Liberals in Saudi Arabia

Group of researchers
01 Nov 2014

A Classification of Liberals Through Their Discourse 


A Classification of Liberals Through Their Discourse 

It is possible to arrive at certain internal categorizations of liberals in Saudi Arabia through their distinctive writings and discourses. Such possible categories are:

  • Anti-Islam and those who stand in opposition to the Muslim scholars.
  • Liberals allied with some Islamists.
  • Liberals who claim nationalism and nationalists.
  • Intellectuals.
  • Liberals who belong to distinctive intellectual schools (ex-Marxists, Baathis, Naseris, etc).
  • Utilitarian people and arrivistes.
  • Some liberals who are debauched and morally disengaged.
  • Liberals affiliated with the West.

1. Liberals anti-Islam and antagonistic to Religious Scholars

A number of liberals in Saudi Arabia consider the religion of Islam a main hurdle that impedes development and modernity. For instance, Dr. Turki Al Hamad in his book “Arab Culture in the Age of Globalization” says that “the Muslim peoples are a prey to the dilemma of dualism between the idealism of religion and the pragmatism of reality, which defies this idealism”. [1]

Some of the liberals in this category emphasizes that religion is restricted to being a set of heritage and traditions. Dr. Mohammad Ali AlMahmoud, in an article in Alriyadh newspaper, titled “Islam and Enlightenment”: “we lack enlightenment in our history, this is the truth, not even remnants of values of the enlightenment, and that is due to the Umayyad coup against the values of enlightenment of early Islam. A coup which brought a rule of Arab savagery which replaced the new Arab awakening at that time. Those values of savagery remained an entrenched in the formation of the Arabs throughout history for more than 13 centuries up until this very wretched historical moment.”[2]

This writer takes it further in his criticism of the religion of Islam, considering its discourse “.. a gloomy discourse that is all against enlightenment”, and says in another article in the aforementioned newspaper, titled “Discourse of Enlightenment Against Racist Thinking”: “The discourse of enlightenment is absent, as a cultural agent, in our life. The currency is for the anti-enlightenment discourses that establish for such anti-human consciousness. The discourse of enlightenment is absent and does not hold any chance among the public, therefore the values of enlightenment do not play a role in the human community, and therefore we lack values like justice, equality, fraternity, freedom, democracy, and other similar values concerned with human dignity in our lives.”[3]

This liberal current stands in a strong opposition to the role of scholars of Sharia in community and public life, since they consider these scholars concerned with reproducing history, which impedes change and adaptation of modern values. It is a role in their opinion which is “valueless for the development of modern communities”. We cited some examples before, and we shall cite more in the coming chapters.

Wajiha Alhuweider, a liberal author, describes religious institutions and the Sharia scholars as agents of “falsifying history, and fabricating groundless stories” and says in an article published in the “Modern Discussion” tribune issue 2305 in June 7, 2008: “they fooled us kids, and told us that Arabs were people of ignorance and moral deterioration before Islam.” She adds “… they told us that Arab lived on wars, fighting all the time, sometimes for no reason, and that they were savages. Then we find out that the case was never like this, and that only a minority of them, similar to any people throughout history, who used to act this way. The fact they meant to hide is that Arabs were, to a large extent, living in a free and democratic environment, with a mutual respect for the beliefs in the society. They haven’t told us that Arabs enjoyed pluralism of religions and sects”.

She also says that “they misled us while we were young, and taught us that Judaism is a distorted religion, like Christianity, and that it is a religion of hatred and exclusion. They told us that Jews believe that they are the chosen people of God, that is why their religion shrank because it is not applicable. Then we came to know that Judaism is not a missionary religion, that is, unlike Islam and Christianity, it did not spread by the power of sword. Judaism is the first monotheist religion, and it is the origin of the religions came afterwards, Christianity and Islam.”

In his discussion of an Arab and Islamic issue, Mshari Aldhaydi described the operations conducted by the Islamic resistance movement in Palestine, Hamas, against Israeli targets as “suicidal”, rejecting to call them “martyr operations” as emphasized in several authoritative fatwas by Muslim scholars around the world. He claims that such attacks provoke the Israelis to revenge brutally, indicating that Hamas is responsible for the atrocities committed by Israel!

