Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s on-going tour of the U.S. included a stop at The Washington Post for an off-the-record interview.
Later, the Saudi Embassy OK’d parts to be published. The remarks of MBS (as he is colloquially known) continue to give us a picture of the 32-year old who will most likely succeed his ailing and elderly father and become king of Saudi Arabia soon.
On women’s rights: Since MBS’s ascent to power, women have been given the right to drive, can join the military and intelligence services and attend sporting events and cinemas. A senior cleric said that abayas, the long cloaks worn by Saudi women, are not mandated by Islam and rather should be a personal choice. Other changes are reportedly in the works. MBS said he worked hard to sway the opinions of hardline religious leaders and that these restrictions are not part of Islam.
On religious extremism: “I believe Islam is sensible, Islam is simple, and people are trying to hijack it,” he told the Post. He says his conversations with clerics have born fruit and he has “more allies in the religious establishment, day by day.”
On the exportation of Saudi-funded Wahhabist extremism: MBS said the funding mainly comes from foundations instead of the government at present, but acknowledged for years the Saudi government lost track of the effort. Now, he says, “we have to get it all back.” He said the initial funding by Saudi Arabia of mosques and madrassas around the world stemmed from the Cold War, when the West wanted to use the Saudis to help prevent Soviet influence in Muslim countries.