Moderation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: An Analysis of 'Pragmatist' and 'Puritanical' Discourses
AL Yahya, Eid
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Protection of interviewees and myself
This dissertation investigates the rise of moderation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The investigation consists of analysis of two trends of thought which reformulate the ideas and projects of an earlier generation of dissidence. These trends, which have adopted a clearly more ‘accommodationist’ discourse towards difference of opinion, peaceful coexistence, political competition, equality, pluralism, and gender inclusiveness, have adapted themselves to a new context of social revolution. This social revolution has resulted from the expansion of links with the outside world, and this has been deepened through the process of ‘reintellectualisation’. This term used by scholars of Muslim politics such as Dale Eickelman is used in the dissertation to contextualise the rise of discourses of moderation. In particular, this reintellectualisation relates to two processes, which are gradually changing the culture in the direction of more public debate, participation and acceptance of values of dialogue and diversity in general. The first is the media revolution which increased the flow of information and the other is the massification of university education abroad. These two combined factors contribute to a quasi-cultural shift in Saudi society. This dynamic is not acknowledged by Orientalist scholarship that treats the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as incompatible with change. The key objective of the dissertation is to analyse the discourses of moderation of two prominent trends of thought, which are called here ‘pragmatists’ (not liberals) and ‘puritanical’ (not conservative). It is through this investigation that the key values they both associate with moderation become clear. The investigation uses discourse analysis of primary data both spoken and written. These two combined sources disclose a number of preliminary observations. The pragmatist trend is not fully secular and is still influenced by the politico-religious identity of the Kingdom. Its discourse of moderation relies on Western values and concepts but these values and concepts are not in any way anti-Islamic. The puritanical trend puts the politico-religious tradition into sharper focus, showing attachment to the agenda of da’wa and the normative framework of Islam’s socio-moral order. However, this trend shows signs of moderation that is no longer concerned with issues of jihad, and is venturing into areas of political reform having to do with just government, equal citizenship, and forms of inclusiveness within the normative system of Islam.
PhD in Politics