Is Saudi Arabia Opening Up?

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The arcane terms of this dispute make it difficult for outsiders to follow. Fortunately, Roel Meijer, a Dutch Middle East specialist, provides an expert’s guide to arguments in the kingdom in his article, “Reform in Saudi Arabia: The Gender-Segregation Debate.” He demonstrates how gender mixing (ikhtilat in Arabic) inspires a debate central to the kingdom’s future and how that debate has evolved.

Current stringencies about gender separation, he notes, reflect less age-old custom than the success of the Sahwa movement in the aftermath of two traumatic events in 1979 – the Iranian revolution and the seizure of the Grand Mosque of Mecca by Osama bin Laden-style radicals.

When Abdullah formally ascended to the monarchy in mid-2005, he ushered in an easing of what critics call gender apartheid. Two key recent events toward greater ikhtilat took place in 2009: a change of high government personnel in February and the September opening of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (known as KAUST), with its ostentatiously mixed-gender classes and even dances.

Debate over ikhtilat ensued, with jousting among royals, political figures, ulema, and intellectuals. “Although the position of women has improved since 9/11, ikhtilat demarcates the battle lines between reformists and conservatives [i.e., hardliners]. Any attempt to diminish its enforcement is regarded as a direct attack on the standing of conservatives and Islam itself.”

Meijer concludes his survey of the debate by noting that “it is extremely difficult to determine whether reforms are successful and whether the liberals or conservatives are making gains. Although the general trend is in favor of the reformists, reform is piecemeal, hesitant, equivocal and strongly resisted.”

The state under Abdullah has promoted a more open and tolerant Islam but, Meijer argues, “it is obvious from the ikhtilat debate that the battle has not been won. Many Saudis are fed up with the inordinate interference of religious authorities in their lives, and one can even speak of an anti-clerical movement. The liberals, however, speak a language that is alien to the world of official Wahhabism and the majority of Saudis and is therefore hardly likely to influence them.”

In brief, Arabians are in mid-debate, with the future course of reform as yet unpredictable. Not only do elite and public opinion play a role, but, complicating matters, much hangs on the quirks of longevity and personality – in particular, how long Abdullah, 86, remains in charge and whether his ailing half-brother crown prince, Sultan bin Abdulaziz, 82, will succeed him.

Saudi Arabia being one of the world’s most influential Muslim countries, the stakes involved are high, not just within the kingdom but for Islam and for Muslims generally. This debate deserves our full attention.

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  • ObamaYoMoma

    Daniel Pipes has been searching for so-called moderate Muhammadans for decades and still has not located them yet. Indeed, just when he thinks he has located those ever so elusive so-called moderate Muhammadans, they turn out not to be moderate at all. At the same time he has also been searching for reform movements that will save the world just in the nick of time with equal fervor. However, just like there are no moderate Muhammadans, except of course for self-proclaimed moderate Muhammadans, reforming Islam is also impossible because Islam isn’t a religion so much as it is a totalitarian ideology very similar to Communism, and just like it is impossible for Communism to ever be reformed, it is likewise also impossible for Islam to ever be reformed.

    In any event, instead of watching the soap opera inside Saudi Arabia and hoping to find signs of reform movements that will suddenly manifest out of the blue after almost 1400 years, which is like watching paint dry, we should be contemplating eradicating the House of Saud along with the Gulf State emirs and seizing and confiscating their collective oil wealth, because if we don’t do anything, they will use that massive collective oil wealth to wage jihad against us forever.

    • muchiboy

      "Daniel Pipes has been searching for so-called moderate Muhammadans"

      Face it,ObamaYoMoma,you couldn't recognize a moderate "Muhammadan" if you were introduced to one by Mr.Horowitz himself.muchiboy

      • ObamaYoMoma

        Face it,ObamaYoMoma,you couldn't recognize a moderate "Muhammadan" if you were introduced to one by Mr.Horowitz himself.Muchiboy

        Like I told you before, show me an obsessed Jew hater and Israel basher and I’ll show you someone completely ignorant of Islam, the greater global jihad, and the existential threat to freedom in the world the global jihad represents. Likewise, show me someone completely ignorant of Islam, the greater global jihad, and the existential threat to freedom in the world the global jihad represents, and I’ll show you an obsessed Jew hater and Israel basher. Indeed, the two go hand in hand.

