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Saudi Arabia will ‘return to moderate Islam and destroy extremism’ – Crown Prince

October 25, 2017

* Mohammed bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia will ‘end extremism very soon’
* He said Saudi Arabia shouldn’t spend decades dealing with ‘destructive ideas’
* The powerful Crown Prince has pushed reforms since his June 21 appointment
* He’s regarded as being the force behind lifting country’s driving ban for women

Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince on Tuesday vowed to restore ‘moderate, open’ Islam, breaking with ultra-conservative clerics in favour of an image catering to foreign investors and Saudi youth.

‘We are returning to what we were before – a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world,’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said at an economic forum in Riyadh.

‘We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today,’ the 32-year-old, who was appointed Crown Prince in June, added. ‘We will end extremism very soon.’

Saudi Arabia has recently started to loosen its ultra-conservative rules, including allowing women to drive and hosting a mixed-gender national day. But it has long been blamed for backing terror organisations around the world.

It was claimed last year that Saudi Arabian government had links to the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000. Also, 15 of the 19 men involved in the attacks were from Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia is home to more jihadis who have returned from the war in Syria than almost all other countries, figures revealed this week.

Only Turkey and Tunisia are home to more people who travelled to fight for ISIS with some 760 having returned to their homeland, according to a report written by Richard Barrett, a former director of global counter-terrorism at MI6.

And the kingdom is ‘at the top of the list’ of countries exporting extremist Islam to the UK, a report from earlier this year revealed.

Yesterday, Prince Mohammed, known by his initials MBS, said he would see to it his country ‘moved past 1979’, a reference to the rise of political Islam in the years following the assassination of King Faisal in 1975.

The early 1970s had ushered major change into the oil-rich kingdom, including the introduction of television and schools for girls.

CROWN PRINCE WANTS TO RETURN SAUDI ARABIA ‘TO WHAT IT WAS’
Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he would see to it his country moved past 1979, a reference to the rise of political Islam in the years following the assassination of King Faisal in 1975.

‘We want to live a normal life. A life in which our religion translates to tolerance, to our traditions of kindness,’ he said.

‘Seventy percent of the Saudi population is under 30, and honestly we will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today and at once,’ the crown prince said.

The early 1970s had ushered major change into the oil-rich kingdom, including the introduction of television and schools for girls.

READ  5 Nigerian pilgrims die, 1 gives birth in Saudi Arabia

But that came to a halt as the Al-Sheikh family, which controls religious and social regulation in the kingdom, and the ruling Al-Saud family slowly reinforced the conservative policies Riyadh is known for.

‘We are returning to what we were before – a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions, traditions and people around the globe,’ Prince Mohammed said.

But that came to a halt as the Al-Sheikh family, which controls religious and social regulation in the kingdom, and the ruling Al-Saud family slowly reinforced the conservative policies Riyadh is known for.

‘We are returning to what we were before – a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions, traditions and people around the globe,’ he said.

The crown prince’s statement is the most direct attack by a top official on the Gulf country’s influential conservative religious establishment.

While the Saudi government continues to draw criticism from international rights groups, Prince Mohammed has pushed ahead with reforms since his sudden appointment on June 21.

He is widely regarded as being the force behind King Salman’s decision last month to lift a long-standing ban on women driving.

He has vowed to modernise certain sectors in the kingdom, hinting that long-banned cinemas would soon be permitted as part of ambitious reforms for a post-oil era that could shake up the austere kingdom’s cultural scene.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia has organised concerts, a Comic-Con pop culture festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets to thumping electronic music for the first time.

Saudi Arabia has also made efforts to diversify its revenue streams and overhaul its oil-dependent economy and conservative society.

Earlier Tuesday, Prince Mohammed and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced the launch of an independent economic zone along the kingdom’s northwestern coastline.

The £380billion ($500billion) project, dubbed NEOM, will operate under regulations separate from those that govern the rest of Saudi Arabia.

The 26,500 square km (10,230 square mile) zone, known as NEOM, will focus on industries including energy and water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment, Crown Prince Mohammed said.

And despite developing a city based on alternative energy, Prince Mohammed said that he still expects oil prices to rise.

Crown Prince Mohammed has rocketed to the pinnacle of power in the kingdom, pushing a reform agenda called Vision 2030 which is aimed at weaning the country off oil and introducing social reforms.

But critics say Prince Mohammed is not doing enough to liberalise politics in a country where the king enjoys absolute authority.

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