Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has promised to “end extremism” and return the country to “moderate Islam.”
The 31-year-old, who was placed first-in-line to the throne in June following an unexpected reshuffle by King Salman, made his remarks at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh on Tuesday.
In comments reported by the Saudi Gazette, he said: “We are returning to what we were before – a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world.
“We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today. We will end extremism very soon.”
Prince Salman, who is also deputy prime minister and a staunch supporter of the country’s younger generation, added: “Our youth are our wealth. If they receive proper guidance they will create an excellent world on our earth. The youth are ambitious.”
In April the Prince inferred the era of extreme religious conservatism in Saudi Arabia is close to being over. Speaking to the Washington Post, he said: “I’m young. Seventy per cent of our citizens are young. We don’t want to waste our lives in this whirlpool that we were in the past 30 years. We want to end this epoch now.”
He claims the country’s branch of extreme religious conservatism occurred as a reaction to the 1979 Iranian revolution and the seizure of the Makkah mosque by radicals later that year.
Prince Salman’s comments come just a month after the country said women will be allowed to drive or the first time.
King Salman’s landmark decision will bring to an end Saudi Arabia being the only country to specifically forbid women from driving vehicles.
The regulation has been part of the conservative kingdom’s broad restrictions on women’s rights, which include requiring women to secure a male family member’s approval for actions such as working and traveling.
Female activists have long protested the ban, including by staging demonstrations during which end up facing arrests and other state restrictions for driving.
Analysts have long recommended lifting the ban to improve the government’s stature abroad, particularly in Western capitals where Saudi Arabia is often criticised for its poor human rights record.