The new Saudi vision: Return to the past for a better future
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke on Tuesday about building the future being the best way out of a past that follows and besieges us all. He believes that development requires transformation, and in the need to admit the problem and to have the courage to deal with it. I believe Crown Prince Mohammed did that on Tuesday. He was clear, frank and brave in his address to the world. He talked about the return to the Saudi society of the past — religious without extremism, and tolerant of its surroundings.
Yes, there is a problem at present from the heritage of the recent past, and he talked about it to the audience without embarrassment or equivocation. He said that the extremists imposed their views on Saudi society after 1979, precisely after the revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini which opened the door for extremism and radicalization, and more extremism. And on Tuesday, the crown prince vowed that it was time to fight extremist thought and destroy it.
This assertion was echoed throughout the Kingdom, not just the conference hall. He chose an important event for it, introducing one of the future Saudi projects for investors and the world and explaining his development plan for the young generations.
With this courageous rhetoric, Saudi Arabia is leading a new wave in the region and the Islamic world, upon which we can hold out our hopes to deliver us from the era of extremism that threatens the world.
The Saudi crown prince has proved that he meets his word. He took challenging steps and made many promises and openness initiatives that proved to his citizens, and to the world, that he means what he says, and that his country is leading a campaign to clear out extremist thought, and the extremists. Many decisions were taken, and many laws were modified.
The dispute with the neighboring brotherly state of Qatar is just one part of the policies of the crown prince. Saudi Arabia has adopted a clear position that it does not want any relations with the government of Qatar if it continues financing extremist groups on its soil, offering them media support, and receiving their fugitives.
The Saudi rhetoric against extremism has no room for tolerance. It does not tolerate individuals, or private or public institutions, who spread radical Islam socially and politically. The Saudi government has also undertaken openness programs that surprised us all, programs we thought were difficult, even impossible in the current political environment.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has promised to liberate the Muslim world from extremism, and he has already proved that he has the courage and the will to do it.
The importance of what the crown prince said stems from the importance of Saudi Arabia as a leading country for more than a billion Muslims all over the world. In my opinion, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has the legitimacy, vision and courage that enable him to lead the locomotive of change and save Islamic communities all over the world from the intellectual sabotage they have suffered since 1979, for Saudi Arabia is the spiritual reference of Muslims.
The aim is not just liberating the people from extremism and extremists, but also building a promising future for their children. The positive spirit of change paves the way, just like the announcement of a giant new development in the northwest of the country, connecting continents, opening the door for modern industry, international trade and tourism, running on state-of-the-art technological systems.
At the Riyadh conference, we heard a speech about life, not death; about the future, not the past; and therefore we hope it will make the Kingdom the gateway for change for all.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published. Twitter: @aalrashed
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