News from the Arab Press

Between Extremism & Corruption

By Asaf Zilberfarb | The Media Line

February 5, 2019

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Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, February 2

Modernization and development can never truly be achieved without fighting the two most burning problems in our society today: extremism and corruption. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia faced a long war on extremism, spending immense efforts on preventing radicalism in Saudi society and establishing the necessary mechanisms to fight it when it emerges. Ironically, the kingdom has been subjected to criticism from both extreme ends of the political spectrum. Fundamentalists accused it of cracking down on religious institutions and foundations, while liberals accused it of cooperating with radical elements in society. Consequently, there were challenges along the way, as the government attempted to balance the allegations of both sides. Unfortunately, this led to the emergence of hostile environments in some ministries—especially those dealing with controversial issues such as the ministries of Education, Justice, Labor, and of Islamic Affairs—where brave ministers had to face personal accusations against their religion and values simply because they carried out their job. Whenever they dare speak up against radicalization, ministers and government officials are renounced by extremist groups for acting “against” Islam. Fearing for their lives or for those of their loved ones, many policymakers chose to turn a blind eye to what was happening in their regions. This brings me to the second challenge we must overcome: corruption. Corruption has led to a considerable decline in the vitality of the Saudi business community. For decades, we have not witnessed the birth of a single business that was based on creativity or innovation. This is because businesses had been promoted on the basis of nepotism and ties to public officials. Therefore, we can never face corruption without redefining the concept of immunity and establishing new measures of accountability in government. Both of these initiatives—confronting extremism and corruption—have been promoted by the crown prince, who launched on a large campaign to protect Saudi society from extremism and corruption. Saudi Arabia is now entering a new era in which there is respect for order, law, and justice for all. This will rid us from phenomena that hindered our ability to move forward as a country.  –Yehya al-Amir

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