The Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman does not apologize much. Last year, his government massacred civilians in Yemen, abducted the Lebanese prime minister and spent $ 450 million of unknown origin on a painting, while convicting hundreds of people of alleged corruption. He publicly defended those acts .
But there is one thing the Crown Prince is always ready to express remorse: Islam, or at least the version prevailing in his country. "We were victims," he said recently "60 Minutes".
Crown Prince Mohammed's attitude towards governments, citizens and, above all, investors explicitly plays on global Islamophobia and the frustration of many Muslims committed violence in the name of their religion. It identifies Islam as a problem and the prince as a solution. And this summer is to bring a pageant for the fight against fundamentalist Islam the Crown Prince says he is fighting: on June 24, women will get the legal right to drive in Saudi Arabia.
But the reformer "The rhetoric of the prince collides with the reality of his reign.As of May 1
Crown Prince Mohammed's attitude to governments, citizens and, above all, investors explicitly addresses global Islamophobia and the frustration of many Muslims over the Violence committed in the name of their religion.
The Crown Prince's textbook is an old one. For strongmen in the Muslim majority world, the trop ary Muslim trophy is invaluable, allowing them to deal with skeptics of Islam in the Muslim world To ally abroad – remember the ball ? – and constantly justify their continued e domination.
Finally, the argument goes, do you really want their people to be responsible instead? It is the kind of language that Syrian President Bashar Assad proudly proclaims to be an advocate of secularism and calls his opposition, including peaceful activists, much too Muslim.
The conversation about "moderation" and "modernization" has sought regional rulers to consolidate their control since at least the early 20th century. But Muslim leaders have been particularly invested in this language after the September 11, 2001 attacks led to a global soul research into the roots of terrorism, said Annelle Sheline, a Ph.D. student at George Washington University, studying how governments in the region are doing brand leaders] These leaders were shocked to see members of the George W. Bush administration argue that the key to peace is the spread of democracy.
"The Middle East regimes were not so keen to shed light on their activities or share their power." Sheline said. After all, "the Bush administration was quite ready to buy the goods that many Arab regimes sold, namely, that it is not authoritarianism, but Islam, and we need to change Islam."
That promised the regime change. The Saudis promised to delete the hate speech from their textbooks. Jordan gathered 200 scholars for an explanation of Muslim tolerance and unity. Around the region, governments expanded their control over what was preached and debated in mosques. I consistently emphasized the idea that they could identify and anchor a "correct" Islam for subjects who were always close to falling for fundamentalists, and that this was the whole change the world needed to make with al Qaeda and its affiliates.
When the protests against the Arab Spring of 2011 showed how unhappy and marginalized many Muslims remained, the authoritarians of the region were in a bind. Some – such as Assad and Libya's Moammar Gaddafi – carried out nightmarish civil wars. Others tried to become more subtle and tried to strengthen the fears internationally that the characters for the first time gained political power.
"It was like, oh, well, if we give them democracy, we have the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or we are going to war in Syria." There was definitely the feeling that these people were clearly not ready for democracy, " She believes that this argument is flawed because it does not recognize how violent undemocratic regimes are causing more violence in their societies.
Throughout the region, governments expanded their control over what was preached and debated in mosques. Implicitly, the idea was that they could identify and anchor a "correct" Islam for subjects who were always about to fall for fundamentalists.
It is especially difficult for the rulers of Saudi Arabia to take great steps to moderation. Crown Prince Mohammed claims that the Kingdom has only been representing a strict interpretation of Islam since 1979. The truth, however, is that Supporters of ultra-traditionalist theology have been allied with the royal family for over 200 years.
Support for this alliance is one goal: the survival of a regime in which the Al Saud family and clerics are omnipotent. As long as that remains the crown prince's top priority-and he authorizes those who work for him to punish even the smallest question of the system-any departure from state-sponsored orthodoxy will not make his society more stable.
It is also unclear that the Crown Prince's change vows will help to reduce militancy.
Muslim communities from Indonesia to Kosovo have claimed that Saudi influence is responsible for a fundamentalism that never existed before. Saudi proselytizing became intense after Iran began questioning its regional dominance, and Crown Prince Mohammed also admitted it. But the influence of the Saudi government on preachers, books, and overseas centers receiving Saudi funds began to decline before 9/11 and the rise of the Islamic State.
And it is unclear whether the restriction of the religious intervention of the Saudi government abroad or the influence of Saudi individuals in other countries will magically transform Islam. Violence and alienation have driven people to terrorist groups in places like Tunisia and Pakistan long before Saudi petrodollars flowed into their societies; they will do so for a long time.
None of this means that the Crown Prince and his ilk should start counseling Muslims to become less tolerant. "If anyone buys [Western-backed governments’ ‘moderate’ narrative]that's good. We'd rather have the government spread messages of tolerance and moderation," Sheline said of the US officials' point of view.
But the cracks in Saudi Arabia, a country of 20 million people and the center of global trade in energy and weapons, are not going away. To renounce intellectuals, to incite nationalism against Iran and to designate activists as "traitors" will not heal them. Nor will the streams of foreign capital, which Crown Prince Mohammed has identified as his ultimate goal, be there.
Real change will require rethinking Saudi "practice" altogether – not just the religious art.