He wrote in an article in the London-based newspaper, Assharq Alawsat, one of leading newspapers of the liberal current, titled Palestine: from the “True Promise” to the True Words: We need to remember first that Hamas used to criticize Fatah movement and the Palestinian Authority for clinching to peace talks with Israel. It was conducting suicidal attacks inside Israel during negotiations between the PA and Israel, which call for a brutal reaction from Israel, and things go back to square zero. This remained so until Hamas came to power, then things changed, and Al Qassam Brigades held the fire, and now Hamas is criticized for this, the same way it used to criticize the PA.

2. Liberals close to some Islamists

The hostile positions of the leaders of the Liberal current in SA regarding Islam and the Islamic institution did not prevent a good number of other liberal figures from trying to draw similarities between Islam and liberalism. Some of these writers stood against the withering cartoons about Prophet Mohammad PBUH.

For instance, Mohammad Saeed Tayyeb, was one of those who signed the declaration of “The State of Rights and Institutions”[4] that was also signed by a nymber of leaders scholars and preachers in SA including Dr. Salam Bin Fahd Al Audeh, Dr. Ali Badihdah, Dr. Saud AlFnisan, Dr. Mohammad Bin Mousa AlSharif, Dr. Abduallah AlSubaih, and others.

The statement, which was addressed to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Soud, demanded undertaking a number of “serious and necessary reforms that could not be delayed”. Most importantly among these demands is for the Shura Council to be fully elected, to enjoy further authorities, and to play a regulatory role over the executive power, in addition to ensuring the accountability of the ministers.

There were other demands regarding the financial and administrative corruption, and to deal “firmly” with these issues. Additionally, the statement broached topics regarding youth unemployment and the housing problem, in order to provide a decent life for the young population.

The statement also demanded establishing civil society organizations, syndicates, freedom of expression, amending the Publications and Publishing laws, and setting the political prisoners free. They also demanded activating the “judicial regulations” including the “penal code system”, in order to ensure that the security apparatus, and the intelligence departments adhere to these regulations while conducting arrests, investigation, imprisonment, trials. This would also ensure that prisoners have and practice their right in contacting a lawyer in a public trial as indicated in the law.

3. Liberals who claim nationalism, and nationalists

Certain liberal currents in SA endeavor to show an interest in the issues of the country, claiming their liberal discourse call for reforms, which are their constant preoccupation.

For instance, Dr. Khaled AlDakhil in an article titled “The Arab Gulf and the Arab Spring” published in Al-Arabiyya website in December 18, 2011[5] that the delay in reforms induced the Arab Spring demonstrations, saying that reforms are the ultimate responsibility of the government. The constant delays in these reforms, as he says “reached a level of unprecedented congestion, then exploded as we can see in some of the countries that witness a revolutionary wave.” AlDakhil quotes Prince Turki AlFaysal, the previous head of General Intelligence in SA, saying “we have to review our developmental plans so that they would be centered around the citizen. We have to review our economic options that made our country a job market for citizens of other countries, while our own citizens are faced with unemployment.”

AlDakhil adds a very illuminating sentence saying: “improving (instead of reforming) our political and cultural institutions (my highlight) in response to the social and cultural changes in our community, is not a choice anymore, it is a necessity imposed on us. The concept of citizenship is the basis for the relationship between the citizen and the state.”

This is a straightforward statement that political and cultural reforms are not a choice that could not be taken, thus the reconsideration for the concept of citizenship in its all-inclusive political and constitutional senses. Otherwise the relationship between the citizen and the state would become hollow. It should be noted that liberals in SA adopt a different position regarding other Arab issues, like the situation in Iraq, Palestine, and the Arab revolts. The fall of Baghdad in 2003 represented a substantial push for the liberal currents in general in the Gulf, and SA in specific. They looked favorably at the US occupation in Iraq, describing it as “the rescuer from despotism”, which “helps transform the Iraq into long-awaited democracy and freedom.” On the other hand they ignore the huge destruction in Iraq because of the occupation. In this regards, they avoid blaming Washington and its allies, and blame instead the sectarian wars between Suuni and Shia!

4. Intellectuals and Authors

The cultural and intellectual arena in SA is awash with liberal intellectuals and authors who control the media in order to publicize their thoughts. Although they claim that they adhere to morals and principles, the reality indicates that they are absolutely far from any ideals.

