Politics of Culture Aleena Khan The political culture in Saudi Arabia, between the justifications of the conservatives, the

dreams of the reformists and the fears of the realists The Saudi intellectuals preceded their Arab counterparts in submitting a number of collective demands to their government to affect political reform. The Saudi culture faces two main streams of thought: the reformist stream and the conservative stream, both cutting across the intellectuals and the Saudi administration. The following study is written by the Saudi media figure Abdel Aziz Al-Khamis, former editor of Al-Magala magazine, which is issued from the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat institution. He manages the Saudi Center for Human Rights that is based in the British capital. The following study shows how complex the economic and political reform issue is and how society should deal with the issue with seriousness and tolerance:
 Saudi Arabia is undergoing changes that make political reform an imperative; however, the will for reform is absent. Saudi Arabia is resisting political reform because it is a strictly conservative and traditional state that depends for its legitimacy on tradition and divine laws. The ruling class is divided into two groups: There are those who are against any call for reform regardless of that call's strength. This group is the majority. Another group, weaker and lesser in numbers, tends to accept reform. An example of this group is Crown Prince Abdullah.
 The group represented by Prince Abdullah- who is now King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud- could be described as half-reformist, while the other stronger trend strongly opposes reform because they see it as the beginning of the end of the ruling family.
 They believe that calls for reform have appeared because of the tight security in the country.
 Development in the general sense is seen as a comprehensive process that includes economic, social and political aspects. However, in past years, development in Saudi Arabia had been focused solely on the social and economic aspects, including education and health, and in so doing, has overlooked political development as an activity carried out by the average citizen to influence the decision-making of the government. Today, on the other hand, under the rule of King Abdullah, new reforms are taking place. On the 11th of January 2013, King Abdullah issued a historic decree allowing women to be members of the kingdom’s previously all-male Shura Council for the first time. Saudi Arabia is known for its conservative culture where women are not allowed to drive despite the absence of a law saying so. 
 King Abdullah has introduced cautious economic and social reforms aimed at reconciling Saudi Arabia’s religious traditions with the needs of a modern economy and youthful population. 
 The Saudi government, and perhaps other Gulf countries, has played two contradictory roles. The oil wealth helped the government enhance

. The Saudi government has closed the door in the face of mobilization of the people based on national grounds. but the region’s architecture is rapidly changing and many are questioning the Saud clan’s domination of political life of the country. as happened in Kuwait and to some extent in Bahrain. but as such this caused the bulk of the population to support the crackdown against them. They state this justification to prove that the Saudi public is not yet ready and not politically mature.
 Some officials speak their fears and state their reservations on political change. the Saudi monarchy will find the pillars of its rule eventually questioned and challenged. There have been a few small protests by minorities in the country. The religious institutions and their offshoots are responsible for mobilizing people. but prefer to subscribe to the idea of an Islamic Umma [nation]. Anyone who has visited Saudi Arabia or resided in the country will know that it is unlikely a protest will ever be seen on the streets. For example. by being involved in the social and the economic aspects of development.many wonder why it has yet to reach the Kingdom.
 As for the Arab Spring.its security and military system and enhanced the centralization of decisionmaking.
 A lot of groups in Saudi society reject the notion of a national state. justify the rejection of political reform and of public participation in decision-making. its absolute monarchy holds the line. whether these institutions are embracing all Saudis or only certain classes of Saudi society. But at the same time. One of the justifications is that political reform would lead to destabilizing the unity of the state and would lead to the emergence of local violence. The Saudi monarchy has for the moment survived the Arab spring. They give justifications in order to delay the process of political change or reject it altogether. In truth. the educational system [seen as a social aspect of development] raised a class of educated Saudis who could not overlook their need to participate in political decision-making. The government made Saudi citizens disregard the political aspects of development. As Saudi society accesses international opinion regarding the Saudi monarchy through social media. This reality is making social media very popular and will only lead to more questioning of the role of the regime. Saudi citizens begin to have political aspirations and are now beginning to be involved in politics. It controls every aspect of society making it difficult to remove the regime as it would require the elimination of the whole Al Saud clan. Some believe that tribal affiliation and voting according to one's sectarian or tribal belonging.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful