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'I'm no Gandhi or Mandela', says Saudi crown prince

Mohammed bin Salman is quizzed over alleged $1.25bn spending spree during TV interview in the US
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Mon 19 Mar 2018 02:07 PM

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has addressed questions about his personal wealth in a wide-ranging TV interview in the United States.

Prince Mohammed spoke out in the 60 Minutes interview, following media reports that he allegedly purchased a half billion dollar yacht, a chateau in the French Alps for over $300 million, and a Leonardo Da Vinci painting for $450 million.

“My personal life is something that I’d like to keep to myself and I don’t try to draw attention to it,” he said. “If some newspapers want to point something out about it, that’s up to them.

"I’m a rich person and not a poor person,” he added. “I’m not Gandhi or Mandela.”

According to Prince Mohammed, 51 percent of his personal income is spent on other people, and on charity.

He also addressed the segregation of women in Saudi Arabia during the interview which took place during his visit to the US.

Prince Mohammed said it was “true” that the form of Islam practiced after 1979 was harsh and intolerant, following a wave of conservatism that followed a takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by armed extremists.

“We were victims,” he said. “Especially my generation, that suffered from this a great deal.”

Prince Mohammed added that “this is not the real Saudi Arabia.”

“I would ask your viewers to use their smartphones to find out,” he told 60 Minutes’ Norah O’Donnell. “They can google Saudi Arabia in the 70s and 60s, and they will see the real Saudi Arabia easily in the pictures.”

Prince Mohammed said that, before 1979, Saudis were “living a very normal life like the rest of the Gulf countries.”

“Women were driving cars, there were movie theatres in Saudi Arabia, women worked everywhere,” he said. “We were just normal people developing like any other country in the world until the events of 1979.”

Prince Mohammed said that many of the ideas that forbid the mixing of sexes, and call for women to be completely covered, “contradict” the way of life of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

“The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men,” he said. “This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover.

"The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire to wear,” he added.

Women, he said, are “absolutely” equal to men.

“We are all human beings and there is no difference,” he said.

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Last Updated: Mon 19 Mar 2018 02:15 PM GST

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