Modernization in Saudi Arabia

Muna Al Fuzai

Statements by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he wants to return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam sparked much discussion, enthusiasm and optimism. It is a rare and important statement with repercussions at the local, Gulf and international levels. These remarks by the crown prince came during a panel discussion on the first day of the “Future Investment Initiative” forum in Riyadh last week.


The prince’s comments were an attack on hardliners. Saudi Arabia in recent months has seen signs of social openness, notably allowing women to drive. It has often raised eyebrows about the reasons for preventing this. Conservative men there have denied this request for years and even submitted fatwas to scare the public, but this barrier is forever gone now.


I believe youth leadership and decision-making in the Gulf region have become a demand and a choice. Gulf societies are predominantly young societies and are looking forward to keeping pace with modernity in the world, at least in terms of technological development. The rejection of extremist laws and the abolition of laws that are biased against women or racist – this is what most young men and women want. It’s a just and natural demand.


Prince Mohammed added “we are just going back to what we were – a moderate Islam that is open to the world, to all religions, to all traditions and peoples,” adding that 70 percent of the Saudi population is under 30. “We want to live a normal life,” he said, vowing to eradicate the remnants of extremism. Prince Mohammed pointed out that “destructive ideas” began to enter Saudi Arabia in 1979 as part of a religious “awakening” project coinciding with the Islamic revolution in Iran.


It is clear that the Saudi crown prince’s remarks send a strong message not only to the Saudis, but to the entire world – that the kingdom is preparing for change and will not allow extremism. The remarks of the crown prince seemed controversial to some not because they simply presented reality as it is without fear or hypocrisy, but because there are those who fear modernity and change, so they speculate over the possibility of change in the kingdom or worry about the possible negative consequences.


Everybody knows that modernizing any system brings better security along with improvements in efficiency. But it seems some people don’t believe in this and this is why they are raising doubts over this step. The fear is unjustified. I want to clarify the meaning of change – what I mean is positive change in order to keep pace with the demands of the times and to elevate ourselves towards further progress and development.


But unfortunately, many people refuse to even think about it or imagine it. And therefore, they have a desire to keep the situation as it is, and the victim has to remain silent. This obsolete political culture should not be considered anymore. Modernism means leadership for institutions and the law, which is true democracy.  Prince Mohammed’s statements confirm that he is pushing for positive change. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will witness big change in the short and long term.


By Muna Al-Fuzai


This article was published on 28/10/2017