        In other words, stop obsessing on Jews and study Islam instead. Who knows maybe you will learn something about reality and about what is the greatest existential threat to freedom in the world today. Once you wake up, if you do, you won’t believe how completely deluded and oblivious you were.

        • ashiraladonai

          That sounds like advocating the theft of a nation & the murder of its leaders. I think that if such an event were to ever take place, the world would have much more than cut-off hands & beheadings as "an eye for an eye" would become the mantra screamed at a world bent on spilling blood in revenge. It is not a viable solution. I do not want that for our people nor anyone else's. There has to be another way.

          • ObamaYoMoma

            It’s not viable? It’s the only solution! Either the collective West together with Russia and China unites to eradicate the House of Saud, the Gulf State emirs, and the regimes of Libya and Iran and seize and confiscate their oil wealth and oil assets, or otherwise the Muhammadans will use their collective oil wealth to wage jihad against us unbelievers perpetually and forever, per the dictates of Islam.

            Indeed, it’s a choice between submitting to Islamic totalitarianism or otherwise fighting for and defending our freedom. Thus, while you may feel that doing everything necessary to defend our freedom not worthy and unviable, don’t assume that everyone else is nearly as cowardly and blinded by political correctness as you. And I deliberately said feel, because it is obvious that you are addicted to emoting instead of using your brain to think and reason rationally.

        • http://mypage.direct.ca/l/lbouchar/ SeaMystic

          To: International citizens
          BAN ISLAM

          TO: THE WORLD COURT

          IN THE INTEREST OF HUMAN VALUES AND UNIVERSAL LOVE, WE DIRECT THIS PETITION TO THE WORLD COURT FOR JUDGEMENT.

          WE, THE UNDERSIGNED INTERNATIONAL PETITIONERS, REQUEST A BAN ON THE ORGANIZATION CALLED ISLAM. WE REQUEST THIS BAN DUE TO THE CRIMINAL ACTS OF ITS FOUNDER, MOHAMMED AND THE KORAN'S DOCTRINES WHICH PRESENTLY LEGITIMIZES THE CRIMINAL ACTS OF PAEDOPHILIA, ASSASSINATIONS, THE OPPRESSION OF WOMEN BY SUPPRESSING THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS, THE PENALTIES OF STONING AND DISMEMBERMENT, THE UTILIZATION OF TERROR AS A WEAPON OF INTIMIDATION AND CONTROL.

          View Current Signatures
          http://www.PetitionOnline.com/MYSTIC/petition.htm

          • popseal

            Regardless of our disgust over the primitive and violent superstition founded by a known killer, as long as they control so much energy source, as long as Western leaders keep their heads in the sand, this crapola will go on. Where's Vlad II the Impaler when you need him?

      • Beth

        muchiboy ….and so then, you agree with the following?…

        047.004-Beheadings, 005.041-Racism, 033.052-Gang Rape, 005.033-Crucifixions, 033.061-Genocide, 008.067-Treason

        By the way, those teachings (of their koran) are declarations of war. Why do you defend them?

        • Spirit_Of_1683

          You should know by now that Naziboy finds Jews so much more repellant than beheadings, gang rape, crucifixions, and misogyny. That Israeli-hating troll is the champion of those who murder Jews.

  • Reason_For_Life

    In the 1920's many people thought that the Soviets were reforming because of Lenin's New Economic Policy but it was only a temporary respite quickly reversed by Stalin. Every few years there would be another "thawing" but none resulted in a lasting change. Even the collapse of the Soviet Empire has not really changed the soul of Eastern Europe.

