10 voices for change in Saudi Arabia

From a conservative sheikh to a pioneering female pediatrician, these are just a few of Saudis who are vocally advocating for change in their country.
Sheikh Salman al-Ouda spoke to a group of US journalists in his home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, earlier this month. (Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor)

1. Sheikh Salman al-Ouda

Prominent Salafi cleric, with more than 1 million Twitter followers
"To debate and consult the citizen in decisions and policies ... [and] elections, I think Islam gave us that sort of democracy – all caliphs were elected by their people.... The problem here is with the philosophical democracy without a limit.... For example, it's impossible one day within an Islamic system to have a debate on homosexuality ... since it is religiously forbidden."

Samar Fatany, Radio journalist: ‘It’s no good to be a rebel ... you’re going to be marginalized.... So I think people want to [pursue reform] with wisdom and patience so they can influence change and have their way with these hardliners in society.’ (Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor)

2. Samar Fatany

Radio journalist and women's rights advocate
"It's no good to be a rebel ... you're going to be marginalized.... So I think people want to [pursue reform] with wisdom and patience so they can influence change and have their way with these hard-liners in society."

3. Fahad al-Butairi

US-educated comedian with the wildly popular YouTube show La Yekthar (‘Put a lid on it’)
“I think the government likes what we’re doing, because it’s releasing some pressure."
Here is the most popular episode to date, which takes aim at the government's relatively new anticorruption campaign. It has gotten nearly 3.5 million hits so far. (Click "CC" for English subtitles.) http://youtu.be/6tDYt9Qe5Uo

Photo by Lisa de Bode

4. Dr. Maha Almuneef

Pediatrician, executive director of the National Family Safety Program, and one of 12 women appointed as consultants to the Shura Council*
"A lot of women activists are against us as consultants. They said, 'You are there just to improve the picture of Saudi Arabia in the West; you are not very active in this.' They were right…. However, I do believe that we as consultants were really treated as full members, and we were really taken seriously."
*The Shura Council is comprised of 150 appointed members, all of whom are male, together with a dozen female "consultants."
Mohammed al-Qahtani recently declared Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz unfit to become king. (Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor)

5. Mohammed al-Qahtani

Economics professor and prominent human rights advocate
“It’s a very difficult time…. You’re going after a regime that is very entrenched, with lots of outside support, lots of oil that the international economy depends on, and it’s very easy for [other countries] to look the other way…. But believe me, we can weather it....
“Our goal is to reach a situation where the regime is bound by its own law.”
Ms. Abu al-Khair takes time out from preparing for medical school exams to speak to a group of US journalists at King Abdulaziz University in the coastal city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor)

6. Wesal Abu al-Khair

Medical student, King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah
"Revolution is not necessary to change a country – the people themselves need to change and to understand how change is important in order for us to be able to revolutionize. If the king changed, even if the system changed, if people don't understand how change is important, we're not going to build anything…. We're going to be like Egypt exactly."
Prince alWaleed has used his significant wealth and media holdings to press for more openness in Saudi society, as well as greater cultural understanding between Islamic countries and the West. (Kingdom Holding Company/PR NEWSWIRE)

7. Prince alWaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

Businessman and media magnate ranked 29th on Forbes' billionaire list
“The revolution that took place around us [the Arab Spring] was a wake-up call.... No one will say it, but it was the catalyst.”
Princess Ameerah has overseen a considerable expansion of the AlWaleed bin Talal Foundations' work over the past year and a half, including everything from handing out cars and appliances to Jeddah flood victims to training newly hired saleswomen in lingerie stores. (Jonathan Tepperman)

8. Princess Ameerah al-Taweel

Wife of Prince alWaleed and vice-chairwoman of the board of trustees of the AlWaleed bin Talal Foundations
"When you find a conservative person, most likely they are attacking liberals [and vice versa] ... We don't attack anyone. We believe the majority are in the middle – they love religion, they love tradition.... The voices that are really high are on either end."

9. Lamya AlAbdulkarim

Businesswoman who recently co-founded a girls' soccer program in Riyadh
"Sport is a window to so many things – this is ... a small window [into change]."

10. Usamah al-Kurdi

Member of the Shura Council and chairman of the US-Saudi Congressional Friendship Committee
"The ballot box is not the only sign of democracy."


Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/0530/10-voices-for-change-in-Saudi-Arabia/Sheikh-Salman-al-Ouda?nav=639855-csm_blog_post-promoLink

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