Home » Events » Mansour al-Hadj

Mansour al-Hadj

What are the Prospects for Real Reform in Saudi Arabia?

Mansour Al-Hadj

July 11

Rough transcription:

Robert R. Reilly:

Our speaker tonight, as you know from the announcement, is Mansour Al-Hajj, who is the director of the Reform Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute. A year or two ago we had the President of MEMRI, Yigal Carmon, here. A couple of years ago while he was still Vice-President of MEMRI, [we had] Alberto Fernandez. So it’s a tremendous pleasure to welcome Mansour here this evening, who has also done me an especially good turn when I was very concerned about the quality of the Arabic translation of the Closing of the Muslim Mind. I was able to take it to him and receive assurances that indeed the translators, who were basically a Sudanese team, had done a wonderful job and I certainly appreciated his help with that. Before joining MEMRI, Mansour was a senior reporter for AAFAQ magazine, an Arabic news website focusing on reform and human rights in the Middle East. He’s well known on Capitol Hill where he’s given many briefings, including the topic of movement of- movement of extremism in the Muslim world. He grew up in Saudi Arabia, the subject in which he will be talking tonight, and he’s written about that in a number of articles as well as some on the MEMRI website, which I invite your attention to, most particularly, one of the more recent and extensive ones, “It is Impossible to Defeat Islamic Terrorism Without Reforming Islam.” An earlier one that you can find on MEMRI, though it wasn’t first published there, “In my youth I was taught to love Death.” He obtained his BA in law from the International University of Africa and Khartoum Sudan in 2003. Please join me in welcoming Mansour al Hajj.

Mansour al-Hadj:

Thank you very much, Mr. Reilly. Thank you everybody for coming. My name is Mansour Al-Hadj. I was born and grew up in Saudi Arabia as he said. My family is originally from Chad and Sudan, the third generation in Saudi Arabia, so my grandma moved there a long time ago. My mom grew up there. I was born there, and I have nephews and nieces in Saudi Arabia, yet I don’t have the Saudi citizenship, so I leave it to your imagination. Today are we speaking about the prospects of real reform in Saudi Arabia? I know it’s a topic that a lot of people, a lot of you, are interested in, but before doing that I would like to say that I have written so many articles and papers about Saudi Arabia. One that I’m really very proud of was for the EHLS Program, which is English for Heritage Language Speakers program that is a government program with Georgetown University. And the simplest idea of this program is to train U.S. citizens who are speakers of heritage languages such as Arabic, Persian, and some African languages, and Pashtun and Urdu, train them to work for the U.S. government, especially the Intel agencies. And it’s a very useful program and I’m very proud to have been selected to that program. So my paper on that program was supervised by the National Defense Agency, which is one of our intelligence agencies and the title of my paper was, “Saudi Arabia’s Shia Opposition.”

Talking about reform, I would like to start with a story. So it’s a- this story is an old traditional [story] in the Arabic culture. The story goes that in this city the river, there was a river, and that river is contaminated with insanity virus. Let’s say this way. So whoever swims or drink[s] from the river turns insane, becomes insane and loses his or her mind. So within a few months everybody in the- this little town becomes- became insane and the king, you know, was trying to talk to them to regain their sanity but it was a helpless case so his assistant and- and the people who advised him, consulted him told him to either drink from the river or swim in it so he would be on the same page with his people. That king was so smart and wise to do so. In Saudi Arabia today, I think we have a similar situation. I’m not calling the Saudi people insane. In fact, I think the people of Saudi Arabia are contaminated with the love of freedom, with the love of liberty, and with the love of their country. The problem is the leadership is not on the same page with them and that would leave us with, in my opinion, to a catastrophic result, unless- unless the younger leadership in Saudi Arabia, whom I believe have a historical opportunity to reform the country and to respond to the aspirations of the Saudi people.

There are three levels of oppressions in Saudi Arabia. People in Saudi Arabia are oppressed politically, religiously, and socially. And you can watch the news, you can follow all the human rights organizations report[s] on Saudi Arabia and you will find that currently Saudi Arabia has turned into police state. We have a huge number of mass arrests, and arresting those who are arrested these days or a few months ago are the finest people in Saudi Arabia, college professors, thinkers, people with different ideas, people who aspire to change their country, to write a new history for their own country, and unfortunately, they’re behind bars as we speak right now. In fact, women have been arrested in- in the latest wave of arrests. These women are- are one of the bravest women in Saudi Arabia, college professor like Hatoon al-Fassi, Aziza al-Yousef, a leading human rights or women right activist. Eman al-Nafjan, and Loujain [al-Hathloul] and others. So this is the political oppression part of- of the problem.

In addition to that, there is no freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia. If you look at the Saudi papers, I tweeted the other day that it is as if they were written by one person. Everything is the same. You can’t find one single voice of dissent or opposition. I think this is extremely unhelpful, extremely dangerous for the future of the country. Moving to the- the second form of oppression in Saudi Arabia, which is religious oppression, people are getting oppressed religiously, and by that, I mean minorities in Saudi Arabia don’t have rights. If we talk about the Shia minority Medina or in the Eastern Provinces, they face what we call takfir from the Wahabi sheikhs and scholars, and they are not allowed to build houses for worship, and they have been discriminated against in every aspect in Saudi Arabia. They don’t get hired in higher positions in the army or in the government, and they are under constant oppression. Even the Sunni ones, talking about the Sufis in Saudi Arabia for example, and this oppression is not only in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has exported Wahhabism around the world, and the reason why they succeeded is not because that’s the purest version of Islam but because of the petrol dollars that they were able to convince people or hire people to- or bring people in to Saudi Arabia to study that version of Islam and then go spread it around- around the world. As I said, I was born and grew up in Saudi Arabia but I lived in Chad and Sudan, and I can tell you my grandma did not use to- my late grandma did not cover her hair and, you know, when I talked to her- in her- when she was growing up in Chad, covering the hair was not part of the tradition, you know. Right now, you see women in full burqa in one of the hottest countries on earth. Just imagine that, and all that because of the Saudis.

So now, some of the examples of the [misogyny] of this ideology. You see a lot of conflicts in countries like Sudan and Chad between those who are supported or educated in Saudi Arabia, and the local population, because- because locally, most African countries are Malikis and they tend to be Sufis, which is a sect that Wahhabism consider outsider or consider not real Muslims, So from Saudi Arabia this ideology that the ruling family in Saudi Arabia exported the problem abroad, and that teaching, as we all know, resulted in the creation of Jihadi groups, starting from Al-Qaeda to ISIS and, you know, the Taliban and all these. All of these groups teach what the current Saudi Arabia is teaching in- in- in Saudi school[s]. Also, within the religious oppression we had until recently, according to the government, women were not allowed to drive cars. And they used to tell people, you know, it is Haram, or it is not for the best interests if women drive cars. Yet, thankfully, now they are allowed to drive cars, but, however, there is something called the male guardianship system, which is a system that put all women under the control of their male relatives. It’s from- I don’t know if it- if that system even was existed in the Stone Ages, but it still- it still existed in Saudi Arabia as we speak right now. The women who were arrested recently, this brave and fine women- The only reason they were arrested was because they wanted to establish a human rights organization to defend the women, to defend the women who are being oppressed by their own fathers and brothers and family members. Under the current Saudi system, when these women get abused and go to the government police station, they are told to contact their abusers to come pick them up. So the general rule and all these women, they wanted to create an organization where women who are have- being abused by their own family member, can find a safe house where they can live and stay until, you know, they can find something to do, a safe place for safety reasons.

Moving to the- my third point, which is social oppression in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, I think, are the only nation on earth who are- who faces social oppression, meaning interaction between men and women are prohibited. Creation of organization or groups- People don’t have rights to establish even a small organization where they can, you know, mingle and get together. Other form of social oppression is the fact that, you know, the male guardianship system where for the woman to travel she has to get a permission from a father or brother or even sometimes a son to get a passport or to get a ticket to travel.
Now, some people talk about that- what Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, currently doing is not reform. It’s not political reform. It’s- He is just modernizing Saudi Arabia. Well, I disagree. I think if he is trying to modernize Saudi Arabia so that people need- modernize- so that people need a modern system, a modern ruling system, a constitution of Parliament, elections, they want to have freedom of expression, freedom of gatherings. All these elements are part of modernity and- and if he is not modernizing the political system in Saudi Arabia, I don’t think he is modernizing anything.

