Is Islam the solution of the political, social, and economic problems that the MENA region is facing today? In the MENA region, there are many political and religious activists thinkers believe that the answer of this question is YES. They believe that the political, social, and economic struggles that the region is facing today are as a result of being away from the Sharia (Islamic laws). As a result, many Islamist movements started emerging in the region for the aim of replace the current economic, social, and political laws with what they believe true Islam laws .
Islamist Movements and the Establishment of Saudi Arabia:
In 1700s, an Islamist movement led by a religious leader called Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab started taking place in the Arabian Peninsula. The aim of these movements was to establish what they believed a true Islamic state. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab was against the model of Islam that was practiced by the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, ibn Abd al-Wahhab formed alliance with a regional emir (local leader) called Muhammad ibn Saud for the purpose of defeating the Ottomans and establishing their own state. Ibn Saud signed an agreement with Ibn Abd al-Wahab stated that the Wahhabi model of Islam would be the religion base of the new state .
In 1740s, ibn Saud along with ibn Abd al-Wahhab started a war against the Ottomans, which led to the establishment of the first Saudi state in 1744. However, in 1818, the Ottomans sent an army to retake the state. At that time, the Ottomans forced ibn Saud to leave the country and go to Kuwait. In the early 20th century, the son of Muhammad ibn Saud, Abdulaziz Al-Saud, planned to go back and regain the Saudi state. At that time, Abdulaziz Al-Saud was supported by anti-Ottomans Islamist armed movement called Ikhwan, which was heavily influenced by ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s ideology. The Ikhwan fought in the side of Al-Saud until he became a king of the modern Saudi State in 1932 .
Discovery of oil in 1938, the Saudi King no longer needed the support that was provided by the islamists group. With the huge oil wealth, he could establish a complete army and financially support the government. Discovery of oil also led to strong relationships between Saudi Arabia and the West. At that time, modernization started taking place in the country. At that time, salafis (the people who believe in return to the early life of Islam) started rejecting such changes. they started challenging the government and demand for economic, social, and political reforms .
In 1979, an armed group of Islamic extremists led by someone called Juhayman al-Otaibi occupied the Grand Mosque (Islamic holiest mosque) in Mecca. This group believed that the current government is not adopting the right path of Islam. The aim of that occupation was to overthrow the government and replace it with what they believed true Islamic leader. At that time, the Otaibi men closed all the gates of the mosque and called on the people to revoke the current government and follow their orders. The government could not take a fast action since the group used the innocent people who were inside the mosque as hostages. Moreover, at that time, the Saudi intelligence services did not have the needed knowledge and strategies to deal with such issue. After one week of the occupation, the Saudi government “brought in French commandos” to help freeing the mosque from the occupiers. After more than two weeks of exchanging fire, the government could put its hand on the Grand Mosque .
 Cammett, Melani; Diwan, Ishac; Richards, Alan; Waterbury, John (2015-02-24). A Political Economy of the Middle East (Kindle Location 7970). Westview Press. Kindle Edition.