Srinagar: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is set to meet with United States (US) President Donald Trump in Washington on Tuesday.
Mutual rival Iran will be high on the agenda, but the 32-year-old strongman prince will also be looking to showcase his sweeping changes to Saudi society and an increasingly assertive foreign policy that includes the war in Yemen and an ongoing diplomatic feud with Qatar.
Prior to his US visit, he gave an interview to CBS News which was aired on Sunday.
Prince Mohammed implemented some reforms on women’s rights, loosening clothing restrictions, pushing for greater participation in the workforce, and, significantly, lifting a ban on women driving.
But guardianship laws, which require women to seek the permission of male relatives for a host of activities, remain in place.
“We have extremists who forbid mixing between the two sexes and are unable to differentiate between a man and a woman alone together and their being together in a work place. Many of those ideas contradict the way of life during the time of the Prophet (pbuh),” he said.
“We are all human beings and there is no difference.”
The prince acknowledged Saudi society was dominated by particularly harsh strain of conservative Islam, which he traces back to 1979.
“We were victims, especially my generation that suffered from this a great deal,” he said.
“This is not the real Saudi Arabia. I would ask your viewers to use their smart phones to find out. And they can google Saudi Arabia in the 70s and 60s, and they will see the real Saudi Arabia easily in the pictures.
“We were living a very normal life like the rest of the Gulf countries.
“Women were driving cars. There were movie theaters in Saudi Arabia. Women worked everywhere. We were just normal people developing like any other country in the world until the events of 1979.” (AFP)