I really don’t like talking too much and missing a lot of points, so I would really encourage everyone here to ask a lot of questions. To close, I would like to say, go back to the initial story. Saudi people are yearning for freedom, yearning to take part in the future of their country, and I strongly believe that MBS has a historical opportunity to reform the country by listening to who? To his people. And I have an point that I would like to go quickly on about the prospect of real reform in Saudi Arabia. So number one, I would like to say freeing. If we want to have a real reform in Saudi Arabia, free all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia. This is my number one.
Second, calling for a national dialogue. Open a new page. Call all the opposition, the one inside, the one outside in exile. Call them and start a national dialogue where, you know, should be- where [they] should discuss- should discuss a constitution for the country.

Number three, drafting a constitution, so drafting- drafting a constitution for them, for the country, a constitution that respects all human rights, and protects all minorities, and push[es] the country and put[s] the country on the right track.

Also, one of the prospect[s], number four, of real reform is investigate- or create a body that investigates all corruption, all corruption charges against anybody. Right now, Mohammed bin Salman is accusing everybody else of corruption, but nobody can accuse him. There is no body in Saudi Arabia or no organization can point a finger to him and talk about the way he’s spending the country’s resources. Real reform require[s] establishing a body that has all the authorities to investigate and try everyone. No one should be above the law.
My fifth point of prospect for real reform is empowering Saudi women and by empowering Saudi women is- empowering Saudi women means putting them in leadership positions and elevating the male guardianship system, and including them in government. They have been suffering for decades in Saudi Arabia and they’re still suffering and they really need to have a say in the future of their country.

Number six, part of the prospect of real reform in Saudi Arabia is end export- its exportation of Wahhabism overseas. Saudi Arabia and other countries have suffered from Wahhabism. The entire world is currently suffering from this lethal ideology. I would like to propose in reform Saudi Arabia, religion and state should be completely separate, but to have and also to promote in tolerance and interfaith dialogue among or between Saudi- I mean between different Islamic sects and groups. I think the only way we can promote tolerance and understanding is by letting different groups interact and try to either settle their differences or just live and let other[s] live. Part of that can be done in the Holy Mosque in the Grand Mosque in Mecca, where there used to be- there used to be corners for the Maliki madhab, for the Shafi’i madhab, all the madhabs. Right now, only Wahhabism is there, so in a reformed Saudi Arabia I would like to see all the Muslim sects have, you know, have a place to practice or to teach their own ideology. This is how Muslim[s] can learn that if- if their leaders can live together and can interact and can settle their differences, they can do so too.

Number eight was allowing establishment of political parties in Saudi Arabia. I would like- I would like to say that this is one of the things that people are looking forward to in a new Saudi Arabia. Right now, they don’t have any part- they don’t- are- they are not included, excuse me, and in- in participating in the making of their countries and the decision-making, so when they are included by taking part in political- political debate or in the political system in Saudi Arabia, I think they would feel that they have a stake in the future of their countries and it would be helpful.

Number nine is regulating the budget. The budget that is allocated to the royal family. The royal family in Saudi Arabia nobody knows how much money they spend. It is not listed in the budget. When the annual budget get[s] revised, there is no- nothing says this is- this- this much is allocated to the royal family, so in a new Saudi Arabia, you know, the royal family should- should have a limited- should have a regulated budget that people know, that this is going to the royal family. They are in the thousands now and I think they spent, or they have, more money than most of the Saudi people and this is extremely unfair.

My last point is empowering minority groups in Saudi Arabia. Let them have a say, let that them practice their religion or their belief in whatever they believe, and when I say minorities I also mean people who don’t believe in anything. There is a huge number of people leaving Islam in Saudi Arabia and they cannot be public about it, so you can only see them on Facebook or Twitter, using, you know, unreal names to hide their identity because if their family found out, they will be in a lot of trouble. Thank you.

Q&A Rough transcript:

Robert R. Reilly:

Please use the microphone and speak directly into it.