    Today, Russia is once again reverting to tyranny. Throughout history Russians have chosen to live under the yoke of tyrants. Self determination is anathema to Russians. The words "slave" and "slav" have a common root indicating that a culture of submission has existed in Eastern Europe since at least Roman times.

    Yet the Eastern European cultures looks like individualist paradises compared to the utter depravity of Saudi Arabia, a country that did not abolish chattel slavery until 1963. Despite its supposedly illegal status slavery still persists today in the land of Muhammad .

    The Saudi populace thoroughly embraces submission as a lifestyle. It is not merely an element of their culture, it is the essence of their culture. Continuous exposure to western Enlightenment thinkers had little effect on Russia. How great an effect do you think these ideas have had on the Saudis whose culture is so vacuum sealed that the vast majority of its inhabitants have had no exposure to western ideas at all?

    I would like Pipes to be right about this and he surely knows more about Arabian culture than I do. However, real cultural change is rare in open societies. How much can expected in a culture where expressing a non-Islamic thought could bring torture or even death?

  • Chezwick_Mac

    I share the skepticism of 'Obama Yomoma' and 'Reason-for-Life'…the latter's analogy to the vain hopes for reform in the Soviet Union is particularly apt. Whatever incremental movement towards reform there has been under Abdullah's rule in Saudi Arabia is un-institutionalized…and even if it were, it could be reversed on a dime (as we've seen elsewhere in the Islamic world). For us to draw conclusions – much less, pin our hopes on it, is an exercise in self-delusion.

    Our mantra MUST be the following: Public validation of Islam as a religion of "peace" and "tolerance" in the face of all evidence to the contrary succeeds ONLY in undercutting the efforts of genuine reformers in the Muslim world. We must speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may. Repeating by rote a pretty lie – in the vain hopes that it will somehow come true – is a recipe for civilizational defeat.

    The answers for overcoming the systemic problems that afflict the Muslim world – endemic violence, persecution of women and religious minorities, a mass psychology of fatalism, persistent economic under-performance and corruption – will be found OUTSIDE the purview of Islam. Our job is to critique Islam, objectively and yet relentlessly, until the atmospherics become the opposite of what they are today…where instead of validation, repudiation of the faith becomes normative among rational people, so much so that Muslims themselves begin to seek out alternatives.

  • Marty

    Remember that there may be and probably are millions of moderate muslims. However, the fact remains that islam itself is radical and violent. The koran, hadith, and sharia law offer daily reminders that islam was founded and is being sustained by genocidal sociopaths whose ultimate goal remains subjugation of the entire planet.

    • ObamaYoMoma

      If a Muhammadan is truly a moderate, then in effect he is an apostate that should be executed according to devout Muhammadans, as the jihad ideology, which obligates all Muhammadans to wage jihad against unbelievers for the spread of Islam, couldn’t be more mainstream within Islam as it is taught and advocated by all sects within Islam and by all major schools of Islamic jurisprudence in both Shi’a and Sunni Islam.

      Hence, since Islam requires all Muhammadans to submit to the will of Allah and in effect become the slave of Allah, any Muhammadan that questions that jihad obligation is guilty of blasphemy and is an apostate. Therefore, unless you somehow believe a Muhammadan can both adhere to the jihad mandate and at the same time be moderate, then it is impossible for devout Muhammadans to be moderate.

      Thus, a more accurate statement would be that not all Muhammadans are violent, and indeed far more jihad takes place in the world today via stealth and deceptive non-violent jihad than does by a long shot the violent variety. Although the violent variety of jihad for obvious reasons garners all the headlines, the stealth and deceptive non-violent variety of jihad, on the other hand, operates for the most part below the level of scrutiny. Indeed, it is apparently so stealthy and deceptive that, per your statement, apparently you were up until now completely unaware of it.

