Saudi Prince promises a future with moderate Islam

al-Otaibi Saudi Arabian human rights activistSaudi Arabian human rights activist al-Otaibi, Photo: hrw.org

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia promises a future with moderate Islam and alternative energy

Saudi Arabia‘s Crown Prince wants to build a new metropolis where only alternative energy will be used. At the same time, he promises a more moderate form of Islam in the kingdom.

 

Saudi Arabia’s state religion is today a fundamentalist form of sunni Islam, wahhabism, where the Islamic Sharia law is practiced strictly. Infidelity and drug trafficking are punishable with beheading, and women still need to be accompanied by a male guarian. Democracy is still a pipe dream in the authoritarian kingdom.

But now Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (32) talks of a new age.

– We return to what we once were – a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world, Salman stated at an investment conference in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Wishes for a normal life

He also pointed out that 70 per cent of the population is under the age of 30, and that they will not spend the next 30 years on what he calls destructive ideas, but live “a normal life.” He promised to put an end to extremism “very soon”.

The pronouncements by the Crown Prince can be interpreted as a direct attack on the country’s most conservative circles within the Royal House and the powerful theological environments.

German expert Guido Steinberg says he is surprised by the statements. He also believes that the Crown Prince’s reforms can eventually lead to the marginalization of the most conservative environments and to the public being able to enjoy more freedom. But he adds that it is unclear about this also spells the end of discrimination against the country’s approximately 2 million shiites.

During the conference, including IMF chief Christine Lagarde, it was also known that Saudi Arabia plans to build a giant and futuristic city northwest of the country. It will be governed by laws other than the rest of the country, and all energy will come from alternative sources of energy, instead of oil and gas.

To Egypt and Jordan

The project is estimated to cost 500 billion dollars and has been named Neom. The city will cover an area of 26,500 square kilometers, and there are also plans to expand it into Egypt and Jordan. The goal is to attract companies that want to develop technology.

– This place is not for conventional people and conventional companies. This will be a place for the world’s dreamers, says the Crown Prince.

CEO of Siemens AG from 2005-2007, Klaus-Christian Kleinfeld, is appointed as project manager.

In the next ten years, an estimated 5 million young Saudi’s will enter the labour market. A project like Neom will hopefully help create some of the workplaces that are required.

 

©  NTB Scanpix / Norway Today

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