King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz is well aware of the latest developments worldwide; his numerous visits to the far corners of the globe, from Washington D.C to Tokyo , passing by China and Korea merely serve to strengthen this fact. The King knows only too well the challenges of economic and political reform facing several countries to which Saudi Arabia is not immune.
Under the leadership of the late King Fahd bin Abdulaziz , Saudi Arabia embarked on a journey to prosperity. A number of steps were taken to transform the Kingdom into a nation of institutions: qualified men were selected for the Shura Council (Consultative Council) which was later expanded, and municipal elections were held. These decisions were not a result of foreign pressure as they were taken prior to the September 11 attacks.
Time has now come to consider an elected council without taking into consideration haphazard calls for reform. Societies do not change abruptly from one state to another. Decisions by those in power do not suffice to modify the mentality of a society in a single attempt. A gradual mechanism needs to be adopted to ensure the target is achieved. Similarly, societies do not change by following theories that reject reform and believing those who shut the door in the face of change whilst repeating the nation is not yet ready.
Change always comes at a price. In Saudi Arabia, where citizens agree on the legitimacy of the Royal Family, unity of the territory, and internal solidarity, society is able to accept fundamental changes on condition they are well formulated and devoid of drastic actions and regressive attitudes.
Our world is currently undergoing momentous change it is impossible to escape from. Astute governments are the ones that follow the scenarios best suited for their societies and reject the ones that aren’t; they do not wait for events to take them by surprise or to victimize them.
Popular participation should not be discussed purely as a political issue. Tolerance and acceptance need to be promoted and dialogue between all groups in society encouraged in schools, mosques, and the media. The main focus, as King Abdullah announced in his latest speech, ought to be on justice, in order to guarantee a mature and dynamic society. Government and civil institutions in Saudi Arabia are staffed with a large number of qualified professionals who are capable of adequately overseeing the transformation.