Saudi Arabia’s crown prince just declared war on the clerics

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince declared war on the clerical elite who have long shaped Saudi society.

The man who will be Saudi Arabia’s next king, Mohammed bin Salman, did so by delivering an unequivocal message, “We are returning to what we were before, a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world.” The crown prince continued, “We will not waste 30 years of our lives wasting time dealing with extremist ideas. We will destroy them today,” he said.

Yet, it isn’t just what bin Salman said that matters, but also where and to who he said it.

After all, he said it to an unveiled Fox Business host, Maria Bartiromo, at an event designed to attract foreign entrepreneurial investment. Both those considerations — the unveiled American reporter sharing a royal stage on Saudi soil and the endorsement of capitalist dynamism — are incompatible with the worldview of the Saudi Ulama, or clerical elite.

By his actions, Mohammed bin Salman isn’t just throwing down the gauntlet to the Ulama; he’s goading them.

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