Although the speaker is the Saudi Crown Prince, and although he is speaking about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its community, his discussion on combating extremism and returning to moderate Islam should be a focus for all.
It should be the project for all countries in the region and the international community.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks today about building a future, for that is the best way to leave behind a constricting past. He sees that development requires change, which to come about, first requires acknowledging the problem and having the courage to deal with it.
I believe Prince Mohammed was just that yesterday. He was clear, honest and brave in his speech to the world. He talked about returning to a Saudi society once governed by their ancestors. A religious society free of extremism and tolerant to those around it.
Yes, a present time problem does exist as a repercussion of the past, and he spoke about it openly to the audience without embarrassment, deliberation or ambivalence. The problem is that extremists imposed their opinions on society after 1979, particularly after Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution which opened the door to biddings on exaggerations, extremism and more extremism.
Yesterday, the Crown Prince vowed that it was time to fight extremist thinking and destroy it.
This statement echoed throughout the Saudi Kingdom not just the conference hall. He chose the right occasion for it. The Crown Prince was presenting one of the future Saudi projects to investors and the world, explaining his developmental plan to future youthful generations.
With this courageous rhetoric, Saudi Arabia is leading a new trend in the region and the Muslim world. A trend to which we can pin to the hope of emerging from an era of extremism that threatens the world.
True to his words
The Saudi Crown Prince proved that he is true to his words, a difficult step. He made many promises and proposed several openness initiatives that proved to his citizens, and to the world, that he meant what he was saying – his country was leading a cleansing campaign from extremist ideology and extremists. Decisions were issued and laws were amended.
The disagreement with its neighboring country Qatar is only part of that policy.
Saudi Arabia has taken a clear stance saying that it does not want a relationship with the Qatari government if it continues to fund extremist groups on its lands, continues to support them through the media and continues to host their fugitives.
Saudi Arabia's speech against extremism – to which there is zero tolerance – is no longer lenient with individuals, nor with official or private institutions, which broadcast radical Islam socially and politically.
The Saudi government also took on dozens of openness initiatives that surprised us – we – who thought these would be difficult decisions, not even difficult but impossible in light of the political circumstances.
The significance of what the Saudi Crown Prince addressed stems from Saudi Arabia’s importance as the leader of more than a billion Muslims around the world.
In my opinion, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who holds legitimacy, vision and courage, is able to lead the train of change and save Islamic societies around the world from the repercussions of intellectual thought destruction since 1979.
After all, Saudi Arabia is the spiritual reference for Muslims.
The goal is not to rid people of extremism and extremists, but to also build a promising future for their sons and daughters. The spirit of positive change paves the way.
An example of such, yesterday’s announcement on the construction of a giant region in the northwest of the country to connect continents together. This region would open the doors to modern industry, international trade and tourism. This project would rely on very modern technological systems.
At the Riyadh conference, we hear a speech about life not death, about the future not the past. Thus, we hope that the Kingdom will be a gate of change for all.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.
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