This is not a judgment by somebody who opposes liberalism, this is the confession of those who belong to this school. Mansour AlNqidan, an author who adopts secular and liberal views, says in an interview with Al Hurra TV channel, which is an Arabic-speaking American TV station, in July 9, 2009: “unfortunately, a lot of those who are considered intellectuals, enlightened, and liberals in their perspectives, do not conduct themselves appropriately when they deal with women. A lot of women complain about the luscious behavior of those people, sexual provocations, asking to become friends, but suddenly surprises his female partner that they can’t get married.”

He adds that: “you see some of them, in their writings and talks, even on the media, talking about women rights and the liberation of women, but they talk down to their own wives and other women they associate with.”

AlNqidan also says: “I could understand the position of a person issuing thousands of fatwa to restrict the freedoms of women because he couldn’t from his point of view see women but covered and restricted. But I don’t quite understand that who calls for the liberation of women and publicly supports their right, and he fails to respect women in their daily life, they want to sexually exploit them, then go and marry a woman of his own tribe.”

Another example of those intellectuals is Dr. Ibrahim AlBleihi, who expressed some opinions about a significant different between liberalism and secularism. He expressed these opinions in an interview with Alriyadh[6] newspaper, issue No. 15193. AlBleihi noted that the secular state stands against the expression of religion and religiosity using the power of the state, similar to what happened in the countries of the Soviet Union, and in the Ba’thi national Arab states.

Saddam Hussein, he says: “in Iraq, was a secular leader, but wasn’t liberal, Hitler was also secular, but he almost destroyed the liberalism, and Ataturk was secular but never liberal. The exaggeration in dignifying Ataturk in Turkey was an important reason behind the failure of democracy in Turkey, and his radical secularism made him fight any aspect of religion in the society.”

He adds that “liberalism is the true demand of the free man, while secularism could lead to another, maybe more brutal, kind of tyranny. Liberalism ensures personal freedoms for all, and adheres to cultural freedom, political plurality, and supports religion without prejudice to other beliefs in the community.”

5. Liberals affiliated with certain schools of though (Ex-Marxists, Ba’thi’s, Nasiri’, .. etc)

The liberal trends in SA boast several, sometimes opposing schools of thought. Some liberal figures in the SA changes their positions from being leftists opposed to capitalism and Western imperialism and moved to be under the umbrella of liberalism under which they conceal their ideas and positions, and adopt it as a framework to penetrate the Saudi community. This took place after some trends, such as Marxism, Ba’athism, Naserism, faded away in the Arab and international arena.

For instance, Mohammad Saeed Tayyib, who is considered a leading figure in reformist liberalism in SA, belonged once to the nationalist Naseri school of thought. Dr. Turki AlHamad, was also affiliated with Ba’athi nationalism. This proves that the liberal trend is not deeply rooted in SA, and the leaders of this trend are not consistent in their views, but change according to the circumstance in the society.

Some of these figures criticized local liberalism, and revealed some of its faults. For instance, Dr. Abdullah AlGthami, and Mohammad Saeed Tayyib, both of them fiercely criticized the liberal trend in SA.

Abdullah AlGthami in an interview with Al Hayat newspaper in December 14, 2010 that Saudi liberals are “pretentious and don’t have a real cause”, adding that “liberalism became a title for those who don’t have one.”

He said in this interview as well: “I’d love to meet with a liberal person who believes in a true and real change and I am ready to pledge allegiance to him.” He also refers to a kind of misunderstanding in the community about liberalism, saying that Dr. Turki AlHamad and Dr. Abdurrahman AlWabli, both are leading liberal figures in SA, were mistaken in their understanding of liberalism.

Mohammad Saeed Tayyib made some scathing attacks against liberalism in an interview with the Hiwar&Tajdeed newspaper in February 20, 2010[7]. He said that the liberal trend in SA shall not be qualified “unless it rejects those who pretentiously affiliate themselves with liberalism, but they are nothing but opportunists and arrivistes.” He adds that “my criticism has always been directed at those who fake liberalism for their own interests, and I’ll always stand against them.”*

6. Utilitarian liberals and arrivistes

RAND institute, is an American research center concerned with futuristic studies and strategic planning, close to the Zionist lobby in the US, and works closely with the National Security service and the White House. It stated in a report issued in 2008, titled “Civil and Democratic Islam, Partners, Resources, Strategies” that the liberal trends in the Arab world are represented by some opportunists that are not reliable in any endeavor to achieve democracy.

The report mentions that such liberal trends are “not exactly popular, in the Arab, let alone the Saudi people, who do not believe in liberalism because of the utilitarian attitude of those representing it.”

