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Why Saudi Arabia is permitting sale of alcohol since ban in 1902

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Why Saudi Arabia is permitting sale of alcohol since ban in 1902

Controversy and disapproval continue to surround Saudi Arabia’s decision to permit the sale of alcohol to non-Muslim diplomats.

Reportedly, this decision is part of a series of reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud with the aim of projecting a more modern and open image of the country.

Previously, non-Muslim diplomats were required to import alcohol through diplomatic channels, but now they will be able to purchase it within the country, according to sources.

Prohibition of alcohol has been established law in Saudi Arabia since 1902, with severe penalties, including imprisonment, flogging, and deportation for foreigners, for those found consuming or possessing alcohol.

Persistent rumors have circulated regarding the potential availability of alcohol in the kingdom, amidst a series of social reforms, such as the introduction of cinemas and mixed-gender music festivals, as part of the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 reform agenda.

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In response to the backlash, the Saudi government issued a statement on Wednesday announcing the implementation of a new regulatory framework to counter the illicit trade of alcohol goods received by diplomatic missions.

The statement emphasised the focus on regulating the entry of specific quantities of alcohol goods and ending the uncontrolled exchange of such products within the Kingdom.

The existing regulations in Saudi Arabia leave most of its 32 million people with limited options for alcohol consumption.

Other than attending diplomatic events, individuals may resort to making homemade wine or turning to the black market, where high prices for alcohol are prevalent, particularly before holidays like New Year’s Eve.

It remains uncertain whether this policy shift will apply to the two holy cities, Makkah and Madinah.

The decision has drawn condemnation from numerous countries and Muslim leaders worldwide.

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