Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland Prince Turki Al-Faisal, in a speech in Paris at a gathering of conservative thinkers from Europe and the United States, affirmed that reform is a concept that is an integral part of the heritage of Saudi Arabia, both from the basic belief in shura [consultation] and from the writings of the eighteenth century reformer Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdulwahhab. These writings, he said, have been widely criticized in the West, but they are clearly misunderstood. He attributed this misunderstanding to ignorance of the writings, which not many people have read in the original, but also to political disputes, both old and new. A distinction must be made between Abdulwahhab himself, and the so-called “followers” of ‘Wahhabism’.
Prince Turki went on to highlight the written views of Shaikh Abdulwahab on such issues as defense of the rights of women and of those who are oppressed, encouragement of the spread of education, and the importance of dialogue. In his writings, extremism and violence is rejected, as is prescribed by Islam, which calls for peaceful co-existence among civilizations, religions and cultures.
Describing the Kingdom as a moderate state which is introducing change in accordance with the needs of the time, Prince Turki commented that Saudi Arabia has, for example, has expanded the membership of the Consultative Council (Majlis Al-Shura) from 60 at its founding twelve years ago to 150 today. He also referred to decisions made by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz on political, economic, administrative, judiciary, and educational reforms, as well as granting women equal opportunities in the development of the country.