Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How Long Is This Guy Planning to Live?

That's a tall order, Mohammed, even for a crown prince. A lot of people won't want you to live to see the day.

Mohammed bin Sultan, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, vows to return his country to "moderate Islam" once he gets his turn at the wheel.

In an interview with the Guardian, the powerful heir to the Saudi throne said the ultra-conservative state had been “not normal” for the past 30 years, blaming rigid doctrines that have governed society in a reaction to the Iranian revolution, which successive leaders “didn’t know how to deal with”.

“What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia. What happened in the region in the last 30 years is not the Middle East. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries, one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn’t know how to deal with it. And the problem spread all over the world. Now is the time to get rid of it.”

Earlier Prince Mohammed had said: “We are simply reverting to what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. 70% of the Saudis are younger than 30, honestly we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.”


Central to the reforms has been the breaking of an alliance between hardline clerics who have long defined the national character and the House of Saud, which has run affairs of state. The changes have tackled head-on societal taboos such as the recently rescinded ban on women driving, as well as scaling back guardianship laws that restrict women’s roles and establishing an Islamic centre tasked with certifying the sayings of the prophet Muhammed.

At this point can Saudi Arabia really break from Wahhabism, the radical Sunni sect that has driven Islamist terrorist groups from al Qaeda to ISIS, al Nusra and Boko Haram?  Can this prince really purge radical Islam from his fellow princes, emirs and sheikhs of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States? Or will he end up like Anwar Sadat, gunned down by extremist assassins?


Gyor said...

He kind of passes the Buck to Iran, even though a lot of problems in the Middle East are caused by Saudi Arabia, not Iran, which is not as destructive or regressive as Saudi Arabia. Women in Iran can drive, divorce, go to universities, get elected, get sex changes, and so on.

Still if he brings, Saudia Arbia into the 20the century (it's the 21St century but baby steps) then he will be a better King then his predecessors.

The Mound of Sound said...

There was an item in today's WaPo suggesting this is all just a marketing ploy by prince Mohammed. I agree that, if he can do it, he will be a refreshing change from his predecessors. And yet, it does beg the question of whether, if this is within the power of someone such as Mohammed, why the west hasn't put the thumbscrews on the current and past monarchs to introduce these reforms? Why has Washington tolerated the House of Saud and the princes of the Gulf States funding Islamist terrorism all these years, the same bunch who've been killing our people?

Anonymous said...

Good thing MBS is the crown prince. Talk like that's liable to get anyone else beheaded in the public square.


Anonymous said...

Why does Washington tolerate the Saudis? That's easy: money. Money in the form of oil to American oil companies, weapons bought from American arms makers, and donations to important politians. Money's what dictates pretty much everything that happens in Washington. Did anyone seriously think a member of the Bush family and Haliburton's Dick Cheney would bomb Riyadh after 9/11?


Purple library guy said...

Or is he lying like a rug for Western consumption?

Trailblazer said...

? Why has Washington tolerated the House of Saud

Oil, weapons sales, regional influence.


Trailblazer said...

With the Russia Iran,Syria victory over ISIS the middle east has been permanently changed .
There is new reality that cannot be ignored.
The Russia Iran,Syria pact is here to stay and the local players are starting to realise this.
Even Netanyahu is backing off( a little( from his hostility to the Iranian nuclear deal.
The house of Saud is not going to take down Iran and are starting to come to terms with that fact as are its enablers the USA and the UK.


subunit said...

"Good thing MBS is the crown prince. Talk like that's liable to get anyone else beheaded in the public square."

This is not correct. MBS is reflecting a strain of Saudi public discourse which has become widespread among the most prominent state-Salafi 'ulama in the country:

This is not a top-down "marketing ploy" by the Saudi royals to pull the wool over gullible Westerners' eyes. The aggressive spread of Saudi petro-salafism is internally regarded by the scholars who themselves formulated and promulgated it as a disaster. I have heard from a number of prominent shuyukh essentially the same story: public support for Saudi state-salafism is beginning to evaporate, there is a growing consensus that an official return to orthodox, legally plural, four-schools Sunni Islam is both necessary and urgent. See more here:

Purple library guy said...

That is quite interesting, subunit. I can certainly see the whole schtick having in fact been ultimately counterproductive for Saudi Arabia. That kind of rigid, prejudice-driven education would make it significantly harder for Saudis to get with a modern economy (and they have enough problems with the whole "spoiled brat" thing). And while the strategy of exporting that religious ideology has had important results for the country, it has generated quite a bit of backlash and seems to be reaching its limits (eg failed to overthrow Syria). And any ideology which is very exclusive will generate internal conflicts with anyone who isn't seen to be part of the club.

But I must say I'm surprised to hear that the problem is widely recognized within Saudi Arabia and that there may be genuine prospects of change. Dominant groups and ways of doing things have a certain momentum, not to mention power which they are unwilling to give up. I figured it would be like the US military budget--this untouchable thing that nobody dares to mess with or, except at the fringes, even mention as a problem.

subunit said...

PLG- I think the reality is just that the particular state-promulgated Salafi trend has never had much organic support. Salafi communities in general tend to be quietist, regarding the modern form of the nation state to be a heretical innovation and participation in politics generally to be dubious at best. They are interested in personal piety and the cultivation of community rigour (usually in reaction to perceived deficits in traditional practice) and not really in geopolitical schemes, in contrast to movements like Hizb at-Tahrir, for instance. The highly politicised Saudi "flavour" is dependent on large cashflows in order to make up for this lack of organic support, particularly internationally. The apparent hegemony of Saudi Salafism could thus probably be rapidly destabilised by the withdrawal of financial support by the KSA itself or by the relatively narrow constellation of private individuals within KSA with the wherewithal to fund publishing houses, madrassas, etc. The reality is that the people with the money are not committed radicals- they are interested in achieving political ends that are obviously no longer achievable by pursuing this strategy.