      • Beth

        "If a Muhammadan is truly a moderate, then in effect he is an apostate that should be executed according to devout Muhammadans"

        EXACTLY!!!

        And by welcoming the so-called 'moderate' muslims into non-muslim societies, their koran is able to cause further damage – by producing more true muslims.

        The thing that I don't get, is how the koran is even legal in countries such as the U.S. 'Freedon of religion' NEVER included the right to incite violence and murder.

  • http://mypage.direct.ca/l/lbouchar/ SeaMystic

    To: International citizens
    BAN ISLAM

    TO: THE WORLD COURT

    IN THE INTEREST OF HUMAN VALUES AND UNIVERSAL LOVE, WE DIRECT THIS PETITION TO THE WORLD COURT FOR JUDGEMENT.

    WE, THE UNDERSIGNED INTERNATIONAL PETITIONERS, REQUEST A BAN ON THE ORGANIZATION CALLED ISLAM. WE REQUEST THIS BAN DUE TO THE CRIMINAL ACTS OF ITS FOUNDER, MOHAMMED AND THE KORAN'S DOCTRINES WHICH PRESENTLY LEGITIMIZES THE CRIMINAL ACTS OF PAEDOPHILIA, ASSASSINATIONS, THE OPPRESSION OF WOMEN BY SUPPRESSING THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS, THE PENALTIES OF STONING AND DISMEMBERMENT, THE UTILIZATION OF TERROR AS A WEAPON OF INTIMIDATION AND CONTROL.

    View Current Signatures
    http://www.PetitionOnline.com/MYSTIC/petition.htm

  • crackerjack

    Pipes sudden Saudi love syndrome follows the same lines as his sudden crush for Irans Mudjihadinn terror squad. PR for anyone and anything that will harm the iranian mullahs.

  • muchiboy

    "muchiboy ….and so then, you agree with the following?…
    047.004-Beheadings, 005.041-Racism, 033.052-Gang Rape, 005.033-Crucifixions, 033.061-Genocide, 008.067-Treason "

    Beth,I'm only saying for now that we must support moderate Muslims and encourage the Muslim world to embrace modernity.From ObamaYoMoma's postings,he either denies there are moderate Muslims,("Daniel Pipes has been searching for so-called moderate Muhammadans" ) or dismisses their legitimacy.My point again is that we must work within the Muslim world to gain solutions or compromises needed for Jew,Christian,Muslim ,Hindu,Buddhist et al to live together in a world respective of one another and Humanity's Universal Rights.Here is one small Canadian example of a moderate Muslim organization.muchiboy
    http://www.muslimcanadiancongress.org/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_Canadian_Cong

    • ObamaYoMoma

      Like I keep telling you, show me an obsessed Jew hater and Israel basher and I’ll show you someone completely ignorant of Islam, the greater global jihad at large, and the existential threat to freedom in the world the global jihad represents. Likewise, show me someone completely ignorant of Islam, the greater global jihad at large, and the existential threat to freedom in the world the global jihad represents, and I’ll show you an obsessed Jew hater and Israel basher. Indeed, the two go hand in hand, and every time you post, you confirm my thesis to be accurate and correct.

      For instance, the Muslim Canadian Congress in reality is a secular organization and not a Muhammadan organization. Indeed, if people are secular it means that they are not Muhammadans. Therefore, please explain how an organization made up of people that are now secular can be construed to be so-called moderate Muhammadans?

      The fact of the matter is the Muslim Canadian Congress consists of apostates that used to be Muhammadans. However, apostasy in Islam is an offense punished under the pain of death. Nevertheless, because the members of the Muslim Canadian Congress live in Canada as opposed to the Islamic world, they can live in relative safety and security at least for the time being. Hence, leave it to you to confuse people who are in fact secular for being so-called moderate Muhammadans, when the reality is they are not Muhammadans at all.

