Prince Mohammed bin Salman, heir to Saudi Arabia's throne, wants to move the hardline kingdom toward "a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions." In an interview with the Guardian, Prince Mohammed says past leaders instituted strict rules on behavior and dress in response to the 1979 Iranian Revolution because "we didn't know how to deal with it." But the Saudi Arabia of today "is not Saudi Arabia," the 32-year-old says. "We want to live a normal life, a life in which our religion translates to tolerance, to our traditions of kindness," he tells the BBC. "We won't waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts. We will destroy them now," and in doing so, will be "changing Saudi Arabia for the better."
His comments follow a series of reforms—including the return of public entertainment and reversal of a ban on female drivers—the Guardian describes as "unprecedented in the country's modern history." They also coincide with the prince's announcement of a $500 billion investment in a new 10,000-square-mile economic zone, Neom, on the Red Sea. To be powered by wind and solar, it will help diversify Saudi Arabia's economy and provide jobs for some of the 70% of Saudis under 30, 5 million of whom will enter the workforce in the next 10 years, reports the AP. As a hub of science, innovation, and technology, Neom will be "a place for the dreamers of the world," Prince Mohammed says. (The prince may not be as tolerant as he seems.)