The cultural and educational challenges ahead of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, are substantial on its path of transformation. Such a lengthy journey requires the efforts of the whole society, its institutions and active forces to reestablish the status of the culture of moderate Islam. This is to counter the powers of terrorism, which have been trying, over the past few years, to exploit religious sentiment to spread a culture of hatred against society, labeling it as heretic. They have succeeded in entrapping a number of Saudi youth making them enemies of themselves, their country and religion. This crisis began as members of the Muslim Brotherhood slipped into the kingdom exploiting the situation of the Nasserite era. They made their way into educational institutions and set out to propagate a peculiar and intruding culture in a tolerant society.
Saudi society was appalled, as a number of its members became terrorists and sought to kill innocent people in all parts of the world. They returned to kill innocent Saudis themselves, placing the kingdom in an embarrassing situation. Moreover, they exposed Islam to the suspicions of many nations who ignorantly believed that such practices represent Islam.
There is an urgent need to examine the educational and cultural bases of extremist ideologies without hesitation, sensitivity, or exaggeration. This requires a degree of openness in society maintaining its ethical restraints. It is just as important to encourage ideas of tolerance and respect for human life. The idea that must be emphasized is that the human mission is to broaden development rather than to destruct it. The message should be one of love not hatred and murder and this is where the role of schools, mosques, and media comes into practice. It requires attention towards the role of women in society, since the extremists seek to isolate women from participation in social development. There are however many fields in which Saudi women can replace foreign workers. Is it not concerning that the foreign remittances from Saudi Arabia make up 69 billion Saudi riyals, approximately 16 billion US dollars annually? Through substituting foreign employees with Saudis and the situating women in appropriate work fields, without disregarding traditions of society, can we not save billions of dollars that instead can be invested in improving the standard of living for many Saudis?
The cultural challenge addressed requires serious attention concerning culture and education. It is to create a genuine educational revolution that would make the Saudi citizen compete in a world that knows nothing but competition.
In his first speech after receiving the crown from the late King Fahd, King Abdullah said, "Do not deny me counsel", expressing an admirable spirit that is worthy of support. Eventually, some of our propositions may flow in that direction.