To change its image, Saudi Arabia wants to shut down mosques
Reduce the number of calls for prayer in mosques, the primary country of Islam? The most sensitive material has rocked Saudi Arabia, launching a complete overhaul and reform in recent years, polishing its image as a tough and extremist country.
Home to the sacred Muslim sites of Mecca and Medina, the kingdom has long been associated with Wahhabism, the harshest version of Islam, which has been accused of inciting generations in the country and around the world.
Led by young Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman, the rich oil government has stepped down in recent years in a campaign to change this image by reopening cinemas or organizing sporting events and other pop concerts.
The power of the young leader was also accompanied by unbridled repression against civil society, which did not save women rights activists or to some extent too much critical religion.
Addressing a key pillar of Islamic identity, the government ordered that the volume of loudspeakers in mosques be limited to one-third of their maximum capacity, citing concerns about noise pollution and that sermons should no longer be broadcast in full.
In a country with tens of thousands of mosques, the move has provoked strong reactions on social networks, the only places of relatively independent expression.
But in the wake of the recession, observers say, the desire to change the country’s image to attract investors to the post-oil era is now giving priority to religious ideology.
– “New Foundations” –
“The country is in the process of laying new foundations,” said Aziz Alkashian, a senior lecturer at the University of Essex.
According to this expert on international relations in the Middle East, the Kingdom “does not seek to appear too attractive or too low in the eyes of investors and tourists.”
Saudi Arabia has already detained the most feared moral police and allowed shops and restaurants to remain open during the five daily prayers.
Relying heavily on government funding, most clergymen immediately accept reforms that women have vehemently opposed in the past, such as the recognition of women driving, the reopening of cinemas, or gestures of tolerance for non-Muslims.
The Conservative Kingdom is editing textbooks to remove well-known references to non-Muslims as “pigs” and “monkeys.”
The practice of religions other than Islam is banned in the kingdom, but government adviser Ali Shihabi recently told the American media insider that building a church was “on the list of things leaders should do”.
Authorities have publicly rejected the lifting of the complete alcohol ban, but several sources cite Saudi officials saying “this will be done gradually” at closed-door meetings.
– “Post-Wahhabi Era” –
“It is no exaggeration to say that Saudi Arabia has entered an era of post-Wahhabism, even though the state’s correct religious definitions are still changing,” Christine Diwan of the center told AFP. Institutional think tank of Arab Gulf countries.
“Religion no longer has the right to veto economics, social life and foreign policy,” he notes.
Saudi Arabia seems to be backtracking on international issues affecting other Muslims that could weaken its image as the leader of the Islamic world.
The country’s foreign policy is “based on mutual intervention now: + we (Saudis) will not talk about Kashmir or Uyghur, you will not talk about Kashoki +,” said a Gulf-based ambassador.
The state’s seduction campaign was made even worse in 2018 by the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoki at his country’s embassy in Istanbul.
Beginning in Saudi Arabia, many regret the silence of the Islamic world over the fate of the Chinese Muslim minority, the Uyghurs, against whom Beijing has been accused of a “crime against humanity” or “genocide.” According to voluntary organizations and Western authorities.