“We will end extremism very soon. We should go back to where we were.”
The message had already been sent. The concerned authorities recently reopened cinema halls after a nearly 40-year ban. The women have been allowed to drive cars and enjoy football matches from the gallery. Now, the Saudi government plans to end gender segregation in public places in order to create a ‘modern society’.
Riyadh has issued a 236-page statement, saying that the government decided to make changes in some deeply conservative rules to ensure social development. It categorically said: “Some practices require ‘immediate change’ in order to increase the public’s participation in its activities and boost investor confidence.” According to sources close to the government, the concerned authorities in Riyadh decided to change two religious practices. Later, they backtracked on those initiatives mainly because of the hardliners, who opposed the initiative.
In the statement, the Saudi authorities gave emphasis to the gender segregation in public places. The government made clear that it would encourage women’s participation even in sports.
Saudi Arabia experienced a change in the political and social system for the first time in 2015 when Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became the King. Al Saud appointed his son Mohammad bin Salman as the Crown Prince in June 2017, making him heir apparent to the throne. Crown Prince Salman has led many successful reforms that include regulations restricting the powers of the religious police and the removal of the ban on female drivers. Riyadh has broken the tradition to host a music conference and the Arab Fashion Week (also for the first time). The Crown Prince has assured his countrymen that he would never allow hardliners to spread radical ideologies. He also announced that women would enjoy more rights and liberty in the Kingdom.
Crown Prince Salman
Speaking at a media conference a couple of years ago, the 33-year-old Crown Prince said that “Saudi Arabia was not like this before 1979”. “We want to go back to where we were, the moderate Islam that’s open to all religions. We want to live a normal life…..coexist and contribute to the world. We will end extremism very soon. We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today,” he added.
Many Saudis, especially in major cities, have welcomed the limits on their authority and showered praises on the Crown Prince for making serious efforts to get rid of conservatism. Now, it’s up to the Saudis to support the Crown Prince and help him create a modern society.
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