The crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman could succeed in restoring Islam

The crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman could succeed in restoring Islam
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A cultural awakening that is set to revolutionize the Islamic world is being led by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). Most see this revolution as a power play, but rather in its core it is empowerment to create a culture of change. No doubt Americans should pay attention: MbS is opening a pathway forward to make Islam, as represented by the Custodianship of the Two Holy Mosques, a true ally in promoting mutual values and respect.  

The revolution is represented by the kingdom’s youth that are now becoming a driving force in making policy change in the kingdom. With a youthful community longing for progress, and a country founded on its religious Islamic identity, MbS seeks to reform an overall Muslim culture.

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Last year, the Crown Prince said “We are returning to what we were before — a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world. We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today.”

 

 

MbS sees Saudi Arabia’s religious perspective before 1979 as the foundational reference to what Saudi Arabia should be after 2017. In order to return to an era of moderate Islam and an embracing culture of tolerance in Saudi Arabia, MbS is attempting to reverse the highly damaging concepts of cultural and religious animosity that were widely spread through extremist ideologies in the region.

Saudi institutions, in the religious wake of 1979, took on new and dramatic actions. The Mecca-based Muslim World League (MWL) failed in its past mission because of its leniency toward the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and poor supervision of finances being channeled abroad through the Pan-Islamic organization. However, the recent restructuring of MWL’s mission is an integral part of MbS’s religious reform.

Now the MWL is on the world stage, promoting tolerance and harmony by not only engaging with other renowned religious bodies such as the Vatican, but it is at the forefront of changing the Muslim Culture in Saudi Arabia and around the world. The most notable and recent example of this change in tone was the clear rejection of holocaust denial by the Secretary General of the MWL, Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa.

The Crown Prince’s program to emancipate Saudi women is bringing new dividends to the Muslim culture. Given that women couldn’t drive and openly participate in society due to the rigid grip of Saudi authorities and religious police, the evolution of the Saudi society was stagnant.

Fortunately, the new Saudi leadership is making impressive progress as Saudi females enter the workforce with more rights and enjoy previously prohibited and male dominated leisure events.

To be fair, the Crown Prince’s dynamic and visionary programs, including a massive clean-up of corrupt upper reaches from Saudi princes to technocrats , are running into problems. The National Transformation Program is undergoing a retrofit and there is some unfounded nervousness by investors in the kingdom.

MbS’s dramatic and evolutionary reform is having an impact on Saudi society and there will be more challenges in the future. However, these challenges are akin to a ship being steered in a stormy sea, not rowing a boat across a tranquil lake.

As MbS’s leadership aims to create a peaceful Islamic culture, it also dedicates efforts to combat and raise awareness against extremists that promote violence, hatred and opposition to moderate Islam, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Iranian-supported militias.

Countering the Muslim Brotherhood agenda and exposing the group’s nefarious terrorist activity is a high-priority activity now undertaken by the kingdom. The Crown Prince’s vision for a new Muslim World is optimistic, understanding and devoid of political Islam.

One can even be so bold to predict that this change in the culture’s religious identity presents the perfect opportunity to release the Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi. Badawi advocated against stringent religious control over society and promoted human rights, which is becoming a reality under King Salman’s rule.

I come from a generation of Saudi Arabians that experienced firsthand the unfavorable lifestyle and image imposed by an austere Islamic culture.

I personally recall during my college studies in St. Louis University in Madrid, Spain, a theology professor asked a Moroccan classmate about how Islam is practiced in Morocco. Without hesitation, she replied “our Islam is different from the one in Saudi,” suggesting that
Saudi Arabia's interpretation and application of Islam did not constitute an ideal model for other predominantly Muslim cultures to adopt.

MbS is playing a historical role in reshaping the current and future Muslim culture. If the Saudi leadership continues with the same momentum of reform, it may even create contemporary models of culture change.

Americans need to pay close attention to these historical events. Saudi Arabia’s new, progressive approach to Islam is a moment when all Muslims around the world will watch and follow. Combating extremism too will become much easier by banishing the idea of political Islam, which is the source for all terrorist violence.

In the United States, incidents of Islamophobia will no doubt drop as a result of MbS’s progressive ideas about the nature of moderate Islam. The moment that Saudi, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, pushes a moderate, open approach to the religion both inside the Kingdom and around the world, a new awakening will begin that will benefit both American security and society in the Age of Trump. 

Salman Al-Ansari is the founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC). You can find him on Twitter: @Salansar1.