Saudi prince urges UK to promote moderate Islam

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud has urged Britain to promote moderate Islam as he prepares to make an official visit to the UK on Wednesday.

The 32-year-old is regarded as a reformer after allowing women to drive and seeking to instil wide-ranging changes to the country's economy – a plan he called Vision 2030.

However his visit is likely to be greeted by widespread protests over Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses, including fuelling a war in Yemen that has killed more than 10,000 people and persecuting religious minorities.

ReutersMohammed bin Salman Al Saud is the favourite son of the Saudi King Salman.

Non-Islamic places of worship such as churches are banned and Christians in Saudi, most of whom are migrant workers from India, Philippines and Africa, face deportation if they speak about their faith in public.

Persecution charity Open Doors ranks it as the 12th most dangerous country to be a Christian.

'Wahhabism, a strict interpretation of Islam, dominates life in Saudi Arabia, and all Saudis are considered Muslims,' Open Doors said on its website. 'The legal system is based on Sharia (Islamic law), and it is illegal to evangelise Muslims; conversion to another religion is punishable by death. There are no church buildings at all, and house churches are raided; Christians risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation and sometimes torture.'

However the young Saudi prince is seeking to boost relations with the West as part of his plan to move the country's economy away from a reliance on oil. One of the key aspects to his Vision 2030 is selling a stake in the state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco, which financial experts say could raise around $100 billion for the kingdom.

'We believe that Saudi Arabia needs to be part of the global economy,' he said in an interview with the Telegraph. 'People need to be able to move freely, and we need to apply the same standards as the rest of the world.

'After Brexit there will be huge opportunities for Britain as a result of Vision 2030.'

He went on: 'The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Britain is historic and goes back to the foundation of the Kingdom.

'We have a common interest that goes back to the earliest days of the relationship. Our relationship with Britain today is super.'

As well as meeting with the prime minister, the crown prince is due to meet a member of the royal family, have private meetings with the heads of MI5 and MI6, and be invited to attend a meeting of the National Security Council – a rare privilege for a visiting foreign dignitary.

'The British and Saudi people, along with the rest of the world, will be much safer if you have a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia,' he said.

'The extremists and the terrorists are linked through spreading their agenda. We need to work together to promote moderate Islam.'

He added: 'We want to fight terrorism, and we want to fight extremism because we need to build stability in the Middle East.

'We want economic growth that will help the region to develop. Because of our dominant position, Saudi Arabia is the key to the economic success of the region.'