Wednesday, January 10, 2018

World: Saudis "Kinder and Gentler" Ahead of a Post-Oil Future?


It is the birthplace of Islam, but Saudi Arabia is also known as a foremost oil producer.

Spurred by a need to diversify it's oil-dependent economy, the kingdom’s leaders are moving to "lightly" loosen the grip of Islamic conservatism on its society. 

Bans on women driving and movie theaters are ending this year; public concerts are making a comeback, though they are typically segregated by gender. 

The efforts to undo decades of edicts woven into the country’s social fabric are being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who sees such liberalization as a vital part of his radical economic modernization plan. 

“We are only going back to how we were: to the tolerant, moderate Islam that is open to the world, to all the religions and traditions of its people,” the prince said last year. 

However, the actions have prompted resistance from religious conservatives, a powerful constituency in Saudi society. Even some of those generally supportive of more women joining the workforce and other such changes are unsettled by their speed, saying they don’t want Saudi Arabia to lose its defining religious identity.

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