Monday, 5 October 2009

Saudi 'danger'

Interesting article in The National on the row between Saudi reformers and conservatives over the opening of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology near Jeddah. A vocal critic of the mixed-sex classes and "un-Islamic" teaching (Sheikh Saad al-Shethri) has been unceremoniously dumped from the Council of Ulema, raising questions about the illiberal tendency of the supposedly liberal movement.

Newspaper editors ganged up on the recently appointed sheikh after he appeared on Saudi TV to air his objections. Saud Kateb, professor of media technology at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, opines: "Society is facing one of its most dangerous phases as moderates are diminishing and extremism is on the rise both on the Left and the Right. The liberals are becoming extremists just like the conservatives... eliminating the opposition, provoking political authority to oppress the rights of others to present their views."

Another way of looking it: don't criticise projects as close to "royal" hearts such as the Kaust, or you'll find yourself out on your ear. It was ever thus, no? It's just that the monarchy is shifting its alignment away from people like Sheikh Saad.

The article quotes the king speaking in 2007: “The establishment of this university has been a living idea in my mind for more than 25 years and I thank God for helping us to realise it.”

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