CHARLOTTE, NC, November 7, 2017 –. At best the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia, is a tangle of alliances, distrust, and paranoia at any given point in time. There are only degrees of stability. Something is happening in Saudi Arabia, but, for the time being, it is difficult to know exactly what.
Saudi Arabia Prince Alwaleed among arrested
On Saturday, Prince Alwaleed, a nephew of the king, was among the arrests along with 11 princes and four ministers. Tens of former ministers were also being held.
On the surface that sounds like a good thing, but only time will tell.
As expert Islamic analyst, Robert Spencer of “Jihad Watch,” observes:
“The arrest of Prince Alwaleed is good news, but not for any reason the establishment media will present. Alwaleed is the chief financier of Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, named for himself, one of the primary propaganda factories that perpetuate the ‘Islamophobia’ myth in the United States. Within that Center is the Bridge Initiative, which purports to build bridges between Muslims and Christians but is actually devoted to smearing and defaming opponents of jihad terror and Sharia oppression.”
Saudi Arabia relaxing Wahhabist ideas
Even the “New York Times” agrees that while the current movement appears to be a genuine relaxation of the Wahhabist ideals that have ruled the country for so long, this is “not the same thing as reform of Islam.”
The key to the future of Islam is reforming Islam.
Of significance prior to the Saturday arrests was that Prince Mohammed, the 32-year old favorite son of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has risen from obscurity in just three years, stripped the mutaween (religious police) of their powers to arrest last year, while, at the same time, expanded opportunities for women in public life, such as promising them the right to drive.
What changes will mean to Saudi Arabia
If the changes get legs, Saudi Arabia could be in the throes of a major overhaul of its hard-line policies of the past. Perhaps most important among those changes could be the moderation of the Kingdom’s centuries-old uncompromising interpretation of Wahhabism. It is this element of the religion that fundamentalists have used to fuel intolerance and terrorism as a means of justifying their causes.
Nothing comes easy in the Middle East, especially change. The desert region has been under the medieval dictates of Islam for more than 14 centuries. Fixing a bureaucracy that is both religious and political will become a major challenge.
Charges against Prince Alwaleed, one of the country’s richest businessmen, include money laundering, bribery, and extortion.
Late Saturday, the arrests came quickly after King Salman announced the creation of an anti-corruption committee headed by his son.
Saudi Arabia ‘s Crown Prince Mohammed
Crown Prince Mohammed’s star began to rise after his father became king in 2015. During his nearly three years in power, he has had little allegiance to traditional Islamic religious ideals, while at the same time, being an advocate for widespread social change within the Kingdom.
The religious police lost their authority last year, stunning many Saudis. That act alone opens doors for entertainment options, such as concerts and dance performance.
Crown Prince Mohammed is wagering heavily on the idea that Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning youth population is paying attention to entertainment and an economic future, more so than religion.
Much of that could be due to the access of social media through the internet.
In addition to driving privileges which will begin in June of 2018, women have are now in high-profile corporate positions in some cases.
Another blow to Saudi tradition has been the announcement that women will be able to enter soccer stadiums, thus breaking down yet another barrier in the mixing of the sexes.
Saudi Arabia needs a “moderate, balanced Islam.”
At a recent investment conference in the capital city of Riyadh, the 32-year old Crown Prince said the Kingdom needs a “moderate, balanced Islam that is open to the world and to all religions and all traditions and peoples.”
Islamic reform in Saudi Arabia has been increasing at a snail’s pace for a long time. Overcoming 14 centuries of hard-line tradition will not be easy.
It is obvious that the change will have to come from within. Whether or not this is the beginning of true reform is a matter of time. Certainly, there is plenty of opposition to counter the “good” changes taking place as perceived in the West.
At the very least, it is a positive beginning.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was award-winninging television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up