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SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi princes' feud goes public

July 7, 2009 | 10:16 am

Walid

Arab royalty is famous for its ability to resolve familial disputes in private, but that isn’t the case with Saudi princes Khaled and Al-Waleed bin Talal.

In an act of rare public criticism, Prince Khaled bin Talal openly criticized his billionaire brother for propagating vice, and attempting to change the traditionalist norms of the kingdom. In an interview with an Islamist blog, Prince Khaled said, “the objectives of Prince Al-Waleed and others are to open a wide range of intellectual, religious, and ethical changes.”

 He also leveled the charge of violating Shariah, or Islamic law, which makes up the majority of Saudi law.

Prince Al-Waleed is one of the better-known Saudi royals, due to his extensive financial power and his extravagant lifestyle. So extravagant that his 460,000-square-foot palace was featured on VH1.

He is also among the less-conservative Saudi princes and has suggested reforming the legal code to allow modest reforms such as allowing women to drive. This has put him at odds with conservative members of the Saudi royal family, as well as the Saudi clerical establishment.

The feud itself is not a new development. Prince Khaled said that he tried to privately resolve his arguments with his brother over the past decade, but after Prince Al-Waleed’s media companies began to distribute films in Saudi Arabia, it was too much, and he went public online.

Prince Khaled suggested treating Al-Waleed’s immorality by freezing his assets, estimated at $13 billion. After “repentance” from “personal motives,” the assets would be freed. Prince Khaled could be airing his grievances ignored by the rest of the Saudi family, or his criticism may be part of a liberalizing trend—although limited to the Saudi royal family. Prince Khaled’s criticism of his brother comes during a week in which Prince Fahad bin Saad criticized the uneven distribution of wealth in the kingdom.

Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi reformist believes it to be a part of that liberalizing trend. While speaking to the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper the National, al-Qahtani said: “There is a big change in the mindset of the young generation of Saudi princes. They are more critical than the previous generation and they are more open for criticism.”

Others, like Ali al-Mosa take the more traditional line, arguing that the Royal family should be more cohesive in public appearances: “The [royal family] should remain an umbrella [impartial] above all.”

— Jahd Khalil in Beirut

Photo: Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, right, and his wife, Princess Amira al-Tawil, visit the Al-Waleed group-funded resident complex for people affected by a landslide at al-Dhafeer village in Yemen in May. Credit: Yahya Arhab / EPA

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