Mansour Al-Hadj:

I mean I would like simply to say listen- listen to the people listen to the people. The- It’s not you. Currently, he is only listening to the people who say yes to him. They same to the other voices the the people that you putting in jail right now as I said organize national unity conference where everybody is included to have a say in the future of their country bring people together and see what they want to talk about what they want to see their country look like in or- or four years yes yeah they are the future of Saudi Arabia and I really think the sending Saudi people to the West is one of the greatest programs that the Saudi Arabia has done for its general its youth I am very happy to see thousands of Saudis come to the States or Australia or London or France and you know they will go back they will go back and they will want to have their country look exactly like the country they went and studied in currently a lot of them are not encouraged to go back because seeing what this young Crown Prince is doing is really hurting them I know some- some of them who decided to stay here filed for asylum and stayed here and they don’t want to go back I know a lot of woman who came on a scholarship and decided to stay here you know why because of the current situation of women in Saudi Arabia so okay they are the future let them have a say in the future of their country absolutely not I think that was long overdue I think women should be really compensated for- for not being allowed to drive for- for the past years and I actually called on women in Saudi Arabia not to drive until the woman who called the- the woman right activists who are in jail right now are freed they are the one who started the campaign for them and I really think every Saudi woman who took you know who drove the car is betraying this woman because anyway because they are the one who fought for this right not the princess not- not MBs and they should take the credit not a Prince’s or MPs or nobody so I disagree with that and to really support this point I would like to say how come you allow people to women to drive and yet they can’t drive on and until they get a permission from a father or a mother or a brother or son it’s unrealistic how come you arrest women who calls only intention was to create an organization to save women to rescue the one that are- are oppressed by their own family members I really think it’s just a cosmetic thing it’s there is no country on earth where women can’t drive even- even- even in territories that are controlled by I well as I said NBS has a chance has an opportunity to really reform and change the country because he has all the power right now to do so the problem is he is not doing it the problem is- is not listening to his people in Saudi Arabia there are groups of intellectuals for example there is the act proud husband it’s the Association for Association for civil and political rights in Saudi Arabia every single mum there almost every single member of this organization is India serving twenty two forty two sixteen years and you have dozens and dozens of- of people who really want to take part in shaping their own countries you have now we have a wave of political activists who are in London some of them are here some of them in Australia the only reason why they stayed where they are right now because they couldn’t have a voice in their own country this is why they became found political activists and human rights activists. If you open the door, I assure you [that] you will see millions of Saudis talking about their aspiration for freedom for liberty and for- for a country that they can take part in in managing and now deciding its future this is a very good question I wrote something about an imam in in California I forgot the- the city somewhere in California and looking at the website of this Islamic community in California I found out that this shape is teaching young Muslim there waha busy real Wahhabism the book the three principles of rasool allah la da and kitab pervade the book of monotheism and these are the books that turn me into a radical growing up in Saudi Arabia and I was astonished I was appalled to really see this case going on in here and I am sure there are a lot of Muslim community teaching the same books so it is it is quite dangerous I haven’t done an extensive research about this phenomenon inside all cities or states but this is one example that you can it is very well yes there is a historical ties between the Wahabis and the absolute family there it is a known alliance between them I really think reform is possible as I said and proposed separation between the religion and the state this is the only way we can sideline the Wahabis and have the Saudi people take control of their country in the past as I said the government used to tell people that the religious establishment is the one preventing women from driving it took Royal Decree to end that so I am sure if- if the king or Crown Prince MBs has the intention or the will to reform the country and to get rid of the religious establishment and take his take his legitimacy from his people the people who support him everybody in Saudi Arabia understand the danger of Wahhabism and of radicalism and of intolerance people- people are tired of being bombed and I’m tired of this hateful preaching so there is a window of hope here by appealing to your people okay there is one point I didn’t mention my speech I don’t see any difference between Abu Bakr al Baghdadi the leader of Isis who- who claims his of the Caliphate of the Muslims and wants to have Muslims pledge allegiance to him and the way that Saudi Arabia currently is using the same concept of bhaiyya to get legitimacy or to get approval from the people it’s the same concept so for me there is no but I would like to see nobody claiming to be to have any authority from God to have people follow him or give him a legions let’s just separate the religion from the state and have