New Saudi Arabia will be an inspiration
Saudi Arabia is blessed, as it is situated in a strategic geographical location between three continents and possesses excellent economic leadership, as well as significant oil reserves. The country has witnessed pioneering economic accomplishments, placing it among the G20 nations. Given these blessings and Saudi Arabia’s wise management, the country has progressed significantly when compared to many other nations, witnessing quantum leaps that are even more impressive given the age of the modern state, which does not exceed nine decades.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has worked diligently to eliminate the negativities that have troubled the Islamic world following the 1979 revolution in Iran and the subsequent rise of political Islam. The nation has also had to grapple with the problem of transnational loyalties held among some in the country, as well as propaganda that outside parties have used to subvert the nation domestically, hijack Saudi society and to distract it from its moderate understanding of Islam. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia is also suffering greatly from unconstructive external criticism that is based on misinformation, while its significant accomplishments are continuously ignored for various reasons.
Throughout its history, Saudi Arabia has occupied a prominent and symbolic position in the hearts of most Muslims worldwide. Muslims see Saudi Arabia as their Islamic role model given its legislative system and its enforcement of Islamic law. Meanwhile, there are, unfortunately, some Muslims who collude with anti-Saudi elements. We have found that a number of figures hosted by Arab, Islamic and Western media outlets have spearheaded an orchestrated campaign of slanderous attacks on Saudi Arabia, defaming the country, accusing it of pursuing an excessively strict interpretation of religion, supporting extremism and implementing some Islamic laws that are consistent with Saudi culture rather than with religious texts.
Among these prominent Muslim figures, we find individuals who attack the Saudi leadership’s reforms and its modernization program. They believe the changes Saudi Arabia is undergoing will lead to its Westernization and to religious beliefs being diluted to the point of them being abandoned. Some go too far, calling for the internationalization of the two holy mosques and other bizarre proposals. It is important to note that there are some who criticize Saudi Arabia not with any malicious intent but to help it to improve and to solve its problems. The Kingdom is not a utopia and it has its shortcomings, which are acknowledged by its leadership and it is working to resolve them.
Some Western pundits are inclined to lazily rely on negative stereotypes and orientalist cliches.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami
The paradox between the two camps is that the adherents on both sides are in harmony despite their nominally opposite ideological platforms. I would not be exaggerating if I said that some of those bearing a grudge toward Saudi Arabia support the former camp on some occasions and the latter camp on others. They pay no heed to the contradictions within the societies where they live, especially among media and human rights activists focusing on Muslim issues in Western countries.
Meanwhile, much of the coverage that Saudi Arabia receives from Westerners is not so different from that of the aforementioned Muslim critics, although their platforms and tools in criticizing the Kingdom’s political system and its well-established principles differ. A lot of those who once accused Saudi Arabia of building an extremist religious doctrine are now more supportive, in light of the Saudi leadership’s religious reforms and social revisions, as well as its strengthening of moderate Islam, which is tolerant toward the other. Some Western pundits, however, are inclined to continue with their historical revisionism and to lazily rely on negative stereotypes and orientalist cliches about the country, attempting to call into question the seriousness of these reforms.
As a Saudi citizen, the reality from my own experience and viewpoint — and, I believe, that of many other Saudi nationals, especially the young, who make up more than 70 percent of the total population — is that the country is committed to its well-established religious principles and stands as a positive example of a moderate religious model in the Islamic world. These deeply rooted principles don’t impede development or modernization, which continue to push the country toward global leadership in a number of spheres, such as religion, economy and human development.
This model stands between two opposing poles: A negative one of regressive religious extremism — a blight that has disproportionately harmed young Saudis, who are among its primary victims — and a model that strips itself of religious doctrines and of eastern traditions and culture completely. Saudi Arabia’s leadership is focused on developing the country at all levels, taking into account its national interests and the aspirations of its citizens, while creating a Saudi identity that is in harmony with the principles of a modern state that is open to the world and embraces coexistence without losing its uniquely Saudi flavor or becoming a replica of other states.
The success of the new Saudi Arabian model will undoubtedly be in the interest of the Saudi people. It will not aim to appease any group at the expense of another. It will also be an inspiring model for many other countries. Those negative campaigns in the region that oppose this new Saudi model and cast doubt on its viability are, most often, neither reflective of the country’s interests nor its unknown future. The success of this model depends not on these naysayers, but on the support of the Saudi people and their contributions to building and enhancing this new model, as well as their feelings of pride in their homeland and its accomplishments.
It is important Saudi citizens are aware of their own vital role in ensuring that this model is a success and its goals are fulfilled quickly as part of Saudi Vision 2030 under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
- Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is Head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami