Saudi Deradicalization Faces the Future

(Center for Global Policy) Ilan Berman - Saudi Arabia is in the throes of a monumental transition, set in motion by de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It is visible at the societal level, with extensive reforms enabling greater economic opportunities for women, a loosening of restrictions on social interactions between the sexes, and a more relaxed attitude toward popular culture. Moreover, by addressing religious extremism, this shift has become important to Saudi counterterrorism measures. Western observers have long worried over the profoundly negative effects of the Kingdom's decades-long efforts to promote the austere Wahhabi creed beyond its borders. Between 1975 and 1987, the Saudis spent $4 billion annually on "overseas development aid," contributing greatly to the rise of conservative, exclusionary, and extreme interpretations of the Islamic faith among Sunni Muslims worldwide. Today, by contrast, the Saudi government is making a major effort to strike a more moderate religious tone globally, with Saudi religious officials taking pains to engage other Muslim governments and movements that they had previously ignored or denigrated. The writer is Senior Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council.

2020-03-20 00:00:00

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