Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hosted a delegation of evangelical leaders from the United States at his palace on Tuesday — the eve of the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Haaretz reported that this is the second time in less than a year that the prince, known as MBS, has brought American evangelicals to his country in an attempt to improve the Kingdom’s public image in the U.S.
Joel Rosenberg, an evangelical author and activist who lives in Jerusalem and has dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, led the delegation, which included a member of President Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Council, Rev. Johnnie Moore.
Though many likely bristled at the timing of the visit — considering that 15 of the 19 hijackers from the terrorist attack in 2001 hailed from Saudi Arabia — the group said in a joint statement that it was not incidental.
"While it may surprise some that we would choose the week of September 11 to visit the Kingdom, we actually feel there is no more appropriate time to focus on where the Kingdom must go, can go, and where we believe it is going,” the delegation said in its statement.
“Our visit here on this profoundly important week is in defiance of those that aim to derail reform in the Kingdom through an embrace of hate and fear rather than courage and moderation,” they continued.
MBS has been praised for social reforms enacted since he came to power, including granting Saudi women the right to drive and the freedom to travel without consent from a male guardian; but he has also been criticized for “arresting human rights activists, jailing his political opponents and silencing critics of the regime.”
Most notably, the crown prince was implicated in the torture and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
Rosenberg lamented that U.S. politicians have not taken a greater initiative to communicate and meet with the crown prince, writing: “Saudi Arabia is one of America’s most important strategic allies in the war against radical Islamist terrorism and in countering the rising Iranian threat.
“Yes, there are significant challenges in the U.S.-Saudi relationship, but we urge more Senators to come here, see the sweeping and positive reforms that the Crown Prince is making, and ask him candid questions directly rather than sniping at him from Washington.”