Middle East Briefs
Parallel to the Center’s scholarly work, Middle East Briefs provides a brief analysis of a single issue at the top of the region’s political, social, or economic agenda. Targeted primarily at decision-makers and opinion leaders, the publication was launched in 2005.
October 2023 – Saudi Salafi Clerics under MBS: Reform and Survival
Middle East Brief 156 (Summary) — In recent years, Saudi Arabia has seen rapid social transformations driven by the country’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman (commonly known as MBS). These initiatives have included the promotion of what MBS calls “moderate Islam” and the arrest of Saudi preachers in ever increasing numbers for allegedly promoting extremism and destabilizing the Saudi state. In our latest Middle East Brief, Raihan Ismail assesses how the relationship between the ruling family and religious establishment has changed under MBS and what recent trends within Saudi religious circles can tell us about the status of the Saudi Salafi/Wahhabi religious tradition in the kingdom. Ismail argues that while state-clerical conflict is not new, and religious institutions remain intact, MBS has effectively subdued the religious establishment and reduced its capacity to challenge his social reforms.