Over the years, I have written a series of profiles of moderate Muslim leaders who are pursuing important reforms in their countries yet rarely receive the level of media attention that the radicals do. Such profiles have included:
In recent months, I have found my attention turning time and time again to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Today, on the occasion of his 33rd birthday, Fox News Opinion has published a new column of mine looking at Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a, “MBS.”
Amidst so much war and terrorism in the Middle East, there is actually remarkably good news coming out of Saudi Arabia.
A reformer is rising, pursuing the most dramatic economic, social and foreign policy changes in the history of the kingdom.
His name is Mohammed bin Salman. Widely known simply as “MBS,” he’s young. On August 31st, he will turn just 33 years old. Yet he has already amassed tremendous power. In January 2015, he became Defense Minister. In June 2017, he was named Crown Prince, and thus heir to throne.
With the blessing of his father, King Salman, he’s moving quickly to expand women’s rights, diversify the country’s oil-based economy, confront violent Islamism and even advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We are…reverting to what we [once] followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions,” MBS told a conference of investors in Riyadh. “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.”
Radicals like Hamza bin Laden – son of the late terrorist mastermind – accuse MBS of being too moderate and working too closely with Washington. ISIS leaders despise MBS and have threatened to launch attacks in the kingdom. Iranian proxy forces in Yemen have fired more than 100 missiles at Saudi Arabia since 2015 and drawn MBS into a deadly and expensive war.
Liberals attack MBS for not being moderate enough. Human Rights Watch argues that “since [MBS] has ascended to power, there’s been an intensified repression of dissent.” Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says she is “very alarmed” by recent Saudi decisions, and Tweeted that Ottawa is “gravely concerned” about the state of civil society in the kingdom.
Yet consider 21 impressive reforms MBS and his team have advanced already….