Saudi Arabia and Wahabism

Miles Seeley writes: If you've ever spent much time in Saudi, or known many Saudis, you realize that they struggle with Wahabism. It certainly is the official religion and they promote it and try to export it, and it is what is taught in the schools. But so many Saudis have studied abroad and lived abroad, and so many others have been exposed to modern science and technology and medicine, that they pay only lip service to many of the more stringent aspects of it. I have had princes, even some close to the leadership, say the educational system must be reformed and secularized. They feel caught between two dramatically different worlds, and they have no desire to live the fundamentalist life. They also know that their heavily subsidized plush lives cannot continue forever and that the mass of people are becoming angry and envious of their excesses. We shall see whether internal revolt or meaningful reforms comes first.
RH:  As Miles says, we shall see. The struggle Miles describes occurs in many countries, including Spain.  Those who wanted to keep up with Europe by imitating France were called afrancesados, those who resisted change were called traditionalists. This explains much of modern Spain's history, including the struggle between the Republic and the monarchists, including the carlistas and Franco.  In an attenuated form, it explains the rivalry between the traditionalist Partido Popular and the Socialists.  Russia is another country where the struggle has taken place. In both cases the rivalry led to an awful civil war.  Is that possible in Saudi Arabia?

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Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: October 8, 2004