The crown prince of Saudi Arabia just promised to return the country to a more “moderate Islam” and asked for international support to help transform the ultra-conservative country into a more free society.
Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, spoke in an interview about his plans to undo the rigid doctrines that had been in place in his country for the last 30 years. This is also in line with comments he made at an investment conference.
Discussing the situation in Saudi Arabia and how it came about, Salman remarked, “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.”
The prince is launching an ambitious $500 billion economic zone between Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. He wants this zone to be part of a more open economy that lures investors and businesses. But the prince has insisted that in order to successfully rehabilitate the economy, it is necessary to create a new social contract between the government and the people.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman has already been breaking alliances with conservative and fundamentalist Muslim clerics who have been very influential in the government for the last few decades. And changes have already been made in the country, such as the recent decision to allow women to drive, and the scaling back of guardianship laws that restricted women’s rights.
We will have to wait and see what this ultimately leads to, and how much resistance the prince will face, not only from his own government, but the conservative clerics, and perhaps many of the people of Saudi Arabia, as well. If it does come to pass that Saudi Arabia returns to a more moderate form of Islam, and becomes a freer society, then perhaps other conservative Islamic countries will take notice and follow suit.