As the world shifts away from crude oil, Saudi Arabia is introducing new reforms to shift the kingdom's reliance on oil to a more diverse economy.
However, the historic transition requires not only economic reforms but cultural ones as well.
And it appears Saudi Arabia's conservative Islamic royal family is at least beginning to acknowledge this reality — if not practicing it — as the Gulf kingdom's crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, just vowed to destroy "extremist ideologies" in a bid to "return" to a more "moderate Islam."
The remarks, delivered at a Future Investment Initiative (FII) summit in Riyadh, marked the first time in history a Saudi royal, much less the crown prince, publicly admitted the current cultural traditions practiced in the country are intrinsically extremist.
"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," bin Salman said during the three-day conference at which Saudi Arabia invites finance world’s most influential people for investment opportunities.
As historic as the statement might be, one cannot help but notice how bin Salman delivered it amid an ongoing crackdown on human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, which has worsened under his watch.
Amnesty International said in September, the state of human rights in the Gulf kingdom had "deteriorated markedly" since bin Salman took over as heir to the throne on June 21.
In that month alone, up to 20 influential Saudi religious scholars were reportedly arrested in arrests that, according to Human Rights Watch, could be the prince's efforts to consolidate his authority.
Meanwhile, the number of executions of prisoners continues to rise, despite international condemnation.
And let's not forget Saudi Arabia's ongoing war in Yemen, which was masterminded by bin Salman. Riyadh's onslaught, which started off as an attack against suspected Iran-backed Houthi rebels, has claimed, as of September, 5,159 civilian lives and left 8,761 others injured since March 2015.
The conflict has even led to the "world's worst cholera outbreak" in Yemen, killing more than 2,000 people since April. Over 1 million malnourished children are at risk of contracting the infectious disease. All in all, nearly 20.7 million Yemenis are in need of assistance.
Yet, Saudi Arabia has no plans of putting an end to the hostilities.
Granted, the country has introduced groundbreaking reforms such as allowing women to drive by June next year and opening cinemas, which have been banned since the 1970s, however, promises of a moderate Saudi Arabia appear hollow while thousands of people are still suffering under the thumb of the powers that be in Saudi Arabia.
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