RECOMMENDED READING: “New Winds From Arabia”


The Indian Express has posted an intriguing article suggesting that Saudi Arabia may be changing towards a more moderate approach in its dealings with Islamic groups around the world. The article, titled “New Winds From Arabia”, begins:

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia

February 27, 2014 The ongoing visit of Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud to New Delhi is likely to bear all the hallmarks of the usual Saudi royal visit: a large delegation filling up five-star hotels, business leaders paying their respects to visiting ministers in hopes of securing petro-dollar contracts, political leaders rolling out the reddest of red carpets and the sprinkling of Saudi charity largesse to local causes.

The crown prince, in a sense, represents this familiar image of the senior Saudi royal on tour. But look again and listen closely to what the crown prince and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia are saying, and you’ll see something new and profoundly important for the Muslim world, particularly South Asia. The prince lands in India after previous stops in Pakistan and Japan. During those visits, he consistently laid out a vision of Islam that includes dialogue and cooperation while eschewing extremism and conflict. While this message may seem trite, the messenger is not trivial, and the words have been backed by significant actions.

It is difficult to overestimate the influence Saudi Arabia wields in the broader Muslim world, particularly in lands far away from the Arab centre — South and Southeast Asia, in particular. If any outside state can influence South Asian Islam, it is Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, for far too long, in the 1980s and 1990s, Saudi Arabia’s influence was negative. They funded madrassas in Pakistan that ultimately spawned the Taliban. Saudi-funded organisations such as the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and the Muslim World League (MWL) propagated a narrow, literalist interpretation of the faith from India to Indonesia, which failed to understand the many colours and complexities of a cosmopolitan Islam in practice.

Read the rest here.

The GMBDW reported earlier this week that Saudi Arabia had threatened to close its border and airspace with Qatar if Doha doesn’t stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Earlier this month, the Saudi official news agency reported that the Saudi King had issued a royal decree specifying prison terms for those “involved in hostilities outside the Kingdom” or who join “radical religious and intellectual groups or currents.” It remains to be seen whether the decree applies to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Muslim Brothers were instrumental in the founding of the Saudi  World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the Muslin World League, both organizations being historically close to the Global Muslim Brotherhood.

For a useful history of the tumultuous and sometimes difficult to understand relationship between Saudi Arabia and the Global Muslim Brotherhood, go here.

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