      Furthermore, in Islam any Muhammadan who makes the mistake of questioning or rejecting the jihad ideology, which is the mandate for all Muhammadans to wage jihad against unbelievers for the spread of Islam, is not only guilty of blasphemy, but also guilty of apostasy as well, and both offenses in Islam are punishable under the pain of death. As Islam is not a faith-based religion like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, instead Islam requires total and complete submission, as each Muhammadan becomes in effect the slave of Allah. In other words, the freedom of conscience in Islam is forbidden and punished under the pain of death.

      Hence, while you may see an organization like the Muslim Canadian Congress operate inside a secular Western country, inside a Muhammadan country, on the other hand, such an organization would be consider to be an abomination that must be destroyed.

  • BUTSeriously

    The article's heading is ill founded. To open up this terror regime, which now has the blood of millions of innocent folk, the entire regime must be in Gitmo, and all Islamic regimes must be subject to 4 year terms of rule, their salaries be made minimally nominal, and all asset held by regimes be left for education of the peoples & compensation for their victims. This regime owes trillions to US and other 9/11 victims.

    Be honest. Bush's great error is diverting to the Afghan hills instead of Mecca post 9/11. This caused 100's of 1000s of deaths and a host of Bin Ladens. The pollution is not with the climate but with America calling Nazi regimes as its allies and national interests.

  • BUTSeriously

    Moderate Muslims:

    WHY NO FATWAH FOR OSAMA?

    The case is rested.

    • Ageofreason

      Agreed! A so-called "moderate" Muslim is trying to HAVE his cake, and EAT it as well. Any "moderate" Muslim who reads, and tries to live by the Muslim "holy" books is learning to hate us Kaffirs, even if they don't act upon it because they live in a country of laws like Canada where they will be caught and punished. And where is the fatwah by "moderate" Muslim clerics for Osama? Good post BUTSeriously!

  • dawning

    THere is NO such animal as the elusive "moderate Muzzelem"..Never has been NEVER will be. They are only taqiyya pretenders. There is ONLY weak isslime and strong isslime..You are right on yo mama..muchi boy is a good promoter of the demonic death cult by continually declaring how we must encourage the " moderates " they don't exist!!!

  • ziontruth

    "Moderates" in Islam are merely the equivalent of Liberal Protestants, Cafeteria Catholics and Reform Jews. Their moderation is a negative, not positive artifact; they are unable to sustain their position from the canon of their religion.

    There might even be Muslims who are sincere in claiming Islam to be peaceful (if they aren't dissimulating… a very big "if"), but the mainstream Muslim has no problem proving the duty of Islamic imperialism with citations from the entire range of the Islamic canon, just as I have no problem refuting Leftist Jews who claim that "Ethnic cleansing is not a Jewish value!" with citations from the Torah, the Gemarah, Maimonides and many more sources (regarding the duty of expelling all the Arab settler-colonist invaders from Palestine, the Jewish homeland).

  • muchiboy

    "Like I keep telling you, show me an obsessed Jew hater and Israel basher and I’ll show you someone "

    How could I forget,you're starting to sound like my friends African Grey,only he has a slightly larger vocabulary.I'm getting worried because I'm actually starting to believe some of the crap you're posting here.

    "Indeed, if people are secular it means that they are not Muhammadans. Therefore, please explain how an organization made up of people that are now secular can be construed to be so-called moderate Muhammadans?"

    When faced with the obvious,obscure the truth with false logic and foolish semantics.Even my friends Parrot isn't fooled.ObamaYoMoma.you're as slippery as a Gulf Coast eel.Well,at least you can recognize a secular Muslim when you see one.A step at a time,baby steps at that,but a step none-the-less.You can stand down, Mr.Horowitz,for now.

    "the reality is they are not Muhammadans at all."

    Tell that to them.

    "inside a Muhammadan country, on the other hand, such an organization would be consider to be an abomination that must be destroyed."

    I'll give you that one,my friend.And it's a big one.One out of three and I don't have an answer.muchiboy

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