Why Israel matters to me: 10-24-11
Artistic offerings enrich us: 10-26-11

Pondering a Saudi future: 10-25-11

Ever since I visited Saudi Arabia in 2002 and, with other journalists, interviewed then-Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah, I have followed developments in that fascinating and important kingdom.

Saudi-arabia-flagThe news a few days ago of the death of Crown Prince (meaning he'd be the next king) Sultan has led to speculation about what it may mean that Sultan's brother, Prince Naif (or Nayef), will now become Crown Prince and, perhaps, ultimately king. (Naturally, now that he's dead, Prince Sultan is being hailed as a fabulous man, though he certainly represented the interests of the status quo much more than the interests of needed reform.)

Naif's possible ascendancy is not good news for people interested in continuing the modest reforms the current king has instituted. Nor is it good news for people who would like Saudi Arabia to be even a bit more open religiously. (To be fair, nor is it good news for terrorists, whom Naif, to his credit, has pursued with determination.)

Naif is a member of the so-called Sudayri faction, or Sudayri Seven, in the royal House of Saud -- at one time seven full brothers who are considered deeply conservative and even corrupt by many outsiders who study the kingdom. Like the current king and Naif's full brothers, all these princes are sons of Saudi Arabia's founding king, Abdul Aziz al Saud.

Concern about the kingdom should Naif become king has been stirring up various news analyses on the kingdom's future. This one is by Reuters.

If Naif wants a long-term politically stable kingdom, he and his conservative (who in Saudi Arabia's ruling class isn't?) cohorts need to open up the political process even more than King Abdullah has begun to and to put some distance between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi clerics who oversee Islam in the kingdom. But it appears that King Abdullah has had almost no success in moving Naif in that direction.

So if Naif eventually becomes king (the current king is 87 and not particularly well), we can expect Saudi Arabia to move even further away from the Arab Spring we've seen in other countries this year. And that will not be good for either Saudi Arabia or Islam, though, of course, there's no telling what might result if Saudi Arabia were to experience a full-scale revolution. That, at least temporarily, might be even scarier.

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A time or two here on the blog in the past few weeks I've thought aloud about what role, if any, people of faith are or should be playing in the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Associated Press has done this pretty good compilation of religion's role in this -- both what it is doing and the problems of getting involved. Is your faith community, if any, tied into the OWS protests? Should it be?


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