Analysis of Answers
Argument: The answers given to the twelve questions about the religious situation worldwide after the Gulf War in Saudi Arabia reflect a democratic approach and tolerance towards other cultures, however, they also suggest that more tolerance is needed from Western governments.
Regulation of Religious Discourse
The government took steps to regulate religious discourse and suppress some aggressive communication methods. Selecting people who are qualified and to be trusted to discuss religious issues and also possess authority was the main focus, according to the answers of the Ambassador to Question one.
Question One. Dr S approached the question from the perspective of fighting terrorism. They looked at the education system communicating radical views. This is a truly democratic and tolerant but controlling model. Similarly, the Ambassador also noted that the government had to find a way to deal with irresponsible people “who do not qualify to deliver religious discourse”
Effects of Gulf War
Question 2. Dr S described the effects of the Gulf war as positive. According to him, he found the Gulf war’s effects on religion revitalizing and purifying. The Ambassador finds filtering information the most important change; not leaving religious education to individuals but selecting the right people.
Comments on Answers to Questions Related to the Effects of Gulf War. There is no mention of international cooperation. Anti-terrorist laws would be acceptable to improve the country’s reputation in the West and avoid further conflicts. While, according to the government, the Sahwa movement died out when leaders were imprisoned, (American University of Cairo Publication, 2011, p. 4.) it is still present; and “it has one foot in the state while the other in society” On the other hand, it is important to note that no studies have been quoted regarding the reputation of Saudi Arabia and other Arabic countries before and after the Gulf War. It would certainly be useful to check the opposite side’s views as well as the reputation of the United States and the West in Islamic countries.
The Questions Relating to Islamic Activism
Question 3.According to Dr S, the government has restricted the movement of individuals and some people were arrested. Surveillance was also set up to eliminate radical views from being spread. The Ambassador referred to chapters in his book to find the answers to this question.
Question 4. The Ambassador defines the law by the Quaran. Similarly, Dr S refers to the Sari’s rule and the adapted interpretation of the Quaran. The Shari’s Laws are considered to provide the most reliable source of regulation regarding Islamic Activism. The Ambassador and Dr S also mention that the source of law is nothing else than the Holy Quraan.
Question 5. According to Sr S, The Royal Decree provides guidelines for dealing with Islamic Activism and the interpretation of the responsibilities of good Islamic people. Both respondents bring up the issue of social order and security, stability with regards to controlling Islamic Activism. Still, the measures of control seemed to be somewhat inefficient and sometimes make matters worse, according to the Ambassador.
Question 6. Regarding the conflict between Islamic groups and the rules, Dr S confirms that the activists are present on the political arena, as well as in religion. While they oppose the Western world’s power, the government has policies for international relations which can create a conflict. The Ambassador did not answer questions 6-12.
Question 7. The answer of Dr S focuses on international conflicts when examining the question whether social and political stability is concerned. He talks about external conflict and the impact on US-Saudi relations, noting that Islamic groups often refer to the United States as “the vast Satan.”
Question 8. Dr S mentions one particular institution involved in regulating Islamic activism: Hewala. He confirms that they had a crucial role in developing civil law based on religious texts. The importance of Islamic law and its correct interpretation, application, as well as the codes of behavior are also noted in the answer. Political corruption is mentioned as a problem.
Question 9. Dr S states that the tools implemented in order to regulate Islamic activism and reduce conflict have been somewhat ineffective. He also states that the situation has not become healthier; more conflicts were created than solved.
Question 10. Dialogue is determined as the most important tool of the Saudi Government to control dialogue and set up collaborations. According to Dr S, building relationship and dialogues is the only supportive way to go. However, he also confirms that this would take time and the political leaders need to agree with the common goals to set up collaboration.
Comments on Answers on Islamic Activism. Interestingly, there is no mention of the role of the religious leaders. Taylor clearly states that “The Salafi criticise practices of popular Islam.” No mention is there regarding religious authorities’ involvement in Saudi Arabia. (p. 4.) Also, the internal movements are covered, while the question of international terrorism and mobilization is present in all Islamic states.
Comparison with Other Muslim Countries
Question 11. Dr S finds that the example of regulation can act as a guidance for other Muslim countries. All Islamic states face political activism and criticism by the West. According to the answers to Question 11, the incorporation method that involves opposition in discourses is a good approach.
Comments on Answers to Question 11. The answers did not include any concrete comparisons; for example, Turner (2007) mentions that Morocco has its own legal school, regulated by the state.
Question 12. According to Dr S, communication and dialogue is the only way to improve the reputation of Saudi Arabia as an Islamic state and create a stable, just society. Establishing a regulatory body has also been mentioned. The answer refers to incorporating the opposition into decision-making
Comments on answers to question 12. While the answer is clear about improving communication, it does not reflect on the image of Saudi Arabia in the West. Is it not important for the audience or the country itself? The American University of Cairo (2011) discussed the question of Saudi Arabia and found two important particularities of Saudi Islamism: State Islamism and Imported Islamism. There is no explanation on how and to what extent the government should involve opposition in peace creation and how they react to this initiative.
The answers provided by both experts on Saudi internal and external politics, as well as Islamic activism have been revealing a new approach. While none of the respondents have highlighted the importance of international relations and the country’s reputation in the West, it is up to further investigation to find out why they did not. There are two possibilities: first it might not be important because Saudi Arabia is the stronger party in Saudi-US relations, or the relationship between the two countries is settled and regulated.
The question of tolerance also needs to be further examined: to what extent should the state tolerated Islamic Activism. Reviewing the answers of Dr S regarding the effectiveness of policies and regulations regarding radical groups and discourses, it is evident that there is a need for developing more effective measures. Still. The important question that has not been answered is whether the society approves of the regulations and restrictions. As it is well known, the Saudi State has a unique social structure; tribal bases and leaders have excessive power. These families can influence the society and if they take on radical views, there is very little the government can do.
The regulation of speech and discourse is not proven to be effective. According to the publication of The American University of Cairo (Web), confirms that there are two different establishments of power in today’s Saudi Arabia: religious and political. The two of them have to work hand in hand in order to maintain internal and international peace. Liberal Islamism might provide an answer, however, it is not supported by religious leaders and traditional powerful families. Still, it is the political forces’ responsibility to maintain peace and understanding in the society.
The American University of Cairo (Web) confirms that “Saudi Arabia is very stable. Al-Qadea insurgency is not supported at all by the population. In sum, the Sahwa is a powerful lobby that clashes with King Abdullah when he tries to modernize socially but not politically.” (p. 6.) and the authors’ thesis was supported by the answers of the respondents.
Islamic Dissent in an Islamic Country: Saudi Arabia. (2011) The American University of Cairo. Web.
Turner, B. (2007) Islamic Activism and Anti-Terrorism Legislation in Morocco. Working Paper No. 91. Max Planck Institute. Web.