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The Objecting Enclaves in Saudi Arabia - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The wave of protest and refusal on social media against modernization represents those that fear change. In fact, these uncontrolled objections give a credit to the Saudi government on the international level for struggling to empower women, stand against religious extremism, encourage social openness and get rid of the absolute dependence on oil resources.

Saudi domestic affairs go beyond this framework, as an influential state on the regional and international stages. Those who think what is happening in Saudi Arabia is only limited to the Kingdom are unaware of the fact that it goes beyond the Saudi borders, especially in a time governed by international standards rather than local ones.

The modernization challenges of Saudi Arabia coincide with the bold and massive economic changes. Social modernization and substantial economic development are tasks undertaken by the government. Those criticizing Saudi Arabia are unaware of the difficulty of the change process, especially on the social level.

Thanks to change objectors in the country, the world can now perceive the Saudi government as the leader of change.

The government’s initiatives include the growth of women’s employability in public and private sectors, giving them remarkable government positions and ending the embargo on youth that is collectively fleeing the country due to the conservative environment — the youth brain-drain is harming the economy.

The government’s plans cover the amendment of education via eradicating extremism from the curricula and institutions, modernizing the official media and introducing entertainment activities in cinema, concerts and popular events. There is no doubt that these programs will face severe objection, from some people, majorly out of ignorance or good intentions.

After years of rising extremism, it is normal to have enclaves refusing any attempt to improve the aspects of life. These enclaves are resorting to all possible means to incite people against changes.

Ironically, the suggested modernization concept today in Saudi Arabia would mean a step back to the past, namely the sixties and seventies era when the society was still religious and tolerant; all what is now refused was permitted back then.

All societies that have passed through the waves of change were also faced with objection. For instance, I remember when Britain decided to open shops on Sundays, the step was rejected under the pretext of the sanctity of the community’s traditions. They first refused it but the wind of change was stronger than their objections.

There is no nation that has not been affected by change and modernization that might not have pleased everyone. Protestors have the right to object, but the change is stronger. This is why, some of them resort to the most dangerous weapons of intimidation, such as atonement, and they misuse religious platforms to offend others, although mosques belong to everyone and they can express their personal point of view on the available communication platforms.

Those who express conservative ideas that are labeled as defending traditions and hardline religious interpretations are not aware of the danger they are putting their country and community into. Restricting women’s role is harming families on the financial level and depriving them of possible additional incomes, at a time when the income of the breadwinner is no longer sufficient.

The society and government cannot pay this high cost, which is threatening the future where oil revenues will not be able to fulfill the needs. If we want to change this erroneous situation, we must resort to change, not for the sake of entertainment itself or handling foreign criticism, but rather for the sake of this country, its existence and prosperity.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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