Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh, on October 24, 2017.
The Crown Prince pledged a "moderate, open" Saudi Arabia, breaking with ultra-conservative clerics in favour of an image catering to foreign investors and Saudi youth.  "We are returning to what we were before -- a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world," he said at the economic forum in Riyadh.
 / AFP PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINE        (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)
The young prince in charge of Saudi Arabia (2017)
01:30 - Source: CNN

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Prince: Saudis want "lives where our religion, our traditions translate into tolerance"

Since 2015, Mohammed bin Salman has undertaken many cultural, economic reforms

CNN  — 

As his country experiences the early pangs of a cultural and economic transformation, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince vowed Tuesday to destroy “extremist ideologies” in a bid to return to “a more moderate Islam.”

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the moves will put the kingdom in lockstep with many other nations as it seeks to transform its economy over the coming decades.

“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,” he said.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House in June.

It’s a move sure to rile the ultraconservative clerics who have held sway in the kingdom, even if that sway appears to be waning. At the same time, the prince’s declaration will be heralded by Saudi Arabia’s increasingly youthful population and the outside world, on whom the kingdom will rely in its quest to overhaul its finances.

“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,” bin Salman said.

He 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.”

Conference attendees broke into applause.

‘Righteousness is on our side’