7. Some liberals who are debauched and morally disengaged

Although liberals talk incessantly about women and their rights, and they tend to accuse the official religious institution in the SA that it imposes restrictions on the Saudi women, they exhibit lascivious and permissive attitudes in their ideas and behaviors in a manner that is too obvious to be disregard in our discussion.

This is evident in the talks of the liberals themselves. This liberal author Amira AlQahtani mentions in an article titled “With Due Respect to the Respected Intellectuals” published in Al Jazeera newspaper, in November 3, 2008: “when I engaged myself with this intellectual community and dealt with some of the educated people, I found out that I’m living in a big lie. I am not generalizing, there are people who enjoy high moral standards in this medium, but those who do not over-number them. Unfortunately, this intellectual community is full with liars, hypocrites, arrivistes, and womanizers, and this last one is disastrous.”

AlQahtani also says: “one personal story recently took place when one Saudi intellectual, who is a well-known author that I used to respect his name and his status as a professor, called me on my number. He managed to get my phone number from another person, and I received his call with respect and appreciation. Without any introduction, he started an investigative conversation with me, inquiring about personal things. I went along with him, giving him answers without details, out of respect for him and his status as I mentioned. Before hanging up the phone with him, I politely asked him to respect the privacy of the conversation between us and not to share with anybody.”

AlQahtani was not the only one to reveal such facts about the immodest and lascivious world of liberalism. Nadin AlBdeir, a radical liberal writer, said in article titled “Saudi Liberalism, Fashion or Hypocrisy” published in Al Watan newspaper in December 29, 2005: “those who fake liberalism without believing in it or applying it in their life. Their private lives are full with shocking facts that reflect double-standard attitudes, hypocrisy, and not challenging the trends. I was taken aback recently when I found out that one of our most liberated intellectuals and the most critical of our community; critical of the injustices, injustice against women, and he himself is unfair, marrying four women, although he criticizes polygamy and condemns adultery.”

She adds: “away from plurality and injustice, there are liberals who support women rights, freedom of movement, mixing with men, which seems realistic and logical, but let’s ask ourselves: where is your wife, or wives? Where are your sisters? Your daughters? Are they really free to go out and mix with men, so that you will be an example for others? Where are the women in your family? Why don’t they come out and attend lectures and public gatherings? What about your civilized liberal meetings? What are you saying? Are you suggesting that they are your women, they shall not be seen by others.

Whom are you addressing then? What is the value of your calls for liberation and mutiny? Are they addressed to the women of others? Let’s his women be protected under his shadow and the traditions that he secretly defends while publicly fighting them.”

This ugly aspect of liberalism in SA is not only evident in the testimonies of some female Saudi liberals. It is a trendy topic among some liberal writers as well. The radically liberal novelist Abdullah Bin Bakhit writes in an article published in Alriyadh newspaper in September 15, 2010: “Sometimes, a single part of the face boasts all the beauty. We say that this girl is all eyes, or lips, or cheeks. If we take another careful look, we’ll see the nose, which might at times distort the beautiful visage, or adds another breathtaking aspect of beauty that leads to a hell of pleasure.”

He also says: “I was used to, while waiting in a public place, like an international airport for instance, not to waste my time in thinking or reading. I instantly launch a beauty contest for the women who pass by me. When they close the gates to a certain flight, I also close nominations and announce the results. It amazes me sometimes how a Scandinavian, Indian, or a Saudi lady wearing a red dress becomes the beauty queen of Heathrow or Dubai airports. I preserve her picture in my mind, I find out that the skin was not the decisive factor, since the contesters had varied skin colors. I also notice that being tall wasn’t also decisive, since the ladies who qualified were also of different lengths. Nor age, it was the most important thing, since the first 10 were in a wide age group ranging between 40’s and 20’s. In terms of weight, I noticed that the contesters range from the corpulent to the skinny who is covered with the right amount of femininity.”

Al Jazeera newspaper mentions in the opening of the cultural appendix, issue No. 256: “Mohammad Saeed Tayyib is considered to be among the leading liberal figures in SA, but he continuously criticizes this trend. It is believed that he said: “too many claim they are liberals, but most of them are “licentious”.”

8. Liberals affiliated with the West

Despite their insistence to deny relationships with the West, especially the US, liberals in SA are usually accused of being agents to the West. They always support and welcome the Western pressure, and express in their talks that it doesn’t matter of reforms come on the back of an Arab camel or an American tank, what only matters is just reforms!

