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By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times
IN his interview with the American magazine “The Atlantic”, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman answered the questions quite frankly. Moreover, his responses represented a government statement and a road map to the future of Saudi Arabia both at home and in its foreign relations.
He affirmed that, “No one has the right to interfere in the kingdom’s internal affairs, as it is a matter that concerns the Saudi people only.”
He also made it clear that all the measures taken by Riyadh in the past seven years until today are in the right direction and in accordance with the standards and convictions of the Saudi people.
There is no doubt that the carefully chosen questions were designed to clarify the confusion among many observers who do not know the Saudi temperament, and do not understand the nature of the relationship between the ruling family and the people.
So when he was asked about the reforms related to women, his answer was unequivocal – “The reforms were for the sake of the country, and not to appease anyone. We seek to develop based on our economic and cultural foundations, and before that the Saudi people and our history.”
In this lengthy talk, Prince Mohammed bin Salman exposed many hypocrites, some of whom continue to believe that the administration of Saudi Arabia is still the same as it was yesterday, and is not entirely new, and that it is operating according to rules set by King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Saudi Arabia is progressing based on the principle set by the king in his speech in 2017 – “May Allah have mercy on those who show me my flaws. If you, or my fellow people who are listening to me now, see anything that is in the interest of your religion and your country, you are welcome to point it out. I repeat that our doors are open, our phones are open, and our ears are attentive to every citizen.”
These words were not understood by those who tried to flatter by portraying any criticism about some of the shortcomings that the kingdom suffered as an attack on its policy, when the reality is completely different.
Indeed, many of those lights shed by Saudi and Gulf journalists were indicators of the new vision of governance. A set of royal orders followed to confirm the consistency of these views with the new approach, according to well-thought-out plans that are not subject to any external dictations, but stem from purely internal components.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman reiterated the dangerous role played by the Muslim Brotherhood Group to impose its extremist vision on Saudi society. Whatever is happening in it forms the compass for the rest of the Gulf societies.
Hence, when the Saudi Crown Prince said, “The Muslim Brotherhood Group played a huge role in creating all this extremism. They were the bridge that took others to extremism, either Sunnis or Shiites, hijacked Islam, and found no one to stop them,” he was confirming what some Gulf journalists have said about the influence of this group on the society in the region, and the shadows that this casts on the rest of the Gulf societies.
The measures taken by Saudi Arabia were the correct treatment to curb extremism groups. It also paved the way for the manifestation of Islam in its correct image.
Nonetheless, the Saudi openness is not a strange phenomenon. It is from the spirit of this ancient society that the culture was formed throughout history by meeting each other.
Based on this principle, the process of reorganizing the judicial procedures came to be in accordance with what is stipulated by the law, and not the judge’s views that were previously the basis for issuing sentences.
Due to this reason, Prince Mohammed bin Salman said, “About the death penalty, we got rid of it, except for one category. This one is written in the Quran, and we cannot do anything about it, even if we wished to do something, because it is a clear teaching in the Quran.
“If a person killed another person, the family of the murdered person has the right, after going to the court, to apply the capital punishment unless they forgive him. And if someone threatens the lives of many people, that means he has to be punished by the death penalty. That is also a teaching in the Quran. Irrespective of whether I like it or not, I don’t have the power to change it.
“On the other hand, there are a few penalties that are up to the discretion of the judge. We are trying to make sure that there is no penalty in Saudi Arabia without a law. We are talking about that and trying to stop that in the next two to three years.
“Of course, the clear model in combating corruption, according to a systematic vision, is purely trying to stop a huge problem in Saudi Arabia. This problem is that from every budget, a very big percentage goes to corrupt people. If corruption continues, there won’t be qualified ministers and qualified key people working in the government, fighting day or night, and working 24 hours if they don’t believe that they are going on a true and rightful path. That will never happen if there is corruption in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the country has been liberated from corruption, thanks to the measures that have been taken.”
As for regional relations, the prince was clear about Iran and Israel. If Iran is a neighbor that cannot be eliminated because of geography, then the relationship with it must be based on coexistence, mutual respect, and non-interference in the internal affairs of countries. This means Tehran must be convinced that no one can cancel the other in this region or impose its ideology on another.
As for Israel, “which is a potential ally in many interests that we can pursue together,” it must implement the international obligations and solve its problems with the Palestinians because that is the obligatory path towards peace, according to what the Saudi Crown Prince said.
Today, after seven years of Saudi Arabia’s modernization process led by King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Prince Mohammad bin Salman, making it a role model in the region, the statement of the Rightly-Guided Caliph Othman bin Affan (May Allah be pleased with him) is true with these two leaders: “Allah deters through a leader which He does not deter through the Qur’an.”