'Saudi monarchy will face clash with Islamic leaders over driving ban u-turn'

'Saudi monarchy will face protest from religious authorities over reforms', says research fellow Tom Wilson

Tom Wilson spoke to Julia about the declaration allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A leading researcher has said a push for reform by the Saudi Monarchy will eventually lead to a clash with the country's Islamic leaders.

The king of the country, King Salman, decreed women in the country would be allowed to drive, in a move which has been praised across the global political spectrum.

Saudi Arabia had been the only country in the world to ban women from driving, with the threat of being arrested and fined if the law was not upheld. 

Tom Wilson, a research fellow at anti-extremism think tank The Henry Jackson Society, said the regime would need to challenge interpretations of Sharia law if it wanted to bring in reforms the West would deem progressive.

He told Julia Hartley-Brewer: "It’s fair to say King Salman, the crown prince, and others in the Saudi Monarchy do have a genuine desire to try to bring in reforms.

"But at the same time, progress has been slow. They’ll be pushing up against the religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, which the monarchy essentially has a pact with to keep itself in power.

"At some point they’ll have to challenge some of those interpretations of Sharia and at that point, the religious authorities will put up some protest.

"They’re concerned about being toppled like other regimes in the region by religious forces. The question is how far can they push liberalisation before they experience a backlash from those conservatives."

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