Saudi King Abdullah pushed gradual reforms at home, led Arab Spring backlash

January 23, 2015 6:00 AM

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – His changes looked minute to the outside world. But in a kingdom where ultra-conservative Muslim clerics have long held a lock on all aspects of society, King Abdullah's incremental reforms echoed mightily.

When Abdullah took the unprecedented step of opening a new university where men and women could mix in classrooms, part of his gradual campaign to modernize Saudi Arabia, grumbling arose among the hard-liners who form the bedrock of the powerful religious establishment. One sheikh dared to openly sa...

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