The Saudi-funded spread of Wahhabism began as a result of Western countries asking Riyadh to help counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the Washington Post.
Salman said that Saudi Arabia’s Western allies urged the country to invest in mosques and madrassas overseas during the Cold War, in an effort to prevent encroachment in Muslim countries by the Soviet Union.
He added that successive Saudi governments had lost track of that effort, saying “we have to get it all back.”Bin Salman also said that funding now comes mostly from Saudi-based “foundations,” rather than from the government.
In an interview Saudi Crown Prince said that Saudi were normal people until the events of 1979.
The prince acknowledged Saudi society was dominated by particularly harsh strain of conservative Islam, which he traces back to 1979, the year of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the seizure by extremists of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
“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.”
Prince Mohammed has 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.
“The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men,” he said. “This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover.
“The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire to wear,” he added.
Women, he said, are “absolutely” equal to men.
“We are all human beings and there is no difference.”