A Saudi lawyer has written a well-reasoned editorial in Arab News calling for a reformation in Saudi society. Here’s a bit:
Third: Saudi religious schools must enter the modern age or be an impediment to Saudi Arabia’s economic and political development. Many reforms depend on an informed and tolerant citizenry. Justifying intolerance and ignorance breeds terrorism that strikes at the very security of the Kingdom. We need to consider these leaders of thought, who are called our religious scholars, of whom we should revere? Who among them has contributed anything to the advancement of the human race with scientific breakthroughs like those of Newton, Einstein, Edison, Socrates, Aristotle, or Archimedes? Instead, could they simply be memorizers who celebrate and continue to live in the past and ignore the rapid changes taking place in the world?
… In short, there is a prevailing conviction and belief that the existing situation is what the majority of Saudi society wants and, therefore, the country should listen only to the majority. I believe this is wrong. If we look at history, we will see that those who challenged current ways of thinking and advanced reforms were often in the minority. Indeed, constructive change sometimes comes about through the act of a single person, such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, the great founder of the Kingdom, King Abdul Aziz, and all the prophets and messengers, including Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of God. In order to move forward as a modern civilized society, we must make a clear and decisive choice: Either accept the current reactive and intolerant school of thought which seeks to control our lives and restrict our country’s progress, or promote tolerance and intellectual pursuits to create a better and more productive future for all Saudi citizens.
Powerful words. The fallout of this column will be interesting to watch.