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Saudi prince ready with strategies, incase clerics oppose reforms

RIYADH- Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is currently leading Saudi Arabia’s drive for economic reform.

The 31 year old has already laid out three-pronged strategies to avoid any reaction from any religious conservatives contradicting his plans, according to remarks reported by Foreign Affairs magazine on Saturday.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, overseeing the kingdom’s biggest-ever overhaul of state and society, told visiting researchers last month punitive measures would be considered for any clerics who incited or resorted to violence over the plan, one of the researchers wrote.

The Prince believes only a small percentage of the kingdom’s clerics are expected to contradict with his reforms, while more than half could be persuaded to support his reforms through engagement and dialogue the journal reported.

The rest were ambivalent or not in a position to cause problems, he is reported to have said.

Prince Mohammed has couched his “Vision 2030” reform plan to bring back the deteriorating economy in a reform.

But in a country that adheres to an austere brand of Wahhabi Sunni Islam, where gender segregation is mandatory and concerts and cinemas are banned, the plan’s seemingly anodyne goals to empower women, promote sports and invest in entertainment are controversial.

Saudi Arabia’s clerics offer legitimacy and public support to a king who styles himself the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites. They retain control of the justice system but leave most other matters of governance to him, so long as his edicts do not contradict their interpretation of Islamic law.

During King Abdullah reign some senior clerics who opposed his cautious social reforms lost their jobs.