people have yes okay now I upgrade my sign there and I enjoyed media but right but we have to Shia and the Sunni to do it and of course they were fighting seems to be my strength of peace I may be a model do you know whether yours they’ve changed or there’s a dip or ensnare at the device in this between Saudi and moderate nitrates right there no there is no difference actually Bahrain is under the control of Saudi Arabia right now yes oh yes the Saudi army I would say invaded Bahrain when there were protests in in Bahrain and and- and- and- and Bahrain is currently surviving under surviving by Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia actually the ones funding Bahrain as we say so even though Saudis good to Bahrain to watch maybe too much level to go to movie theaters in Bahrain or to go to bars and drink alcohol that is I think that is gradually changing because Bahrain has been turned into another Wahhabi state and there is a lover there is more influence from Saudi Arabia into another instead of so when I talk about reform if we talk about reforming Islam I mean reforming the religion and my concept that are my idea on that is to actually take what is positive and leave what is negative I mean it is a process that should take time and it is a process that Muslims should take care of nobody else can make them do it unless they want to do it and you really have a lot of versions of reformers around the world and the ones that I am with the one that I stick with are the one who are the knowledge that there are controversial violent verses in the Quran there are that that the Islamic heritage itself Islamic textbooks traditions are a main source for terrorism and radicalism and unless we find a solution to that part of it you know by saying well these are centuries ago they own they could only apply back then we shouldn’t really bring them to the st century this is one way of dealing with them but unless we acknowledge that I mean unless we call it what it is I don’t think reform kind of can happen and this is why you know I talked about reform I won they are teaching voltage so there is no surprise a generation of changing I agree % and then when I said separating religion from state I mean I mean in the school you don’t you know we are not gonna see any religious studies you know it shouldn’t be taught to people then it’s called you teach people other subject I went to Saudi school myself and I understand exactly what you mean so I yes many moderates maybe eight is written on sticks in Saudi Arabia do you have any data that would support that thank you for the question um it was a long journey for me I mean as Mr. O’Reilly mentioned earlier I wrote something regarding that you know when I visited the Holocaust Museum and it was it was a very emotional a visit knowing that I grew up hating Christians and Jewish people that I have never met in my life just because you know I was told so turning that page was really difficult extremely difficult and I would like to say that the only reason why I managed to change was through reading I read a lot and I you know I found that there are ideas that I haven’t been exposed to as I was growing up so the first thing I thought about was I told myself that my mind was occupied by something that I did not choose to I did not choose to have it in my mind and you know I challenged myself by asking questions by finding new questions to the to the answer that I get and every time I get more interested and interested and that made me to really question Islam itself question religion question you know how and I really think that I have the way of doing things and it took me it took me a while and I see a lot of people struggling with that nowadays when it comes to your second questions I really don’t have numbers but I am part of a lot of groups that are we’re a lot of group that have ex-Muslims in them and they don’t go public because you know fearing for- for their lives even the ones who lives here in the United States and a lot of the ones that I know are from Saudi Arabia they have these thoughts and they decided to leave the religion but they can’t really announce it if you go online you are gonna see a lot of people who express atheism or you know some of them compared to Christianity you know believing or thinking that is a more peaceful religion then you know the religion that they grew up believing I’m sure you will find some numbers but I’m being sorry I don’t have numbers for you a certain presentation thank you so a question there are times that stories on this that in some strains of asan they’re teaching them now was calling theology of rape and rape jihad as it didn’t work massive organized rapes organized by jihadists now that starts here bill huge war hasn’t happened here and why I know but the media covers everything the homeless does this amount of Wahhabism where has this come from I mean the story is about so sexual assault who created offensive internal bleeding and another one said she’s a little girl just leave her alone it’s no it’s a slave she knows nothing sex the man got down for you raped her and pray because this is a a a religious the thing that some of the little girls a minim we have all hears about what Isis have done today as it is and there are tons of stories online and you know it is known to people that they sold they sold they Aziz you know they consider them sex slaves and a lot of them were rape okay does it have precedence in Islam I’m saying yes I mean it happened it is part of jihad it is it is something that the prophet and his companions did and Isis and other groups are just following suit following what they have read in these books and they’re doing it so it is part of it and I you know I think it should stop it’s obviously I mean yes sir okay sorry about but again I’m just trying to say the minor reasons what actions like that studies the southern action is because of economic reasons and that weakness is they seek pardon an incident