Between the State’s Prestige and the Culture of Rejection
Between the State’s Prestige and the Culture of Rejection
Countries cannot rise and grow without a civilized and modern vision and modernized thought and behavior. That is what determines whether societies progress or lag behind, and modernity thus precisely means progress, development, keeping pace with the new world and being in harmony with it, without this implying alienation from one’s heritage, identity or history. The fact of the matter is that this is the climate Saudi Arabia embodies today. Indeed, it is genuinely, concretely and seriously changing through radical reform. That is, it is embedding cultural and developmental awareness into the social fabric.
The Crown Prince has emphasized the importance of fighting extremism, affirming that “we will not waste 30 years of our lives fighting it but will destroy it now.” He also stressed that we are in the right and represent the values of moderation, adding that no one can patronize us. The new direction is clear, and the political decision to take it is firm, and this process of cultural and social transformation is not straightforward because of the time it requires, as its impact needs time to mature. Nonetheless, this transformation can be accelerated in our region, culture and society when the political will is there.
The political decision reduces the time needed for social transformation, which is slow by virtue of human nature, and it pushes things forward. That does not mean that there are no social discrepancies in understanding what is happening, accepting it and internalizing it. That is natural, especially when things are beginning, which is a period fraught with difficulties. However, the majority’s decision is applied in the end, and recent opinion polls indicate that the majority within Saudi society supports the changes that the Crown Prince is leading with remarkable determination. Saudis and residents of the Kingdom have a right to lead normal lives, to engage in fun activities, play sports and do art of all sorts, to have all forms of entertainment available to them in their country. As a citizen, you have the right to have a stance and an opinion, but it is not your right to prevent others from doing what they think is right. In the new climate, the right to choose is set in stone and safeguarded by the state.
What is happening sends an unequivocal message to the dark, extremist and hardline forces who have kidnapped society, shut the country for decades, destroyed it culturally and intellectually, and brought it into a state of despair, insularity and hatred for everything that gives life its color, arts and literature. They enshrined dark ideas to further their agenda. These forces killed life, loved death and created fertile ground for extremist groups. The Sahwa Movement was not a group of preachers but a clandestine revolutionary and political entity. That is evident in their writing and speeches they gave at the time, besides their political ambitions tied to the cross-continental Muslim Brotherhood project. Using and manipulating religion to dominate society is among the intelligent tactics they used. They thereby imposed their ideas, programs and agendas, and so society has given since the 1980s.
For 40 years, our society has been living under the Sahwa’s hegemony. It had an influence on most state institutions, and it worked to implement its program after having created an environment suitable for it. Arts, literature and entertainment faded into the background, and restrictions were imposed on women. Through blackmail, society was gradually pushed toward a rupture with the values of life, and it was forced into isolation, seeing nothing but darkness, death and prohibition. Thousands of youths fell victim to destructive projects in several countries. Permission was granted exceptionally, while prohibition was the rule, and the Sahwa’s totalitarian rhetoric was hegemonic. It was the tool used by anyone who wanted to repress those they wanted to silence or those who disagreed.
For this reason, the decisions to make changes being seen in Saudi Arabia today do not account for the suitability of the time, the nature of the current phase, or society’s ability to tolerate the changes. Indeed, the matter has gone far beyond all of that. It is no longer a luxury in as much as it is tied to the needs of the state and society. It has become crystal clear that the state needs the decision-maker to do what he thinks is right for the public good without taking anything else into consideration.
In every society, there is a segment that is active, open and looks to the future. It has the capacity to get busy and achieve. Another segment does nothing but disrupt, oppose change, and fear everything novel. The latter thinks it has a decisive role to play, and so it calls upon all and goes beyond the authorities and the state, considering that it has the right to make changes and impose its will. It ties social progress and development to what it thinks is right and its dictates, not out of fear for society as it claims but fear of losing its gains and privileges.
Rejecting modernization and change is an indication of backwardness and ignorance in society, as it gravitates toward nostalgia and a traditional way of life, which makes it opposed to the concept of humanism. A culture of resistance means pulling human development back. It indicates that intellectual backwardness has accumulated and become entrenched in social life through the distortion of facts, arbitrary judgments made on the spot, rumors, and belittling successes, as well as attention being paid to appearances at the expense of reality.
Here, we commend the political decision. It has conclusively demonstrated that it is capable of bringing about change whenever it wants, regardless of the ideological or social opposition. We have the right to be optimistic because we and our future generations will enjoy colorful and normal lives, which we had been sorely missing for decades. We have begun to feel many of our dreams turn into reality. Those with obsessions who were putting obstacles in our way have gone bankrupt, seeing what they had presented as impossible and out of the question take form for all to see right in front of them. To put it briefly, we can say that the Saudi Arabia of today is not yesterday’s Saudi Arabia.