Moderate Islam can be seen as a comprehensive strategy to tackle the kingdom’s regional and domestic concerns while at the same time reshaping the religious and social scene in line with the leadership’s new sociopolitical objectives.
Non-Resident Fellow, AGSIW
Eman Alhussein is a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. She previously worked as a research fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Her research focuses on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region. Alhussein’s areas of interest include identity and nationalism, gender, cultural and societal change, and religious discourse and reforms.
Alhussein holds an MA in Gulf studies from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. She completed her bachelor’s degree at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. She is currently based in Oslo, Norway.
The social dimension of change in the kingdom will continue to navigate a bumpy road, especially as it generates tensions and debate over the issue of decency.
Saudi Arabia has adopted strict austerity measures to combat the dual effect of falling oil prices and the coronavirus crisis. Unlike previous measures that were lifted when oil prices recovered, a July 1 VAT increase (from 5% to 15%) is more likely to stay in place, which could present challenges to low-income families, businesses, and plans to revive domestic tourism.
The coronavirus, along with the economic crisis due to falling oil prices, is having a direct impact on businesses in the Gulf, including migrant labor, the bulk of the work force.
The coronavirus outbreak has redefined the responsibilities of citizens and the business community, impacting the already evolving rentier state structure and highlighting economic and religious challenges
The relaxation of social norms in Saudi Arabia has proved to be both emboldening and disorienting.
Recent changes to Saudi Arabia’s school curriculum emphasize loyalty to the state and national identity, incorporating pre-Islamic history into the Saudi national narrative.
The regulations introduced to travel and civil status laws will limit the state’s ability to intervene in the private sphere.
The growing closeness between China and Saudi Arabia sheds some light on similar structural features and sociopolitical trends that have emerged in both countries, particularly the rise of parallel feminist mobilizations.
The Saudi government is moving forward steadfastly with its social modernization project, but the new policies are clashing with established norms, creating inconsistencies and uncertainties in social spaces.