Saudi crown prince promises to return kingdom to ‘a more moderate Islam’

A sign of the changing times

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has promised to return the country to ‘moderate Islam’ and destroy ‘extremist ideologies’.

The heir to the throne was speaking at a Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh on Tuesday when he announced his intentions. Saudi Arabia is viewed by many nations around the world as out of step with modern living and deeply conservative, therefore this move is likely to put the kingdom in a more favourable light.

‘We want to lead normal lives, lives where our religion and our traditions translate into tolerance, so that we coexist with the world and become part of the development of the world,’ bin Salman said.

Although the move is likely to be popular with Saudi Arabia’s growing youth population, it will anger ultraconservative clerics who have dominated up until now.

‘Seventy percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 30. In all honesty, we will not spend 30 years of our lives dealing with extremist ideologies. We will destroy them today and immediately,’ bin Salman said.

‘Saudi was not like this before ’79. Saudi Arabia and the entire region went through a revival after ’79. … All we’re doing is going back to what we were: a moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world and to all traditions and people.’

The reference to 1979 was most probably recalling when Shiite militants overthrew the secular Shah of Iran and Sunni fundamentalists seized the Masjid al-Haram, or Grand Mosque, in Mecca. That same year, the country’s Shiite minority staged a deadly revolt in Al-Hasa province. After this, Saudi Arabia reinstated many of its hardline Islamic stances.

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