‘Streamline Islam?' New Saudi laws question Saudi alleged openness

While Prince bin Salman attempts to modernize parts of Saudi society, the conservative Kingdom passes new set of restrictions.

July 16, 2019 14:03
1 minute read.
‘Streamline Islam?' New Saudi laws question Saudi alleged openness

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman arrives to meet Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May in Downing Street in London, March 7, 2018. (photo credit: SIMON DAWSON/ REUTERS)

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is famous for his efforts to modernize his kingdom, yet a new report from the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) claims that all is not so modern in the House of Saud.

Arab News reported In May that ten new rules were passed in Saudi Arabia as public decency laws. Those include forbidding men to wear shorts unless on the beach or a sports club and punishment for spray painting, among other things. The new laws follow lifting the ban on women being able to drive and some relaxation of the gender separation, BESA reported.

The laws argue that public decency represent Saudi “Values and principles” and might be in accordance with the Prince’s effort to promote a nationalistic Saudi identity.

The Kingdom itself faces challenges due to it’s involvement in the Yemeni Civil War and the 2018 murder of Saudi reporter Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi security services are thought to be behind the crime.

"Religion and culture are now so intertwined in what it means to be Saudi that it is hard to separate the two,” said Eman Alhussein, author of a recently published European Council of Foreign Relations report on Saudi hyper-nationalism.

Saudi Arabia currently supports militants in Balochistan, Libya, and Algeria as well as non-violent Islamic forces in Kazakhstan.

The House of Saud had been ruling the Kingdom since the 1774 agreement between theologian Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Muhammad bin Saud, which lead to the military expansion of the House of Saud into what is modern Saudi Arabia.

The ideology behind the expansion was the religious call to "purify" Islam from any misconceptions and a return to its "original" principles. Hence the complexity of promoting change in a country deeply committed to religious values.


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