Saudi Arabia’s reformist Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been warned by terrorist group Al-Qaeda that recent changes that include allowing women drivers and wrestling in his conservative kingdom are a sin.
Prince Mohammed (MBS) has spearheaded a string of policy changes in ultraconservative Saudi Arabia, including reinstating cinemas, re-writing divorce laws, as well as enabling women to take to the roads and backing the first male wrestling contest.
“The new era of Bin Salman replaced mosques with movie theatres,” the Yemen-based jihadist group said in its Madad news bulletin, picked up by the SITE Intelligence Group and reported by AFP.
He “substituted books that belonged to the imams… with absurdities of the atheists and secularists from the east and the west and opened the door wide for corruption and moral degradation,” it said.
In its statement, AQAP slammed April’s WWE Royal Rumble event in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, near the Islam’s most holy sites in Mecca.
“(Foreign) disbelieving wrestlers exposed their privates and on most of them was the sign of the cross, in front of a mixed gathering of young Muslim men and women,” it said.
“The corruptors did not stop at that, for every night musical concerts are being announced, as well as movies and circus shows,” SITE quoted it as saying.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted in January that MBS is pushing a return to “the tolerant, moderate Islam that is open to the world, to all the religions and traditions of its people” as part of Saudi Arabia’s major economic reform plan.
Seemingly wrestling and cinemas are part of that plan, but so too is reform to the country’s restrictive parenting laws.
In March, a statement from the Information Ministry confirmed that women will now be allowed to retain custody of their children after a divorce.
Under the old rules, child custody was given to men by default, and women had to petition the courts in a lengthy and often futile procedure to win custody. The new rules still do not provide a level playing field for mothers, but at least they have a chance at obtaining custody without winning a lawsuit.
Haaretz points out that Crown Prince Mohammed has expressed enthusiasm for reforming Saudi Arabia’s image as the home of repressive Wahhabi Islam, most recently in a 60 Minutes interview.
The story MBS wishes to tell is of a Saudi Arabia captured by fundamentalist Islam during the dark days of the late 1970s, and now returning to its true nature as a relatively liberated and forward-looking state.