Thursday, July 18, 2024

Modernization of Saudi Arabia

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The modernization of Saudi Arabia under crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman is truly a sight to behold and enjoy

Back in 2017, a young 29 year old son of the King of Saudi Arabia Mohammed Bin Salman was crowned prince of the country.

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Within six years the prince, who is also the Prime Minister of the country has dramatically changed the face of Saudi Arabia.

This has impacted the geopolitics of West Asia a lot.

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However, this piece is concerned with understanding the nature of these reforms.

Modernising Islam

The most important hallmark of MBS’ reign has been modernization¬† of Islam.

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Saudi Arabia, which is the birthplace of the puritanical Wahabbi sect of Islam has been a hotspot of global jihad for decades.

MBS has subtly, over a period of six years, weaned the Saudi state’s dependence on Islam for global Muslim leverage.

On top of that he has aggressively cracked down on radical Islamist groups, networks, sources of financing etc.

A key pillar of reducing the appeal of Saudi sponsored pan-Islamism has been Saudi Nationalism.

It stands for prioritising Saudi national interest sans religion and promoting a Saudi first approach.

Active collaboration between the Muslim World League and its counterparts in South-East Asia and South Asia is a good example.

The recent visit of the secretary of the Muslim World League to India and his meeting with PM Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is a sign of this moderation.

Economic Modernization

Saudi Arabia is modernising its economy on a war footing.

The Saudi State has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2070, so it is only expected that the Saudis will try and diversify their sources of energy and earning.

It is in that context that Saudi Arabia is playing it big in the field of sports, defence, Information Technology etc.

The Saudi state oil company Aramco is aggressively promoting the use of clean energy and promoting the use of lithium ion batteries, blending of ethanol with petrol etc.

The hosting of the WWE Royal Rumble in 2019 is a fine evidence of how Saudis are modernising their economy.

Society is Another Target

The modernization project of any country is bound to remain incomplete without societal modernization.

MBS is also doing that and that too at an unprecedented pace. Back in 2017, the ban on cinema halls was lifted, allowing people new forms of entertainment.

2018 saw another monumental decision-the removal of the ban on women driving. Saudi Arabia was the only remaining nation-state in the world that had prohibited women from driving cars.

This fulfilled the long standing demand of human rights and women rights activists globally.

Further, Saudi women are also allowed to serve in the military without restrictions.

The guardianship system, too has been relaxed.

To make matters better, the power of the religious ulema in state and societal affairs have been reduced to secularise the Saudi society.


Saudi Arabia still has a long way to go. Reforms like removing the mandatory hijab for women, encouraging inter-faith dialogues and further modernising Islam.

The modernization of Saudi Arabia is, therefore, a work in progress.




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