Liberals do not suppress their relations with members of foreign embassies in the Kingdom. The author, Jamal Khashqji said in an article in Al Watan newspaper issue No. 1229: “I once asked an American ambassador, who served in our region and knows it very well, about the nature of the reaction of the US administration if reforms face setbacks in an Arab country. He told me that the ambassador to that country writes a report that includes suggestions, and asks for opinions and advice.”

Saudi liberals are always in state of awe when it comes to the West. They believe that it is the prototype of development, advancement, and enlightenment. Other countries in their opinion are backward, and won’t be able to achieve the accomplishments of the West without following suit the Western style of liberalism.

Dr. Turki AlHamad says in an article published in the Yemeni newspaper “AlJumhoriyya” in February 26, 2009 titled “The West and Us”: “the relationship with the West, and the importance of dealing and interacting with it is not a matter of choice for us, it is an unstoppable necessity, whether we like it or not. We have a choice in two matters: whether we refuse interacting with the West in any manner, then we are practically extinct, since this civilization, the Western civilization, is stronger than this stillness.”

Then he says: “or we choose to interact, digest, understand, and appreciate, the concepts and values of this civilization in order to build our own civilization. This is, in my opinion, our redemption. It should be know that the West is not all evil, there are a lot of things in politics, economy and ideas that are useful that should be fully adopted, like what happened before with the adoption of the products of the Greek, Indian, and Persian civilizations. Prince Nayef described liberals in SA as people impressed with the West and employees to its service, saying that “we know their connections to foreign bodies, and we shall fight them and cut their tongues” [8]

Chapter Two

The Social, Political, and Economic Status of Liberals in the Community

It is also possible to categorize liberals in Saudi Arabia based on other criteria such as:

  • Social status
  • Economic status
  • Political status

Social status: Unpopular Despite Media Manipulation

The discourse of the liberal trend in the Kingdom is constantly accused of being directed to the elite, without considering the issues of the simple citizens and their problems. Most of those with liberal perspectives are academicians and people working in the media. This is emphasized by Raef Badawi in an interview with Afaaq website in August 2, 2007 saying that “liberal authors control almost 95% of what is written in the main Saudi newspapers, and you can seldom find an article in a Saudi paper written by a fanatic scholar from the Wahhabi religious institution.”

Among the notable authors widely published and heard in the Saudi media are Tariq AlHmeid, Hamad Assalimy, Adil AlTreify, Mohammad AlMahmoud, Mohammad Bin Abdellatif Al Asheikh, Turki AlHamad, Abdurrahman AlRashid, Turki Addakhil, Jamil Adiabi, Ali Mousa, Hamaza Almzeini, Mshari Aldhaydi, Yousuf Aba Alkheil, Turki Asdeiry, among others.

It is also self-evident that the liberal current in SA enjoys wide unrivalled control over Saudi media, and most of the programs and productions in this media are identified with the liberals.

Notwithstanding, liberalism in SA is still widely unpopular, since the conservative Saudi community rejects the liberal values it is trying to instill and the call for freedom that is not restricted by religion.

To face this dilemma, liberals save no means to influence the society, whether by casting doubts on some religious fatwas, and smearing Islamic scholars and preachers, in addition to criticizing the religious institution considered by them the true enemy that has the greatest impact on the people. They also depend on media hassles and exploit certain issues, such as the debate regarding women right to drive in SA and the interaction of some women with them, in order to prove that can influence the course of things in the community, even in the thorniest of issues.

Economic situation

Since liberals are in sweeping control over most the media outlets in SA, especially the satellite channels, they enjoy an elevated economic status in the community. Some also receive grants and rewards from diplomats working in Riyadh, since some embassies offer all sorts of support to help them continue their activities throughout the Kingdom.

Some Western countries offer support to some liberal organizations and economic forums in SA. This was revealed in AlIqtisadiyya newspaper in March 28, 2007. The newspaper said that the British government provided 700,000 SAR to support the programs of The Future Specialists Center for Training and Development in Jeddah, covering the expenses of 25 training courses that were to be held in Jeddah, Ha’il, Medina, and Abha. Those courses were aimed at developing the skills of more than 1000 Saudi women. Some other resources mention that liberals were behind major tourist projects in the Kingdom. Some newspapers wrote about the so-called “Liberal-Islamic dispute” regarding the Abha Musical Festival in the summer of 2005.

