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    Saudi Crown Prince already spearheading significant change in Saudi Arabia

    Saudi Crown Prince already spearheading significant change in Saudi Arabia

    Signs of the times: Women motocyclists, trade with Egypt, and Saudi Arabian film industry

    Late last week, reports began to surface that Saudi Arabia has made a deal with the Vatican to construct churches for Christian worshippers.

    Sadly, that appears to have been #FakeNews.

    The Vatican has denied making a deal with Saudi Arabia to build churches for Christian worshippers in the Arab country.

    Reports in Middle Eastern media claimed a historic agreement had been made between Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League.

    But a spokesperson for the Vatican said the report was ‘false’.

    Saudi Arabia’s anti-extremism Etidal centre hosted French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Roman Curia). The meeting was the result of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman pushing for inter-religious exchange in the ultra-conservative Sunni kingdom.

    However, it does appear real news from the desert kingdom shows signs that it is moving to modernize. Perhaps the most dramatic of these is that Saudi women are learning to drive motorcycles.

    Saudi authorities have clarified that women will be permitted to drive motorcycles, vans and trucks in addition to cars. (They also cleared up a question over whether vehicles driven by women will have special number plates. They will not.)

    The decision to lift the driving ban, announced seven months ago, is one of the most prominent moves by the ambitious young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as he presses ahead with a much-trumpeted process of modernizing the kingdom.

    …Meanwhile, a shortage of driving schools for women, the high cost of classes and Saudi authorities’ alleged intimidation of women who campaigned for the right to drive have dulled some of the initial euphoria.

    The Crown Prince is also strengthening ties with a key regional power: Egypt. A recent bilateral economic meeting, also encouraged by the Crown Prince, went extremely well.

    [Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid bin Abdullah] Al-Qassabi stressed the efforts exerted by the governments of both Saudi Arabia and Egypt to improve trade relations and exploit investment opportunities, overcome the obstacles and difficulties hindering the flow of bilateral investments and increase the volume of trade exchange between the two countries.

    “King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are keen to strengthen the Saudi-Egyptian partnership in various fields,” he said.

    Legal Insurrection readers will recall that President Trump had a very friendly and productive meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi early in his presidency. The meeting suggests the bonds between the nations, frayed during the Obama administration, continue to strengthen.

    Finally, under the Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia has launched a program that may make it a global entertainment hub:

    American film star Katie Holmes and British actor-cum-director Idris Elba rubbed shoulders with Saudi officials, as the conservative kingdom on Thursday night kicked off an initiative to invest 130 billion riyals ($34.7 billion, 29 billion euros) in culture and leisure by 2020.

    The goal is to create “a true cultural industry, with theatres, cinemas and training centres,” said Ahmad al-Mazid, who leads culture policy for Saudi Arabia.

    …”Saudi Arabia gave me an opportunity to make my film here, it made sense on an economical model,” British actor Elba, who made his name as a gangster in the gritty American police series The Wire, told AFP at the event.

    “I would definitely be here — why not?” added the Londoner, who has in more recent years turned his hand to directing and has a Twitter following of more than 2.5 million.

    The investment programme feeds into a drive by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to modernise his homeland, both in terms of liberalising Saudi society and reducing the economy’s overwhelming dependence on oil.

    In a world where Donald Trump is President and Kayne West is now quoting Thomas Sowell, a successful Saudi movie empire is certainly possible.


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    NGAREADER | May 6, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Not perfect but progress.

    Ragspierre | May 6, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    All good. I hope the Crown Prince maintains great security…

    Henry Hawkins | May 6, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    You see the power of American culture when the Saudis’ first move to modernity is biker chicks.

    JohnC | May 6, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    WWE held the Greatest Royal Rumble in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last Sunday. It came off very well. There were a couple of items that reminded one that this was Saudi Arabia, though.

    First, the women wrestlers were not included in the show at all.

    Second, a promo commercial which included female wrestlers was shown between two of the matches. This prompted an official apology from the broadcast network the next day for showing women in ‘indecent’ clothing. (I still wonder if this was an actual oversight on WWE’s part or if it was done with a royal wink and a nod.)

    Whitewall | May 6, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Things are changing in the Middle East!

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