potentially rating people see how to be sexy and give it that guidance money whatever the boxer slightly I just want to ask you much do you talk about separation of church and state of Mossman stance so we see they’re probably in capitalism where this is a German forgiveness when we go so this is a departmental side because it he chose Jordan in Turkey most of us it could be so the caucus on yoga it religion really won’t taste advantage of the entire site that’s just the nature of the month about this whole up you know separating church and see it with respect to Europa and most of the Western pool that’s a almost you know one of the years do surveys would be played process the house looking sixteen curves and centers that manifested itself in the American Revolution very violent on it so I love her but I was here to see the separation of church and state is being solution see what happened here is for the bidding in photography lots of other parts why because I won’t have to be invited in simulations okay because one of the ideas that ambience is trying to sell to the West right now is that well if I modernize Saudi Arabia the entire Muslim war world will be modernized and I did I completely disagree with that the only way well Saudi Arabia as we all know it’s a very important country because of McCann Medina and birthplace of Islam but if- if- if he is not applying the reform that is needed none- none is going to follow for example if he is not allowing different religious sect to- to meet in the Grand Mosque and talk and reconcile and call for peace and all that it’s not it’s not going to happen anywhere if he is for example claiming to be Fatima Haram al Sharif in our custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and wants people to give him too give him allegiance in an Islamic way it’s not other as other nation are not going to follow but if he managed if he managed to- to reform the country by allowing people to take part in in ruling their own country by allowing political participation I am sure that would have a great effect on the rest of the world of course if we cut right now if we cut the funding from this Muslim organ the Saudi organizations in Africa and Asia everywhere in the world I think we can see changes I think we can we can see people moving away from- from Wahhabism because as I said part of the reason a lot of people are involved in this is because it says it’s a source of living a lot of people are making living out of Saudi Arabia because they are promoting the Wahabis him and the Saudi version of this now you know one thing I didn’t mention that MBS and is instead of bringing different Muslim sects to this sect together he is actually promoting untied shears and by criticizing part of the Shia religion in a TV interview then accusing Iran of seeking to dominate over or occupy or take over Makkah I really think that is unrealistic and that is again is just fueling the tension the sectarian tension between different Muslim groups to sponsor your question more precisely I think he either has to listen to the people or just wait for them demise of the dynasty they also then because history tell Chavez history tells us that this is what’s gonna happen when people don’t listen to their nations when when they when they rule by themselves without including people this is the Alliance yes again it has been presented that MBS is trying to modernize order if you make it similar to the United Arab Emirate I really think that is thinking that is that is selling Saudi Arabia short I think the United Arab Emirate example is really not a great example it’s in fact in fact Saudi Arabia can be a better country than- than the United Arab Emirates whose record in human rights is as bad as Saudi Arabia where workers been mistreated in the United Arab Emirates Saudi Arabia can do Saudi Arabia can- can really be a great example in the in the entire world there is a great diversity of people in Saudi Arabia that you know maybe if you watch the World Cup I know they didn’t do very well but you can see some- some- some of that diversity in the Saudi team so the national team there is a lot of talent there because most Muslim people move from all over the Muslim world to Saudi Arabia this is what my grandma did and set out there so you have great diversity we can study Arabia can be something similar to the United States where you have people from different part of the world and you know intermarriages and if- if we allow if we allow if NBA so if the government allows the right circumstances or the right atmosphere to all these talent to really flourish and- and- and express themselves there is no room for expression for people so how can you find all these talent how can you see all the different voices yes Saudi Arabia is in alliance with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates they are leading what is called the counter the counterrevolution in the Arab world this is why this is one of the themes that Saudi Arabian United Arab Emirate are using to tell their nations that demanding your right is going to lead to your country becoming like Syria Yemen or Libya which I really think it’s a wrong assessment I personally believe that the Arab Spring is the best thing that happened to the Arab and Muslim people period because they learned that they can change things and they have managed to change things now they saw it happening they know they can do it again and again so even though a lot of people say millions have died and other hundreds of thousands of people displays and you know move around the world and cities have been destroyed guess what I mean in Europe we have witnessed war before Europe become the Europe that we know and European nation when they have problems they get together and talk now the Arabs and Muslims really have to do that as well because at some point at one point they will get tired of fighting and the only alternative to fighting is talking and reconciling I’m sure thank you so much