Liberals also have a significant presence in the economic forums in SA. It is another gateway for them to spread their liberal ideas and principles. The Jeddah Economic Forum for instance has become a platform of capitalist liberal thinking, which adopts total liberty of the market without any religious or moral considerations. Usury, selling non-Halal products, monopoly, restricting the state from offering financial support to the citizens are among the monstrous ideas and practices adopted by this forum.[9]

Political status:

Some of the liberal figures enjoy strong political presence inside the Kingdom, obviously with the help of foreign parties. This was evident in the incident of dismissing Abdurrahman Arrashid from this position as the manager of Al Arabiyya TV channel, on the basis of viewing a documentary titled “Islam and the West” which talks about the school of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Abdulwahhab and international violence. His articles in Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper were also stopped.

A few days later, Arrashid returned to writing in the newspaper, and resumed his position as the head of the Al Arabiyya. This raised questions about the degree of political influence of Saudi liberals in the Kingdom. They achieved their goal in a direct dispute with the official religious institution in the Kingdom.

Yedioth Ahronoth, the Israeli newspaper, revealed some details about this incident and the return of Arrashid. The newspaper said in its inssue in September 20, 2010 that the royal family decided to stand in the face of the “daring journalist”, adding that he realized this situation. The newspaper also said that the Americans “put their pressure to stop this decision, and Arrashid was notified that he could remain his position.”

There are indicators in the diplomatic institution that exposes this growing influence, which is looked at favorably by the US. Some media outlets in the US for instance welcomed the decision to appoint Adil AlJbeir an ambassador to the US in 2007, described in the Washington Post as “a well-known personality in Washington.”[10]

How Liberals Work

As they feel alienated in the community, liberals escape no chance to achieve their interests. They ally with seculars, especially that secularism is considered the essence of the liberal ideology as expressed in the liberal discourse in general.

The Kuwaiti author, Ahmad Al Baghdadi says that secularism is “a concept and a philosophy of life which represents a chance to a new life where religion is just one among many points of reference instead of being the only and ultimate authority. Secularism is a necessary condition to advancement, without which societies would not be able to prosper, even those communities where religion is widely practiced.”

In order to secularize the society, liberals emphasize the importance of limiting the influence of the religious scholars in public life, and restrict it to the spiritual aspects of life. These scholars should “render unto Cesar” since Albaghdadi says that “the communities which ended the role of the religious men in politics are living now in prosperity and advancement, while those communities where religious men have influence over politics are still lagging behind in a state of civilization backwardness, which is the case in the Muslim, not Islamic communities.”

Therefore liberals do not attach any Islamic attribute to the state they call for, and insisting on the ideal of a civil state. Turki Alhamad claims in his book “Politics between Halal and Haram” claims that there is “no development without separating between politics and religion. Politics in Islam is an earthly thing, where the political leader seeks the best for the people who elected him for this position and control his work. The leader is not imposed by God.”

He adds that “authority in Islam in principle and history is civil in its nature. Otherwise we find ourselves succumbing into the European theocracies of the dark ages.”

They also tend to exploit some eccentric fatwas and circulate them in order to dismiss the religious authority and cast doubts regarding its credibility in the Kingdom. Despite their constant support of freedoms and right to dissent, this freedom seems to be exclusive to them, and should not be granted to others, especially those representing religion.

In her commentary on a fatwa by Sheikh Ebeikan regarding breastfeeding after the age puberty, the liberal author Amal Zahid wrote an article (We shan’t breastfeed to drive) in Al Watan newspaper, saying: “these eccentric fatwas do no good to our great religion and distort its image before others… We shall not breastfeed in order to drive, gentlemen. We shall not achieve our legitimate right in driving and free movement through using weird fatwas that do more harm than good to our religion and the dignity of women. We shall enjoy these rights, sooner or later. The development of history can’t be stopped.”

The Arab Spring revolts helped liberals and the resulting legitimacy of the liberal trend, as they imagine. Abdurrahman Arrashid says in an article published in Assharq Al Awsat issue No. 12076[11] that it is wrong to believe that liberals failed in Tunisia and Egypt based on the elections swept by Islamists in both countries.

