By: Joshua Gill
The heir to the Saudi throne told The Guardian he will return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam, institute massive reforms, and open the country to all religions.
Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman announced that he will institute cultural and economic reforms that will steer the country away from the ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam that has ruled the country for the past thirty years, according to The Guardian Tuesday.
Salman said ultra-conservative Islam was not normal for Saudi Arabia, but was ushered in by the strict policies of past leaders who “didn’t know how to deal with” the implications of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
“We are simply reverting to what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. 70percent of the Saudis are younger than 30, honestly we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately,” Salman told The Guardian.
“What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia. What happened in the region in the last 30 years is not the Middle East. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries, one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn’t know how to deal with it. And the problem spread all over the world. Now is the time to get rid of it,” Salman added.
Salman unveiled a 15-year reform program in 2016 called Vision 2030, through which Salman intends to wean Saudi Arabia from dependence on oil, revamp its economy, and institute cultural reforms that would aid in that endeavor. Salman defended such reforms, the most recent of which was lifting the ban on women drivers, at a major investors conference Tuesday in Riyadh, according to Fox Business.
Salman’s comments at the conference were in line with his efforts to break ties between the House of Saud and conservative Muslim clerics who have failed to support his plans and who have strongly influenced Saudi governmental policy over the years.
Salman also announced a new project called Neom – an economic district along the the Red Sea coast worth $500 billion that will be run entirely on wind and solar power, and would ideally lead to innovations in the use of drones, robotics, and driverless cars. The project is the crown jewel of Salman’s economic overhaul of Saudi Arabia, but Salman stressed that economic reforms, and with them projects like Neom, will not be successful without the cultural reforms he has proposed and a return to moderate Islam.
‘This is about giving kids a social life. Entertainment needs to be an option for them. They are bored and resentful,” a senior Saudi royal figure told The Guardian, referencing Saudi Arabia’s ban on cinemas and alcohol. “A woman needs to be able to drive herself to work. Without that we are all doomed. Everyone knows that – except the people in small towns. But they will learn.”