Ten women swapped their foreign licences for Saudi ones on Monday in cities across the country.
However, women’s rights activists have complained of a new crackdown – with several being arrested.
A flood of applications is now expected in the run-up to 24 June when the ban will end.
Claims that Saudi Arabia had agreed with the Vatican to allow the building of churches for the first time in its history were dismissed as “fake news” this week. News reports in the Egyptian press claimed on 4 May that Saudi Arabia had made a deal with the Vatican to construct churches for “Christian citizens”.
Saudi authorities have detained at least six activists, including three of the country’s most prominent women’s rights campaigners, just weeks before the kingdom is set to lift a ban on women driving, people familiar with the arrests said Friday.
A Saudi government program to improve the quality of life in the kingdom called for the legalization of gender mixing and an end to the mandatory prayer closures for businesses, significant steps to ease social restrictions in the conservative country.
The 236-page document sent to reporters Thursday night outlining the government’s new Quality of Life Program called for lobbying to amend the laws, saying the areas “require immediate regulatory changes.”
Even a recommendation would represent a notable shift in the official rhetoric on two sticky religious issues that could spark a backlash from conservative Saudis. The items were buried on page 156 of the document and were not mentioned during a news conference to announce the program Thursday. They were removed from versions posted online later. Government officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment
Saudi Arabia has agreed a deal with the Vatican to build churches for Christian worshippers in the Arab country, it is claimed by Middle Eastern media.
The supposed agreement between Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League would mark a first in Saudi history.
The cardinal has visited Saudi Arabia this year and met the royal family, urging the Muslim country to treat its citizens equally.
The churches will be built alongside the establishment of a committee to improve relations between the two, Egypt Independent reports.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Vatican.
Talks have been ongoing for some time, whether religious freedom is granted remains to be seen and frankly I doubt it will come to be.
“In 2008, the Vatican held secret talks with the Saudi Arabian authorities on building churches in Saudi. Pope Benedict’s most senior Middle East representatives at the time, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hashem, said: “Discussions are under way to allow the construction of churches in the kingdom. We cannot forecast the outcome,” adding “there are around three or four million Christians in Saudi Arabia, and we hope they will have churches.” Ten years later and they still don’t have churches, and many of them are being tossed out of the country anyway as expatriates are replaced by Saudis in the process of “Saudizing” the economy.”
Saudi sports authorities have shut down a female fitness centre in Riyadh on Friday over a contentious promotional video that appeared to show a woman in figure-hugging workout attire.
‘We are not going to tolerate this,’ Saudi sports authority chief Turki al-Sheikh tweeted as he ordered that the centre’s license be withdrawn.
Sheikh, an adviser to powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also told authorities to investigate and prosecute those behind the video.
More than 30 Islamic organisations in the Netherlands have either received or requested financial assistance from several Gulf States, namely Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
For years, the Dutch government has made sure this information never saw the light of day – until now.
Saudi Arabia is about to open its first cinema for 35 years, showing the film Black Panther. After being banned for decades, why is it now OK to go to the movies?
Saudi Arabia’s decision to end its ban on cinemas is part of a wider change across society.
In the 20th Century, its ruling Al Saud dynasty could rely on two sources of power: plentiful oil wealth and an informal pact with conservative religious clerics.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has pushed to curb the power of hardline clerics and prominent sheikhs who promote the kingdom’s uncompromising version of Islam but analysts warn that moderating the exportation of Wahhabism could be more difficult.
Currently in Europe as part of a drive to woo the West, Mohammed bin Salman has recognised his country’s association with Wahhabism is a problem and moved to impose a more open form of Islam.
The draconian religious ideology has been accused of fuelling intolerance and global terrorism. Dozens of conservative Saudi religious figures have been detained under a crackdown initiated by the prince.
But when asked last month about his decision to break away from the Wahhabists, MBS, as he is often called, denied they even existed.
“What’s Wahhabist?”, the 32-year-old said in an interview with Time magazine. “There is nothing called Wahhabist.”
RIYADH (Reuters) – Europe must do more to assimilate Muslim immigrant populations and criminalise religious hate speech, said the head of a global Muslim missionary society trying to help Saudi Arabia mend its reputation as a promoter of intolerant ideology.
The Muslim World League (MWL) and the kingdom itself have been accused for decades of spreading the strict Wahhabi strain of Islam, often criticised as the philosophical basis for radical Islamist militancy worldwide.
Recent gestures of interfaith tolerance follow Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s promise to promote a more moderate form of Islam, and his warning that extremists’ main aim is to radicalise Muslim communities in Europe.
Critics say the mosques and Islamic centres around the world controlled by the MWL promote intolerance and hatred of some religions and Muslim sects — a charge the group denies.
This is rich, the Muslim World League has long sponsored terrorism – world wide.
Some people will believe anything, so other people will say anything, especially if they’re desperate. The headline news in Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s chat with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg is bin Salman’s statements that both Israelis and Palestinians “have the right to their own land”; that Saudi Arabia has “a lot of interests” in common with Israel; and that, pending an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Israelis and Gulf Arabs could do the Sword Dance after the misunderstandings of the last seventy years.
Such is the healing power of desperation.
The Saudi-funded spread of Wahhabism began as a result of Western countries asking Riyadh to help counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the Washington Post.
Speaking to the paper, bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia’s Western allies urged the country to invest in mosques and madrassas overseas during the Cold War, in an effort to prevent encroachment in Muslim countries by the Soviet Union.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s May 2017 trip to Saudi Arabia and his address to leaders of Islamic nations may open a new era of cooperation between the United States and the world’s leading conservative Sunni Muslim states. Trump’s trip, along with reported warming relations between Israel and some Arab states, may suggest that the initial stages of an anti-Iran, anti-terrorist alliance is in the offing.
In Saudi Arabia, Trump forcefully denounced Iran’s support for terrorism. This speech was welcomed especially by Arabian Peninsula Sunni state leaders, who could well be threatened by the aggressive policies of Shia Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Levant.
Unfortunately, however, the Saudi educational system’s textbooks, at least as of a year ago, remain rife with anti-Christian and anti-Jewish statements, as well as criticism of other Muslim sects.
The government will “fight extremist ideologies by reviewing school curricula and books to ensure they are free of the banned Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda”, Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Issa said in a statement Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia, with the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the United States this week, opens a new front in its war with Iran.
The visit is a collection of firsts. It is the first trip by Prince Mohammed bin Salman — known universally as “MBS” — to the U.S. since becoming the heir to the oil kingdom’s throne in June 2017. (President Trump’s first presidential trip to the Middle East began with a stop in Saudi Arabia.) More importantly, it is the first time a senior Saudi official, let alone a ruling royal, will venture outside the U.S. capital to make official visits to Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Never before has a crown prince — especially one who runs Saudi Arabia’s government on a daily basis — come to America’s financial and cultural capitals to do business. Indeed, MBS is hoping to drum up support for his plan to offer five percent of ARAMCO, the Saudi oil producer, to Western investors as well as to make investments in software upstarts and media empires. This is a Saudi royal who sees no division between commerce and statecraft, between diplomacy and investment.