Arrashid reiterated that “liberals achieved things they haven’t dreamt of before” and adds in explanation: “they have achieved order, since Egypt and Tunisia both adopted the liberal thinking by accepting the legitimacy of the ballot box, freedoms, recognizing the right of others; women and religious minorities, all of which are liberal values. Liberals have won by the achievements of Islamists and nationalists and all those involved in the new political process.”

Arrahid says that the triumph of liberalism is evident in the discourse adopted by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movements in Egypt. It is also clear in the behavior of Ennahda movement in Tunisia through its reiteration of the importance of rights and freedoms. It was also a fortunate surprise that Salafists, who are more conservative than others, were able to adapt to the new situation. One young Salafi in Egypt for instance refused to use a religious motto “Together we Reform Life through Religion” preferring instead the motto “modern minds though Egyptian hands”.

In his endeavor to include Egypt to his imagined liberal triumphs, Arrashid said that liberalism drive its influence from three sources: the military, politicians, and the people. He said: “we are witnessing a transition from the liberal pretention to the liberal application”. He also considers that the victory of the Islamists gave legitimacy to liberalism. Their victory is a victory for liberals, not the other way around.”


The liberal discourse in SA exhibits a critical view of Islam and the religious institution, calling in some radical manifestations to restrict the presence of religion in public life. Some liberals claim that religion is backward and anti-development.

The liberal trend takes huge interest in women rights. They claim that they want her to enjoy her rights and set her free from the fatwas that restrict their freedoms, although they themselves do not adhere to these ideals. Their actions and statements indicate that women in their opinion are nothing but sexual subjects.

As some liberal figures feel alienated from their communities because of their elitist attitude and interests in issues not related to the daily life of the people, their absence is deepened in the Saudi community, and their influence decreased. This was evident in their failure in the recent municipal elections, after which they realized their limited popularity in the Kingdom. This is further emphasized by their dependence on foreign powers and the accusations pointed to them that they are agents to the West, especially that they tend to commend the American and Western practices in the region.

Liberal figures have sweeping control in the Saudi media outlets. The liberal agenda, whether in the newspapers or the TV channels, aided by the West through embassies and organizations, try to increase their presence, and provide them with grants and funds, through which they seek to attract more people to their ideology.

The liberal current presents the civil state as an alternative the Islamic state. They emphasize that this state is the framework which realizes what the Arabs need the most, through adopting the Western style in government. Liberals endeavor to restrict the influence of the deeply-rooted Islamic trend in the Saudi community.

Finally, it could be said that the future of liberalism in SA is destined to fail and recede, especially if they insist on depending on their current tools. Their ideas and principles, which change every now and then, were not able, despite the media propaganda, to win the trust and support of the people. Their ties with the West is self-evident as well, which raises more accusations against them that they are only tools used by the West to put pressure on the Kingdom and to distort its image abroad.

These accusations gain further credibility when we notice that a lot of Western media outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Fox News, usually quote these liberals criticizing the situation in the Kingdom. Whether they intentionally try to smear the image if the Kingdom or not, their writings are used to achieve this.


[1] AlHamad, Turki (2003) The Arab Culture in the Age of Globalization, Lebanon: Alsaqi Publishing House, page 129

[2] AlMahmoud, Mohammad Bin Ali (2005, Jan 20) Islam and Enlightenment, AlRiyadh Newspaper, issue No. 13359

[3] AlMahmoud, Mohammad Bin Ali (2011 July, 14) Enlightenment in the Face of Racist thinking, AlRiyadh Newspaper, issue No. 15725.

[4] This statement was issued in February 2011, and was published in several places, and was copied from his Facebook page.


[6] The interview was titled “Ibrahim AlBleihi to the “Culture Today”: Modernists restrict their interest to creative achievement, while liberals are more concerned with social, cultural, and developmental objectives. Published in AlRiyadh newspaper (2010 Jan 28) issue No. 15193.

[7] See also: *please note that AlGthami and Tayyib criticize local liberalism, and not the philosophy and ideals of liberalism.

[8] A press statement by HRH prince Nayef published by several Saudi and Arab news media, source: UIB news agency

[9] AlSalmi, Abdurrahim Bin Smayel: The Intellectual Impacts of Jeddah Economic Forum

[10] Saleh, Mohammad Ali (2007, Jan 30) Adil AlJbeir New Mastermind of Saudi-American Relations, AlSharq AlAwsat Newspaper, issue No. 10290

[11] Liberals won the battle, (2011 December, 21)

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