Renowned Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi warned of what he described as the “enormous changes” witnessed by the religious establishment in the Kingdom.
Speaking at a seminar hosted by Rwaq Istanbul on Friday evening, Khashoggi said: “One of the most prominent manifestations of change witnessed by the religious establishment in the Kingdom is the abolition of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Yes, the body still exists, but is no longer influential.”
“The Saudi people are now enjoying the atmosphere of freedom and openness, but I think that euphoria is a passing phase. The reality is that the Saudi people are conservative,” he said.
Remarking on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s talk about moderate Islam, Khashoggi said: “I think he does not have the answer to what moderate Islam means.”
“Before 1979 [the date that Bin Salman says he wants to return the Kingdom to] Saudi Arabia was religious, and King Faisal Bin Abdulaziz tried to cultivate Wahhabi Islam with Muslim Brotherhood scholars who attended schools and universities through dialogue not abolition. However with the death of King Faisal, the efforts ended and Salafism returned with its extremism,” he said.
Khashoggi explained that it was the Muslim Brotherhood’s contemporary scholars like Sheikh Ali Tantawi and Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi that introduced the term moderate Islam.
“Bin Salman is confused about the proper choice for moderation, and the group is his choice. The Muslim Brotherhood are moderates, but he does not want to admit that,” he said.
Khashoggi said he supports Bin Salman’s efforts to rebuild an anti-corruption institution in the Kingdom but the approach is flawed.
The Saudi journalist stressed that the partnership between royal princes and traders has destroyed the kingdom’s economy and ethics, adding that it seems that bin Salman saw how the partnership is destructive and wanted to dismantle it.