WASHINGTON - Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, whose country is considered one of the most conservative Muslim states, believes his Saudi Arabia is "moving in the direction of a liberal society, while Israel is moving into a more religiously oriented culture."
Faisal told the New York Times that while Saudi Arabia was moving forward, "what is happening in Israel is the opposite."
The interview was conducted by columnist Muareen Dowd, who arrived in Saudi Arabia for a 10-day visit to examine the improvement in the woman's status.
Dowd noted in her column that Saudi Arabia was an absolute Muslim monarchy ruling over one of the most religiously and socially intolerant places on earth, and that the country Faisail deemed too “religiously determined” and regressive was the democracy of Israel.
“We are breaking away from the shackles of the past,” the prince said. “We are moving in the direction of a liberal society. What is happening in Israel is the opposite; you are moving into a more religiously oriented culture and into a more religiously determined politics and to a very extreme sense of nationhood,” which was coming “to a boiling point.”
Faisal linked the alleged religious radicalization in Israel with the difficulty to strike a peace agreement with the Palestinians and Arab countries, saying that “the religious institutions in Israel are stymieing every effort at peace."
Asked about the situation of women in his country and extreme statements made by Muslim clerics, the prince said, “I think the trend for reform is set, and there is no looking back. Clerics who every now and then come with statements in the opposite direction are releasing frustration rather than believing that they can stop the trend and turn back the clock.”