Saudi Arabia, before 1979 and after 2017

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

Published: Updated:

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently discussed the phase before 1979 and clarified that the Saudi society is not how extremists promoted it. He then made those historical words: “We are returning to what we were before -- a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world. We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today.”

The crown prince’s statements are important because when Saudi Arabia moves forward, it does so based on its history and culture while remaining linked to its religious and national identity. From Japan under Meiji, China under Deng Xiaoping and Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew, people have risen because they based their efforts on their bright past which inspired them to prosper rather than obstructed them. They were also inspired by the progress which other successful countries achieved before them.

Saudi Arabia before 1979 is the base and the pillar for Saudi Arabia after 2017. However, many non-Saudis are unaware of this bright historical and social phase before the Khomeini revolution erupted and before the infection of extremism spread in the entire region.

The culture before 1979 was moderately religious, and it was open to life and to the future. It rejected extremist doctrines that attempted to infiltrate the society and expand in it. However this culture of tolerance then disappeared and a culture of hatred spread

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

Before 1979, education curricula urged openness, co-existence and independent thinking. The Sahwa (awakening) preachers and the Brotherhood attacked this approach and destroyed this enlightening educational spirit and replaced it with a culture that encourages hatred and death.

My generation – i.e. the ones born in the end of the 1970’s – lived through this phase when the original Saudi culture clashed with the intruding extremist ideology. Our parents’ behavior and practices were based on their pure nature. I don’t recall that they ever incited hatred or labeled those from different religions, sects and cultures as rivals and enemies. We thus had a naturally optimistic spirit. In school, however, we clashed with an ideology that aimed to create hateful people who oppose others through the curricula, teachers and different activities.

Our parents and grandparents simply express that Saudi spirit of real piety that is not contaminated with politics or moral bids. This is why these old generations were open to the world. It was easy for them to integrate in different cultures and we saw this happen with students who went to study abroad in the 1960’s and 1970’s. These students did not fall prey to extremism and terrorist organizations like what happened with later generations when Saudi terrorists joined organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS and carried out attacks inside their country killing their own people.

The culture before 1979 was moderately religious, and it was open to life and to the future. It rejected extremist doctrines that attempted to infiltrate the society and expand in it. However this culture of tolerance then disappeared and a culture of hatred spread. Pessimism and bleak death reigned after happiness and optimism filled the air.

During that phase, Saudi women reflected their best image. They reflected a strong and confident character before getting besieged and restrained in terms of how they dress and how they behave. Their status thus regressed and they were no longer present in the society, which really needed them. The same applies to creative arts which were active and prosperous. They were also suffocated although Saudi Arabia had produced great artists likes Talal Maddah and Mohammed Abdo. You do not see these artists on official television channels and you need to travel outside the kingdom to attend their concerts.

Saudi Arabia 2017

Many factors distinguished that happy phase of Saudi life and they were obliterated and replaced with strange and intrusive aspects that do not express the spirit of the young society at the time. Extremists did not only work on convincing the society that this old lifestyle is impure but they also promoted this dark image outside Saudi Arabia in an attempt to create a huge cultural gap that’s difficult to bridge between the kingdom and the civilized world.

The new Saudi Arabia in 2017 is linked to its happy past before 1979 thanks to the recent huge decisions such as allowing women to drive, reforming education, destroying powers of extremism and violence, allowing arts to return to their natural position in the kingdom and developing massive projects like NEOM, the Red Sea tourism project and others.

Life restored its glimmer. The Saudi society is living through its best time after it restored its social values, optimism and hope in the future. The spirit of 1979 braces with the spirit and future of 2017.

This does not only serve the interest of Saudi Arabia but it also serves the region and the world as Saudi Arabia leads the project of development and endeavors towards the future by confronting the Iranian, Qatari and Brotherhood project and terrorist organizations which call for extremism, backwardness and death.

As inventors and creators of the future like Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin, and others visit Riyadh, men like Soleimani come out of Tehran to deploy terrorist militias in the region and spread a culture of violence and death.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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