thank you for this illuminating fun I remember one Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that was very striking moment and he said Saudi Arabia is not a normal place and that was a criticism I will quote in the last days of the Soviet Union in my travels there I was constantly told by people we just want to be normal when you scratch the surface who discovered that they have no idea what normal imagine because over a period of years it had been obliterated no there was no surviving cultural memory of normal and that’s why Russia is in the condition in which it is today the question being because does Prince Mohammed bin Salman does he know what normal gives his experience of the world he was not educated abroad his experience of the world is not that far number one number two I think it was King Abdullah who said absolutely some years ago if there were democracy in radio that we tribe would have a flatter I mean every tribe would have a party and it just couldn’t work both of my questions point to the same issue that is been raised by a number of people tonight that much of what you are hoping for and working toward can only work under certain cultural preconditions they noted summarize them and that it would be a broad embrace and believe in the principle that all people are created equal I couldn’t see that beat anywhere near the case my admittedly in your position is that very good questions does ambience know what normal is obviously he’s not the brightest one from you know his father’s dozens of kids or princes one of whom went to the moon long time ago thing maybe before that the only reason why MBS was chosen to be the next king is the fact that he is his father’s favorite son and number two he was told that he is the one would unite the royal family bringing the ruling back to- to the household and then you know extending the household ruling of Saudi Arabia obviously again he was not educated in the West and some people tried to compare him to compare him with his uncle Faisal I don’t know if he really know what normal is I I think he can he said he learned a lot from his father but personally I believe he’s only Duty right now is to extend the ruling is of his family all the reform part of it is just cosmetics has nothing to do with the reality on the ground for King Abdullah statement well this is part of also the strategy is undermining the power of tribes because they normally tell the other tribes that you used to be nothing we’re the one who United you brought you together and you know made this state so without- without us you’re nothing and tribalism is big in in most Bedouin societies and even in in Africa where I am from even in Africa when you have political systems most tribes have one representative I don’t think it’s a bad thing I think people would move away from it eventually it would start as tribalism I think in Iraq it’s somehow religious and tribalism but it’s it’s a practice democracy is a practice and when people you know the first time maybe they choose somebody from their own tribe the second time maybe they choose somebody who really present or represent their interests so this give people the right to be and unlearn it’s an experience unless you started you are not you’re not gonna know and people- people have to experience it I would like to say that Saudi ruling family should stop looking at the Saudi people as kids as children as babies the Saudi people are very well educated and they know their best interest give them a chance this is what I’m saying another question I was wondering and I know that Sonny was excited to uh start extreme too risky so I was wondering yes looks to diversify the economy away from oil in part by attracting more tourists if you think that will be like sort of aspirins modernized or if you think you’ll be more system where tourists or the oligo Saudi and kind of like all the different role than actual citizens I really think it’s a good thing to open Saudi Arabia for people um I I don’t see it as a source of sustainable income for Saudi Arabia I mean they already used hides for that type of things and millions of people go to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage prisons Saudi Arabia even though being the most producer of oil in the world the economy is really suffering as you mentioned most of the general most of the Saudi people are under but now they are really suffering because he started applying our taxing people with no representation of course so now everything is more expensive for the average so many people yet they don’t have the jobs that they wanted part of his strategy is nationalizing jobs in Saudi Arabia meaning replacing foreign workers and expert with Saudis and you know there was a report that was published two days ago almost of of immigrants left Saudi Arabia in the past two years the reason being MBS started charging people charging these immigrants for their kids that they have so if you have five kids you pay more money and this fees increases every single year so a lot of them decided to leave now companies are suffering because normally they would hire people from different part of the world who would really accept a reasonable decent salary and you know they work for they can they can live their life on based on that you know salary Saudis basically want higher salaries and you know less stress this is at least this is what this is what a lot of people be saying I know a lot of heart a lot of hardworking Saudis they work in restaurant and work is a job is a job there is no question about that it’s it’s it’s the way it’s the way it has been all the time because the economy in Saudi Arabia this is the way it was established this is how it was salvaged by bringing foreign workers paying them really low sellers and now when you try to nationalize all this job the southern would not be enough for the Saudis because their expenses are higher. Thank you very much.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email