A new totalitarian adventure in the Arabian desert

A precog being inducted into Saudi citizenship

Mohamed bin Salman has called for ‘Moderate Islam’ in Saudi Arabia. The words will mean nothing and will be the cause of much social instability, until some kind of process has taken place, where Saudi society has come to an understanding. Simply introducing a secular lifestyle into a previously rigid religious environment would be explosive. However, if a new process of dialogue about Saudi religious reformation has begun, the signs are not good, given that a large number of activists, clerics, professionals and even poets, not all of whom are radicals or critics of his new vision, have been jailed by Bin Salman in the latest wave of detentions a couple of months ago.

As Madawi al-Rashed explains: “For a religious reformation to take hold, it has to be the product of debates within Islamic circles, completely free from state control from above. Liberation theology is not always born in the courts of autocratic monarchs and princelings. But the prince has in mind something else, a royal theology that criminalises criticism, dissent, and even peaceful activism.”

A harbinger of what is to come is the scathing attack by the Supreme Council of Muslim Scholars (SCM), the highest religious body in Saudi Arabia, on the International Union of Muslim Scholars (ISU), a non-governmental organization headed by Dr. Yusuf Qaradawi, last Thursday. The SCM, under pressure from Bin Salman called the ISU a “partisan” organisation, directed by “political agenda”. If, by political agenda, the Saudi body meant the openness of the ISU to pluralism and democracy, then they would have been right. Now the Saudi body, ever seeking royal pleasure, and desperately trying to maintain a role for itself in the new Saudi totalitarian adventure launched by Bin Salman, has warned Saudis to stay away from the ISU and all organisations outside the Kingdom like it.

While the religious police in Saudi Arabia (the institution of which contradicts the most basic rights under the Qur’an) will be prohibited from monitoring Saudis indulging their inclinations, they will now acquire a new role in monitoring their political thoughts. Given Bin Salman’s science fiction vision of the future, he will probably engage Tom Cruise as an adviser to train “precogs” for the Kingdom’s very own “pre-crime” unit. Presumably the SCM will be engaged in the difficult task of generating the “majority reports” from conflicting precognitions as fatwas.