the authority of the once feared Saudi religious police to berate a woman for not covering every inch of her skin, he has also let women drive. And unlike any Saudi leader before him, he has taken the hard-liners on ideologically. As one U.S.-educated 28-year-old Saudi woman told me: M.B.S. “uses a different language. He says, ‘We are going to destroy extremism.’ He’s not sugar-coating. That is reassuring to me that the change is real.”

Indeed, M.B.S. instructed me: “Do not write that we are ‘reinterpreting’ Islam – we are ‘restoring’ Islam to its origins – and our biggest tools are the Prophet’s practices and [daily life in] Saudi Arabia before 1979.” At the time of the Prophet Muhammed, he argued, there were musical theaters, there was mixing between men and women, there was respect for Christians and Jews in Arabia. “The first commercial judge in Medina was a woman!” So if the Prophet embraced all of this, M.B.S. asked, “Do you mean the Prophet was not a Muslim?”

Then one of his ministers got out his cellphone and shared with me pictures and YouTube videos of Saudi Arabia in the 1950s – women without heads covered, wearing skirts and walking with men in public, as well as concerts and cinemas. It was still a traditional and modest place, but not one where fun had been outlawed, which is what happened after 1979.

If this virus of an antipluralistic, misogynistic Islam that came out of Saudi Arabia in 1979 can be reversed by Saudi Arabia, it would drive moderation across the Muslim world and surely be welcomed here where 65 percent of the population is under 30.

One middle-age Saudi banker said to me: “My generation was held hostage by 1979. I know now that my kids will not be hostages.” Added a 28-year-old Saudi woman social entrepreneur: “Ten years ago when we talked about music in Riyadh it meant buying a CD – now it is about the concert next month and what ticket are you buying and which of your friends will go with you.”

Saudi Arabia would have a very long way to go before it approached anything like Western standards for free speech and women’s rights. But as someone who has been coming here for almost 30 years, it blew my mind to learn that you can hear Western classical music concerts in Riyadh now, that country singer Toby Keith held a men-only concert here in September, where he even sang with a Saudi, and that Lebanese soprano Hibe Tawaji will be among the first woman singers to perform a women-only concert here on Dec. 6. And M.B.S. told me, it was just decided that women will be able to go to stadiums and attend soccer games. The Saudi clerics have completely acquiesced. 

The Saudi education minister chimed in that among a broad set of education reforms, he’s redoing and digitizing all textbooks, sending 1,700 Saudi teachers each year to world-class schools in places like Finland to upgrade their skills, announcing that for the first time Saudi girls will have physical education classes in public schools and this year adding an hour to the Saudi school day for kids to explore their passions in science and social issues, under a teacher’s supervision, with their own projects.

So many of these reforms were so long overdue it’s ridiculous. Better late than never, though.

when i was younger i went to see this band h2o a lot w my dad and his friend, and the one night i got to meet the singer toby. and i was super pumped and told him ‘when im old enough im gonna get a PMA tattoo!!’ and he kinda laughed and was like ‘thats a long time away we’ll see’ or something like that 

and basically im getting that tattoo out of spite 


Dress and Tie, the A Capella rendition, featuring Charlene, Megan Cox, Clark Baxtresser, Seth Faulk, Toby Singer and Beth Stebner. Arranged by Megan Cox.


….how come this is the first I’ve seen of this video? this is fantastic.

Listen Up, Yo

Happy’s totally going to be the one to propose to Toby if and when they get married.

For one, Happy always makes the moves first. She first held hands with him, pulled him down for the kiss, and initiated the dance. Although Toby follows with his own actions, her moves get the ball rolling.

Two, Happy’s never had anyone. Not that she could trust like Toby, or that could make her feel like Toby does and can. She wants to be the one to take that step. To let him know she’s truly giving him everything she can and is. Her proposing, saying she wants to be with him forever, is the ultimate step for her letting someone in amongst all the running and leaving people behind that she’s used to.

Three, Toby’s probably afraid to. His other fiancée was stolen and he’s scared of what could happen. Happy knows they’re going to make mistakes but if she can put him at ease, let him know she wants him just as much as him, then she’s going to take that initiative and do it. (“You wouldn’t have proposed until I was eighty, Doc.”)

It fits with her character. Wanting that control of what happens and knowing there’s no way either one would back out on one another. After so much hurt she wants to have something she did for herself that outweighs all the shitty stuff and seeing Toby’s face when she gets down on one knee or throws the ring at his head or tells him however she does that she wants the rest of her life to be with him makes everything so much more worthwhile.

Listen it’s just going to happen okay? And it’ll be fucking perfect.

(Made in part by @ofmindandmagic and @lattelibrapunk who I share these feelings with 😏.)