Is Saudi Arabia Changing?
In most of the Muslim world, people add Islam to their old religious practices. Charms, amulets, belief in the evil eye and jinns (spirits) are common. The place where you are least likely to find pre-Islamic beliefs in Saudi Arabia, where Islam originated. They practice Islam as it was intended to be practiced.
Islam is a religion of works-righteousness. There is a reward for those who obey the religious laws and punishment for those who do not. For that reason, Saudi Arabia is not only the central pilgrimage site for Muslims, but it is the epicenter of Islamic moral activity. Islam must control all behaviors in this theocracy.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia enforces its moral codes through the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, commonly known as the mutawa. For decades, members of this morality police force would patrol the streets of Saudi Arabia. They would hit people with sticks who did not live up to their standards. Women had to be accompanied by a male relative and wear the head-to-toe burqa. There was no such thing as Lover’s Lane in this land that did not allow the two genders to mix in public. They did not allow women to drive or attend public events with men. Saudi Arabia had a bad name, both with moderate Muslims and those of other faiths.
In 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became a key decision-maker. He eased up on moral restrictions. Saudi Arabia still has the mutawa, but they are left with little to do but wish they could do something. They are confined to desks. In November, the Saudi government sponsored a rave dance attended by 700,000 youths.
- France 24, Changing times for Saudi’s once feared morality police. January 14, 2021.
- The Economist, Many Saudis are seething at Muhammad bin Salman’s reforms. January 8, 2022.
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