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The Saudi experience

Mazen al-Sudairi

Published: Updated:

International news agencies recently published reports on the major transformation in the Saudi economy regarding the role of women and their increased participation in the labor market. This is a qualitative indicator of the social and cultural development in the Kingdom, which many considered would be a difficult process and require a longer time to achieve. Renowned Sociologist Gustave Le Bon mentioned in his book Psychological Norms in the Development of Nations that peoples require a long period of time to change their concepts. He said that the dead have more impact on the people than the living.

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But with the development of technology and communication, the change and convergence of peoples have accelerated. Unfortunately, the main changes in the Arab region and the Middle East were based on imitation of the West rather than being realistic and positive. The late Farag Foga mentioned in his books that we imitate the West in the outer shells while ignoring the essence.

Indeed, according to the book Analysis of Arab Political Systems by Dr. Ali El-Din Hilal, several fascist parties emerged in the Arab region and the Middle East, such as the Syrian National Party in Syria, the Kataeb (Phalanges) Party in Lebanon, and Young Egypt Party in Egypt, in addition to the emergence of the communist tide during the first half of the century. The influencing factor for the emergence of these currents is colonialism.

Electoral billboard of Lebanese candidate for the upcoming parliamentary elections Sami Gemayel, the youngest son of late president-elect Bachir Gemayel, killed in 1982, and the grandson of Pierre Gemayel, who founded the Phalangist (Kataeb) Party. (AFP)
Electoral billboard of Lebanese candidate for the upcoming parliamentary elections Sami Gemayel, the youngest son of late president-elect Bachir Gemayel, killed in 1982, and the grandson of Pierre Gemayel, who founded the Phalangist (Kataeb) Party. (AFP)

On the other hand, King Abdulaziz succeeded, thanks to his political realism, in establishing a state and meeting society’s need: security. Most importantly, he was keen to establish a modern state open to the world. Being a wise person, he studied the leadership of the United States in the world after World War II and met President Roosevelt in Egypt, while Israel did take note of American leadership until the war of 1956. Unfortunately, the proponents of progress did not show interest in the experience of King Abdulaziz, and Sorbonne graduates Zaki al-Arsuzi, Michel Aflaq, and Salah al-Bitar returned from Paris to establish the Baath Party and the Arab nationalist tide began during the second half of the century under the motto freedom, unity, and socialism. Unfortunately, socialist applications destroyed the economies of the countries that adopted them.

As for freedom and unity, history has proven that the followers of the Baathist ideology are their worst enemies because the party's ideology is unrealistic and vague. It experienced failure with the military violence that affected the party's founders. After the Arab tide, political Islam emerged with its various currents, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and others, which follow an irrational and uncivilized path with no room for others and women. This current expanded rapidly.

The Saudi tides of change appeared. The world became more connected, but this does not mean the concepts are similar and convergent. The Saudi Crown Prince decided to make the Kingdom more competitive. Economic growth is not about money but rather production and a business environment that fights corruption, bridges the differences between men and women, and enhances the role of the private sector and the role of law and transparency. These reforms, at their core, are social and cultural reforms that originate from the idea that the human being is the producer of changes and civilizations, and the first plan made by this human to change the world around him is to change his own understanding. Therefore, the realism of His Highness the Crown Prince, which follows the same spirit as that of his grandfather, the founding King, has been trusted and respected by all. And between the founding King and His Highness the Crown Prince, is an educated King who has experienced many challenges and experiences.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh.

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