Saudi liberal journalist Khaled Al-Dukhail was interviewed on Dubai TV about the third session of the Saudi national dialogue in which he participated. The dialogue, which is sponsored by Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah, was dedicated this time to women issues. Al-Dukhail was interviewed by another Saudi liberal, journalist Daoud Al-Shiriyan. Following are excerpts:
Shiriyan: How were the recommendations formulated? Once you finished the discussions, did you elect a formulating committee, which wrote the recommendations?
Dukhail: No, no, there was no formulating committee. The dialogue management retires to write the recommendations, and then presents them to the participants.
Shiriyan: It presents them to you?
Dukhail:It presented them to us, as if that's the end of the and the next day we must meet the Crown Prince.
Shiryan:Aha, it's like the Arab summit meetings...
Dukhail:Yes, like the summits of the Arab foreign ministers.
Shiriyan:You mean, the recommendations are published before they convene...
Dukhail:Issues were thrown into the air such as: "Is Islam for or against women?" "Does Islam give or deny women their rights?" "This is what the Koran says about women and this is what the Sunna says." Brothers, the problem is not Islam. The problem is you. The problem is the reality of women.
The religious discourse is dominant and it has a popular basis. You have to ask yourself, why this happens.
Dukhail: Because no discourse other than the religious has been given a chance in the media, education and the political institutions. Therefore the people? I mean, from the day they are born, people are exposed to this discourse. What has happened is a natural result of policy, education, and cultural, political, and educational behavior. Now we have reached a crisis. Society has changed, the region and the make-up of society have changed. A gap has formed? Saudi Arabia has become a fundamental part of a regional and international order. The issues have changed; plans have changed. Britain is gone; America has come. The Ba'ath collapsed; Imperialism has returned? I Mean, everything has turned upside-down, but on the ideological level, you're still resurrecting the same ideas. You want hegemony of the religious discourse. You want to use the same words, the same expressions, but for a different society with a different make-up.
You asked me if the liberals enjoy the support of society. No, they do not. But is it the liberal's fault? No, it is the fault of the existing policy. This policy has led to unemployment, to terrorism, and to Arab and Saudi defeat in the conflict with Israel and with the West. It has led to zero growth, and has a problem for women. All this means that the hegemony of religious discourse and the lack of social support for liberals, is a mistake.