At a global conference in Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pledged to “return to moderate Islam and eradicate the remnants of extremism” with ambitious plans for the future.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince made the promise as landmark plans were unveiled to build a “next generation global city” extending across its borders into Egypt and Jordan.
Explaining the plan at an economic forum in Riyadh, he said his vision was for the country to become more moderate and open.
During a panel discussion at the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh, attended by the world’s leading corporate executives, entrepreneurs and government ministers and organised to showcase the kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic blueprint, Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the country wanted to go back to “what we were before”.
“Saudi Arabia was not like this before 1979. We want to go back to what we were, the moderate Islam that’s open to all religions. We want to live a normal life…coexist and contribute to the world,” he said.
Last month, it was announced women in Saudi Arabia would be finally be given the right to drive, a symbolic move signalling changes to the institutionalised discrimination against women in the country.
“We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today,” he said.
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The heir to the throne said the kingdom will work to defeat extremist ideas and ensure that young Saudis live in harmony with the rest of the world.
He announced the new city project at an investment conference in Riyadh aimed at the kingdom’s efforts to move its economy away from dependence on oil exports.
The city project, dubbed Neom, will be built on untouched land along the country’s Red Sea coastline near Egypt and Jordan and will run entirely on alternative energy.
“The conference, which runs until Thursday, is aimed at showing that Riyadh is opening itself up to the modern world and diversifying its revenue streams, following a global plunge in oil prices.”
Saudi Arabia has often been accused by its enemies, such as Iran, of fostering extremism by propagating Wahabisim. It remains to be seen how the powerful Saudi religious establishment will respond to the Prince’s comments.