The 35-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salam, alias MBS, initiates more radical changes in the kingdom hitherto known for its conservatism and strict adherence to Sharia.
In addition to barring loudspeakers from amplifying prayers and sermons at mosques and turning down the volume during calls to prayer, the Saudi government announced that shops, restaurants and other enterprises do not have to close anymore during prayer times. A government was reported to have declared that “Those days of inconvenience are now over.”
The MBS initiated liberalisations continue to reverberate around the kingdom while dissents are silenced.
According to two Saudi human rights groups, “When a little-known religious leader penned an online article criticising the decision by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, he was arrested, and his once-active Twitter account went silent.”
It is also reported that the government fired “many” Imams for not following an official directive to preach against the Muslim Brotherhood, which MBS-led Saudi Arabia has designated as a terrorist group.
A year ago, the government stripped the religious police of their powers to arrest people. Around the same time, women were granted the right to attend sporting events while removing gender segregation at restaurants, other events.
Sarah Dadouch of The Washington Post concludes thus, “Mohammed is rewriting the longtime power-sharing arrangement between the ruling family and the clerical establishment — a partnership that created the kingdom. Islam has remained a cornerstone of Saudi identity; the kingdom is the birthplace of the religion and hosts its two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina. The king’s official title is the custodian of the two holy mosques.
In some quarters, fears abound that the fabric of the kingdom is now 4unravelling. But those fears are rarely shared anymore, lest there be more arrests.”