(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s ruling Al Saud royal family are trying to adjust their relationship with the country’s strict Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam as they increasingly view the teachings of some of its ultra-conservative clergy as a domestic security threat.
Radicalisation of Muslims in the world’s top oil exporter has led to domestic attacks and the involvement of Saudi citizens in jihadist movements in Iraq and Syria, while extreme religious practices have damaged efforts to boost employment.
Over the past decade the House of Saud has not only put in place measures to control clerics and their sermons, but has started to favour more modern clergy for top state positions.
Saudi rulers are also starting to reform areas once the exclusive domain of the clergy, such as education and law, and have promoted elements of national identity that have no religious component.
Saudi Arabia remains one of the most religiously conservative countries on earth, and the royal family are not cutting off the clergy or ditching Wahhabism’s basic precepts, analysts and diplomats say.
They are instead attempting to foster a reading of its teachings that distances it from Islamist militants such as Islamic State, and which better meets the demands of a modern economy…
Good luck with that!