Visible and symbolic ones only; nothing substantial, and certainly nothing that addresses the draconian system itself. “Saudi king dismisses 2 powerful religious figures,” by Donna Abu-Nasr for the Associated Press, February 14:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) “” In an apparent bid to reform the religious establishment, Saudi King Abdullah on Saturday dismissed the head of the feared religious police and a hard-line cleric who issued an edict last year saying it was permissible to kill owners of satellite TV stations that show “immoral” content.
And it only took one year to dismiss him: “swift progress.” Moreover, the “religious police” are still intact.
Abdullah also appointed the first female deputy Cabinet minister, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The changes were part of a surprise reshuffle in the Cabinet, the judiciary and the military.
The dismissals were seen as an attempt by the king to reform the religious establishment, which has come under persistent criticism especially because of the performance of the religious police and the judiciary.
The shake-up, the first major one since Abdullah came to power in August 2005, is significant because it dilutes the influence the hard-liners have had for decades on the religious establishment. The king, who has repeatedly spoken about the need for reform, has brought in a new group of officials and scholars who are younger and more in tune with the diversity of cultural Islam than their predecessors…
Interesting that, particularly since, even though the “youth” in the West tend to symbolize laxity and “diversity,” if anything, Islam’s youth are usually spearheading the “radical” movement.
The Saudi Press Agency said Abdullah has ordered the re-establishment of the Grand Ulama Commission “” a religious scholars body “” with 21 members from all branches of Sunni Islam. This is a major shift for the kingdom because it will give more moderate Sunni schools representation in a body that has always been governed by the strict Hanbali sect. No minority Shiites, however, have been appointed to the commission.
What about Christians and Jews? Hindus and Buddhists? Atheists and secularists? Oh, they’re not even allowed to worship freely in the first place. Also, since those other “moderate Sunni schools” — a reference apparently to the Hanafi, Malaki, and Shafi’i — all agree with the Hanbali school that, among other things, jihad to subjugate the world to Islam is an obligation, this still isn’t any worthwhile reform, from an infidel perspective.
Abdul-Aziz bin Humain will replace Sheikh Ibrahim al-Ghaith as head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which runs the religious police, according to the agency…
Right. But the “Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” will still be intact. Real reform would entail abolishing such gulag-like institutions not appoint new leaders.