For years, Saudi Arabia witnessed fierce and intensified campaigns by three different parties. All of them aimed to present a bad image about the kingdom to the world. The first party consisted of extremist figures inside Saudi Arabia and whose popularity increased in recent years due to social media platforms. The second is Qatar’s media outlets while the third is western and American dailies and networks with leftist leanings. Observers will notice that all these parties have been confused in the past phase and their influence has declined – not because they suddenly fell in love with Riyadh but because the recent decisions against extremism, the social and religious reforms as well as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s US tour and candid interviews with the most famous media outlets confused them and shook their stances.
Before this phase, a huge part of these parties’ success was because of the Saudis themselves as they generously supplied them with the cards they needed for the game and with ready-made justifications due to laws and customs that restrain women’s activities and to strange measures which prohibited arts and to preachers who prohibited Valentine’s Day and commissions that confiscated red flowers. All this provided them with ready-to-use live ammunition and helped their rhetoric gain more credibility and supporters from different inclinations, human rights activists, liberals, leftist and right-wing, and eventually they developed a deeply negative image about the kingdom.
The first party, represented by Saudi extremists in Saudi Arabia, used to negatively promote the kingdom via the extremist ideas which they marketed, the pubic takfiri fatwas (religious edicts) they issued and their continuous and organized social media presence. Everyone who wears the shemagh (the traditional scarf which men in the Gulf wear on the head) and echoes the most hideous statements against Jews and Christians left a bad reputation behind. These people had such a loud voice to the point that people outside the kingdom thought all the Saudis were like that; intolerant, hostile to women and outdated.
Saudi Arabia overcame a difficult obstacle and became a power capable of changing history by solidifying the culture of tolerance and moderation in the entire region and getting rid of the disease of extremism which obstructed Muslims for centuries.Mamdouh AlMuhaini