Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) launched a new project called New Murabba under his vision 2030, which includes ‘The Mukaab’ or the ‘The Cube’ which is being criticized by many Muslims around the world calling it a New Capitalist Kaaba in Riyadh.
According to Saudi government, Saudi Vision 2030 is an innovative plan to reimagine the Kingdom by reducing dependence on oil or petrodollar by diversifying the economy. To achieve this the government plans to establish new cities, develop public service sectors and dedicate efforts towards recreation and tourism.
But along with this diversification of economy, MBS started to liberalize the society by changing the concept of religion, religious influence on state narrative and plans were reduced, attempts were made to change social fabric and even crackdown on religious scholars, people and groups which disagree with these plans and policies.
Under this diversification of economy Saudi Arabia plans to develop a new downtown in Riyadh which is called ‘New Murabba’. It falls under Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and MBS launched a dedicated New Murabba Development Company which will be chaired by himself.
It is being planned to be the largest downtown in the world with an area of 19-square-kilometer at the intersection of King Salman and King Khalid roads.
The New Murabba includes at least 80 destinations such as:
- Concert Hall
- Innovation Lab
- 104,000 residential units
- 9,000 hotel rooms
- Over 980,000 square meter of retail space and
- 1.4m square meter of office space
This is one of the biggest project under Vision 2030, second only after the iconic Neom city, which includes a futuristic 170 kilometer-long mega city, called The Line with an estimated cost of $500 billion.
The Mukaab which in English means The Cube comes from the same Arabic root word from which name of The Kaabah is derived, which is the holiest site for Muslims around the world.
The similarity is not only in the name rather the concept of Kaabah being the religious center for Muslims while the Mukaab being the capitalist center for the world is what people are angry about.
It is being considered part of the secularization and liberalization plans of MBS which also includes opening of cinemas in the country, introducing Valentine’s Day and hallowen, arranging concerts and fashion shows along with restricting religious scholars and groups.
Journalist Murtaza Hussain called it a “New Kaaba for Capitalism”.
Asad abukhalil, Professor at California State University, wrote that “”It appears [the crown prince] is building his Kaaba. Will he enforce it as the new qibla for worshippers?”
Journalist and commentator Sami Hamdi linked it with the subjugation of Islamic influences on the Muslim World.
Other’s came to defend the plan of Saudi Crown Prince by calling it a great initiative to make Saudi Arabia among the leading states of the world. The liberalization and secularization are also being defended as promoting a more moderate form of Islam which is more compatible with the current world order.