Saudi Arabia allows businesses to open during prayers in key reform

Saudi Arabia has officially allowed businesses to remain open during the five daily Muslim prayers, a highly sensitive reform in a kingdom trying to shake off its austere image.

Since becoming a de facto leader in 2017, Crown Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has introduced sweeping economic and social changes aimed at reducing the kingdom’s dependence on oil and re-establishing the role of religion.

“Shops and other economic and commercial activities will remain open throughout the business day and especially during (prayer) hours,” Saudi Defense Federation said in a statement late Friday.

Officially, the decision is part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and is aimed at avoiding “gatherings and long queues in front of stores that are closed during prayer hours”.

However, it comes after a 2019 decree said businesses could stay open 24 hours a day for an unspecified fee.

The move, which caused confusion over whether it included Muslim prayer times, was seen by some as an experiment in loosening the rules.

Since then, some restaurants, supermarkets and other shops have remained open, especially in the capital, Riyadh.

Previously, after the pre-dawn Fajr, they were forced to close for four other vigils of the day, shutting workers down for a total of about two hours during the world’s only mandatory prayer pause. Muslim world.

New rules remove restrictions that members of advisors Council of Shura said it costs the Saudi economy tens of billions of riyals each year.

Although government reforms have attracted little public criticism amid the crackdown that has accompanied dissidents, the issue has remained so sensitive in the kingdom that until several years Previously, the religious police had caused fear by enforcing such rules.

Defenders of public morality, once notorious for kicking men and women out of shopping malls to pray and berating anyone seen having intercourse with the opposite sex, have now largely shadow.

However, observers say authorities are still carefully watching for possible backlash from conservatives.

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, has long been associated with a rigid branch of Islam known as Wahhabism.

However, Crown Prince Mohammed has managed to establish himself as a fighter for “moderate” Islam, even as his international reputation suffers from the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

As clerical power wanes, preachers are endorsing government decisions they once vehemently opposed – including allowing women to drive and reopening cinemas.


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