The news of a Saudi singer arrested for "dabbing" went viral around the world last week, drawing a range of reactions on social media.

However, the kingdom's campaign against dabbing has been ongoing and continues to intensify. While many may see the simple arm gesture as entirely harmless, authorities in Saudi are concerned about the gesture's connection to drug culture.

Saudi Arabia's National Committee for Combating Drugs, an initiative by the government to address drug addiction in the kingdom, sees the move as suggesting sniffing drugs, according to the Saudi Gazette

The committee cited an academic article in the journal Pediatrics entitled: "Assessing the Dangers of ‘Dabbing’: Mere Marijuana or Harmful New Trend?"

The study looks at dabbing as more than a silly gesture, suggesting the move is a trendy way to inhale drugs and use marijuana. 

What is dabbing?

The dab - a simple dance in which a person drops their head into the bent crook of a slanted arm, while raising the opposite arm in a parallel direction but out straight - was first seen in Atlanta rapper Skippa da Flippa's 2014 video "How Fast Can You Count It," and later went on to become an international craze.

Anas Mukhtar, a rapper based in Jeddah, told Saudi Gazette that many in the kingdom do the move without knowing its meaning.

“When local celebrities, such as artists, football players, and social media influencers dabbed in events, the move became even more popular," Mukhtar said.

"Many people copy it without really knowing what it means," he said.

Saudi football fans dab in a group

Saudi crackdown on dabbing

While the arrest of Saudi singer, Abdallah Al Shaharani, in Taif last week, has drawn the most attention, it's not the first or only action taken by authorities against dabbing.

Also in Taif, a mannequin in a clothing store displaying the move was taken down, on orders from the authorities. 

Last week, the government also forbid Saudi football players from dabbing. This came after several players performed the move right after scoring goals.

Following the arrest of Al Shaharani, thousands began posting on Twitter.

Reactions were mixed, with many supporting the kingdom's stance against the dab.

Some saw it as challenging the authorities

"Even though the anti-drug authority banned this move and warned people not to perform it, this contestant is promoting it at a public festival!!! Does he think he's challenging authorities with these actions?"  

But others defended the singer

"This was just a spontaneous move, he has since apologized to the country's people and government and you're still holding it against him?" 

Others made jokes

Some Saudi parents are just glad the government is raising awareness about dabbing.

“It doesn’t seem harmful because kids consider the dab a sign of victory when beating their friends in a challenge or prank," Intisar Abdullah, a Saudi mother, told the Saudi Gazette. 

"I did not know it had any meaning related to drugs or cannabis before the committee’s statement in the news," she said. 

“I think there should be more awareness nationwide where the authorities inform the youth and elaborate its meaning.”