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Saudi Clerics Silent After Crown Prince Promises A ‘More Moderate Islam’

Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's deputy crown prince, looks on during a bilateral meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May at An Nasiriyah Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. May began a visit to Jordan and Saudi Arabia on Monday, with the goal of building security …
Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

TEL AVIV — Many prominent Saudi clerics have kept silent in the wake of comments made by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Tuesday that Saudi Arabia will destroy “extremist ideologies” in a campaign to return to “a more moderate Islam.”

Arab media reports after the comments indicated that the country’s prominent clerics prefer to keep silent at the moment, including Sheikh Muhamad al-Ureifi, Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani, Sheikh Saoud Shreim, Sheikh Muhamad al-Saeidi and others.

According to the website Arabi 21, whose views are associated with those of the Muslim Brotherhood, these clerics have been addressing many issues recently, with the notable exception of any direct reference to the comments from the crown prince.

The silence from these clerics is said to indicate their displeasure.

The website suggested that this silence is unlikely to continue more than a few days and that in the end the clerics who have the greatest effect on public opinion will address the developments, but some reportedly fear possible repercussions if they voice their opinions. Such repercussions have occurred to other clerics who found themselves in jail recently after expressing positions interpreted as critical of the king and crown prince in regard to the crisis between the Gulf state and Qatar in the wake of the severing of relations between a number of Gulf states – and Egypt – with Qatar.

However, the site also noted that reformers in the kingdom mobilized to express support for the crown prince and his comments.

Supporters of the crown prince were quick to post clips translating his comments to social media in which he said it is time for the Saudis to live normal lives free of extremism.

In one of the clips, Saudi children were seen learning and playing followed by images of construction and infrastructure in the kingdom and soldiers fighting extremist terrorists that the prince vowed to destroy.

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Salman stated, “We want to lead normal lives, lives where our religion and our traditions translate into tolerance, so that we coexist with the world and become part of the development of the world.”

“Seventy percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 30. In all honesty, we will not spend 30 years of our lives dealing with extremist ideologies. We will destroy them today and immediately,” Salman continued.

“Saudi was not like this before ’79. Saudi Arabia and the entire region went through a revival after ’79. … All we’re doing is going back to what we were: a moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world and to all traditions and people.”

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