From the beginning of time, thousands of emperors, sultans, kings, princes and caliphs have ruled several lands and territories of the earth.
Yet, history only immortalized those who made a difference in people’s lives and whose compass was always directed towards enlightenment.
Succeeding generations thus memorized their names and their legacies extended beyond history books.
At first glance, managing states seems like it’s all about the implementation of commands due to the power of authority, but the mechanism of governance is complicated, and may be a bane for those in power.
The leadership of states requires courage without recklessness, patience without indifference, modesty without humiliation and power without authoritarianism. Only the fortunate ones are gifted with these qualities. Such leaders bring fortune and prosperity to the land they rule.
This is an introduction to the talk about the new era ushered in Saudi Arabia, or the new Saudi Arabia, as some like to call it.
What’s new is that it changed economic foundations which first pillars were established at the hands of the founder King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman al-Faisal (may God have mercy on him) who started building a modern state by relying on wells full of black oil. His sons completed this project after him.
The Saudi woman is not only celebrating the decision to allow her to drive, she is celebrating her departure from the prison of extremism which restricted, belittled and despised her for decadesAmal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani
However, this foundation changed and so did cultural, intellectual and social foundations which have negatively impacted the modern state during eight decades.
There were world wars and destructive events taking place close to the kingdom’s borders and difficult political and intellectual tests that changed a great deal of the cultural composition of Saudi society – the most important of which is what is known as Al Sahwa born out of Muslim Brotherhood and which founded an extremist religious thought and rigidity of faith.
Since it is the land of the Two Holy Mosques, it has always been targeted by those who make a living out of religion. All this has reflected on the society that used to practice its religious life with a pure faith before them.
‘New’ Saudi Arabia
The term the ‘new’ Saudi Arabia refers to a change brought about by two factors — the first factor is economic and springs from the belief that oil will not last, and that investing in young minds can produce creative ideas which is the only way to build a productive and lasting economy.
The other factor is that the new Saudi Arabia has chosen to follow moderate Islam, just as it was followed during the times of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), 14 centuries ago.
We must recall that extremists made a living out of intimidating people through their lectures, recordings and speeches until their bank accounts got full at the expense of the good souls who love and fear God, so they ingenuously started believing and following them.
They believe, by their own admission, that women are their secure fortresses. If women would slip away from their hands, they would lose their strength. Thus, most of their theories were centered around women.
They have set restrictions for her at work, school and even within her family. They underestimated her and belittled her mind. Some say that if a woman is educated, she would rebel against men and liberate herself from his chains or if she becomes financially independent through work, she would no longer need him so he will have no authority over or if she drives a car she would run away from him!
These ideas and messages were at the center of their discourse, narratives and speeches. It is not only the point of view of male chauvinism but it is also tantamount to enslavement, just like those who feel ashamed about being parent to a daughter, thinking she is a disgrace and hoping a day would come when she will get married and will cease being a responsibility and become the responsibility of another man.
It is really weird how someone can have such a troubled thought at a time when people in the West are rapidly developing to the extent of successfully operating on a fetus inside the womb. This is in addition to the West’s ambitions to land on Mars, cloud seeding and heart, eye and liver transplant.
Status of women in Vision 2030
In the new Saudi Arabia, ruled by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a road map called Vision 2030 has been drawn. This comprehensive strategy pledges to ensure great development for the Kingdom, where every member of the society — male or female — can enjoy a dignified life, both equal in rights and duties.
The Saudi woman is not only celebrating the decision to allow her to drive, but she is celebrating her departure from the prison of extremism which restricted, belittled and despised her for decades. She will not run away because she can operate a vehicle and go, but she will be freed from the fake restrictions imposed on her by hardline forces.
The political leadership has finally brought her justice by granting her the right to drive and having an independent identity. It’s also expanded her space to work in the labor market and appointed her in high office positions. After she was humiliated by the uncivilized, she gained her place and status at the hands of the generous godfather of Vision 2030 who reassured her that she is half of the society that relies on her to achieve the qualitative changes he has planned.
Saudi women continue to aspire and want more. They believe in the Crown Prince and feel that they will not only drive from their residence to work or to the school of their children, but will lead with their fellow men to larger arenas, as a partner in the wheel of development thanks to her strong will and the confidence bestowed on her.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani is a professor at King Saudi University and a writer for al-Sharq al-Awsat. She tweets @Alhazzani_Amal.SHOW MORE