Six Eye-Popping Quotes from Mohammed Bin Salman’s Atlantic Interview

Saudi reforms 'fooling nobody': Amnesty
AFP/Bryan R. Smith

In a wide-ranging interview with the Atlantic, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia discussed a variety of issues from women’s rights to his country’s system of absolute monarchy.

The 32-year-old prince, widely seen as a progressive reformer, is currently touring the United States on a trip that involves meetings with four current and former presidents, as well as some of the most powerful CEOs and celebrities in the country and numerous publications.

During his interview with the Atlantic, he expressed a number of interesting positions which included accepting that Israelis have a right to a state, comparing the Iranian Ayatollah to Hitler, denying the existence of Wahhabism, the importance of progressing women’s rights, and defending the Saudi system of absolute monarchy.

Here are some of his most memorable quotes:

On Iran and the Ayatollah:

“I believe the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good. Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. … The supreme leader is trying to conquer the world.”

On Israel/Palestine conflict: 

“I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

On Islam and the existence of Wahhabism: 

“No one can define Wahhabism. There is no Wahhabism. We don’t believe we have Wahhabism. We believe we have, in Saudi Arabia, Sunni and Shiite. We believe we have within Sunni Islam four schools of thought, and we have the ulema [the religious authorities] and the Board of Fatwas [which issues religious rulings].”

“Yes, in Saudi Arabia it’s clear that our laws are coming from Islam and the Quran, but we have the four schools—Hanbali, Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki—and they argue about interpretation.”

On fighting communism: 

“[Saudi Arabia] worked with whomever we could use to get rid of communism. Among those was the Muslim Brotherhood. We financed them in Saudi Arabia. And the United States of America financed them.”

“If we went back in time, we would do the same thing. We would use these people again. Because we were confronting a bigger danger—getting rid of communism. Later on, we had to see how we could deal with the Muslim Brotherhood. Remember, one of the presidents of the United States called these people freedom fighters.”

On women’s rights:

“I support Saudi Arabia, and half of Saudi Arabia is women. So I support women. In our religion, there is no difference between men and women. There are duties to men and duties to women.”

“There are different forms of equality. In the Saudi government, women are paid exactly like men. We have regulations like this that are going into the private sector. We don’t want divided treatment for different people.”

On democracy and absolute monarchy: 

“Saudi Arabia is a network of thousands of absolute monarchies, and then has a large absolute monarchy. We have tribal monarchies, town monarchies. Moving against this structure would create huge problems in Saudi Arabia.”

“What I can do is encourage the power of law. We would like to encourage freedom of speech as much as we can, so long as we don’t give an opportunity to extremism. We can improve women’s rights, improve the economy. There is tension here, but we should do it.”

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