Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Businessweek
Politics

Saudi Arabia Shuns Hardline Fatwas in Slow Religious Revolution

A series of changes ordered by the crown prince move the kingdom away from theocracy, risking a conservative backlash. 

relates to Saudi Arabia Shuns Hardline Fatwas in Slow Religious Revolution
Illustration: Rami Tannous for Bloomberg Businessweek

As an agent of Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious police, Ahmad Alghamdi thought he’d finally found the perfect job. He would order stores to close during prayers, tell men to go to the mosque, and ask women to adjust their veils. He’d previously had short stints as a customs official, accountant, and teacher, but those jobs didn’t sit well with the sheikhs, or religious scholars, whose doctrine he followed.

Yet not long after joining the formidable muttawa in his 20s, he grew disillusioned, he says, with what was a pillar of the kingdom’s establishment. He wasn’t convinced its heavy-handed practices were grounded in Islamic law.