PAS which has been pushing incessantly for blanket alcohol ban in its secular home base Malaysia (albeit with limited success) does not mince its words when it hit out at Riyadh for recently allowing the sale of alcohol to non-Muslim diplomats – not so long after the deemed epicentre of Islam surprised the world by condoning the staging of concerts which has today become a norm.
In a further step towards social liberalisation, the once ultra-conservative kingdom that is home to the holiest sites in Islam has opened a liquor store – the first one in over 70 years after a blanket ban – and exactly eight years Saudi Arabia’s assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) unveiled the Saudi Vision 2030.to make the country a popular travel and business destination.
“The excuses of enhancing economic achievements and fighting extremism views are used to obscure the eyes of Muslims about the liberalisation agenda of Saudi Arabia by MBS,” chastised Central PAS Ulama Council secretary Nushi Mahfodz in a recent Facebook post.
“Allowing liquor stores to operate once again will only boost the sinful industry that invites the wrath of God. Even if it is possible to increase economic revenue, it will not be a blessing if God’s command is deliberately disobeyed.”
The Semenyih state assemblyman further criticised the 39-year-old Mohammed bin Salman who is also Saudi Arabia’s Prime Minister (PM) since Sept 27, 2022 for spearheading a series of social and economic reforms, some of which run afoul of true Islamic teaching.
“In the quest of MBS to bring back the practice of Moderate Islam, concert after concert was organised (where it is difficult to segregate men and women),” asserted Nushi. “August 2022 saw Sheikh Saleh Al-Talib, the former Imam of the Grand Mosque, jailed for 10 years for criticising the staging of concerts in the kingdom.”
Among social and economic reforms initiated by Mohammed bin Salman since being made Crown Prince on June 21, 2017 include regulations restricting the powers of the religious police and improving women’s rights; removal of the ban on female drivers in 2018 and weakening the male-guardianship system in 2019.
Under his Saudi Vision 2030 which aims to diversify the country’s economy through investment in non-oil sectors including technology and tourism, Saudi Arabia has started co-ordinating its energy policy with Russia and also strengthened its relations with China.
Perhaps instead of limiting its worldview by focusing solely on booze and concerts, PAS should emulate the visionary Mohammed bin Salman to push for social and economic uplifting in its multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious home base first. – Jan 27, 2024
Main pic credit: The Economic Times