Saudi Arabia and reforms under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Boutros Hussein and Lee Jay Walker 

Modern Tokyo Times

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is intent on modernizing Saudi Arabia, in order to meet the twenty-first-century head on. Of course, the level base is extremely low but compared with the twentieth century and early part of the twenty-first century, then the Crown Prince is moving in the right direction. However, ultra-Islamist conservatives will try to muddy the water. Therefore, it is important for international nations to acknowledge and encourage his domestic policies that are focused on change.

Of course, in the realm of international relations, then the Crown Prince needs to compromise on the Yemen issue because no side can win this conflict. Equally important, it is imperative that all regional nations work with the Russian Federation and the Syrian government, in order to stabilize the situation. If not, then negative external forces that are more concerned by issues outside of Syria will gain from the vacuum.

Yet, internationally, it is clear that the Crown Prince is voicing his concern about Sunni Islamist terrorist networks (a far cry from past Saudi policy) and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hence, it was heartwarming to see the Crown Prince visiting a Coptic Christian cathedral in Egypt. Also, to witness the Crown Prince being seen openly with the image of Jesus strongly in the background was a signal that he wants to reset the religious clock. If so, it is hoped that the ban on all non-Muslim holy places in Saudi Arabia will be lifted in the future – after all, this will be clear evidence that this nation wants to reach out.

Internally, the Crown Prince is focused on economic initiatives based on diversification and social reforms in order to alter society. Hence, the first cinema opening in April this year after being closed in the 1970s, followed by females being able to drive cars later this year, and other initiatives, may not appear radical outside of Saudi Arabia. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Therefore, the Crown Prince is focused on rapid changes that will benefit Saudi nationals and the economy of this nation.

In relation to opening up 15 cinemas across the nation, the BBC reports, The source also said that cinemas would not be segregated by gender, as is normally required in public venues. It is unclear, however, what kind of movies will be permitted – and it is likely that some will be censored.”

Of course, some ultra-conservative Islamist clerics and individuals may oppose the Crown Prince. Despite this, the Crown Prince is optimistic that the majority will understand that a new path is needed to modernize Saudi society.

Hopefully, the Crown Prince will continue to enact reforms at home, while revamping the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia towards Syria and solving the crisis in Yemen. Indeed, if Saudi Arabia can work closely with major regional nations including Egypt and Syria – and the religiously diverse nation of Lebanon – then the darkness that currently covers large parts of the Middle East could alter dramatically. Therefore, much rests on the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to stay focused on transforming society because the region needs a fresh approach.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-43652893

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