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Title: The role of religion in building national identity : (case study : Saudi Arabia)
Author: Al-Hassan, Hamzah.
Awarding Body: University of Westminster
Current Institution: University of Westminster
Date of Award: 2006
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The purpose of my thesis is to focus closely on the evolution of Saudi national identity and the impact of religion (i.e. Wahhabism) on its development. The Saudi state has been established on a regional sectarian basis, but it succeeded in uniting many semi-independent regions in one state, mainly through military conquest. This achievement has been considered as a step towards the formation of a new Saudi national identity, which could replace the existing primordial identities (regional, tribal and religious). However, a structural problem confronted the new identity, as the Saudi state adopted a regional identity (Najdism) where Wahhabism constituted the essential cultural foundation of that identity. Saudism has not yet developed into the national identity and is generally perceived as another face of Najdism; and although the latter has been supported by the state as the national identity, it has failed to gain nationwide acceptance due to the fact that it represented only a minority of the people (less than one third of the total population). The same thing can be said of Wahhabism, which is also adopted by a minority and imposed upon a majority. The exclusionist tendencies of Wahhabism hinder Saudism from developing into a national identity. The failure in developing a proper Saudi national identity has coincided with the failure of the project of national integration. Since the establishment of the state, the dominant group (the Wahhabi Najdis in the centre) has controlled all cultural, religious, economic, political and military fields and high ranking posts; manipulation rather than integration has been the formal policy of the state. The exclusionist policies of the state has enhanced the separatist tendencies among non-Najdi regional groups in the state, particularly among the Hijazis and the Shi'ites. In response, their primordial identities have thus gained more land at the expense of national identity. Political and religious reforms that aim at strengthening national identity, national integration and keeping the state, have been rejected by the Royal Family, the Wahhabi religious establishment, and Najdi intellectual elite as a whole. This refusal has been based on the fact that any reform would be at the expense of Najdi hegemony. I would argue therefore, that the Saudi state faces a serious threat of dismemberment.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available