Saudi Arabia is going to great lengths to present itself as “moderate”—or at least, as trying to embody “a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions,” as the crown prince recently put it. Early signs suggest that the state's rebranding efforts are working. In May, U.S. President Trump praised the Saudis as they jointly inaugurated a counterterrorism center in Riyadh, and just this week the Israeli military chief expressed unprecedented willingness to share intel with the Saudis, saying that Israel will “exchange information with moderate Arab countries.”
But how does a state associated with fundamentalism “moderate” the religion it promotes? One less-examined mechanism for the attempt is the King Salman Complex, a new center being built for the study of hadith, the reports about Muhammad's sayings and practices that form an important source of guidance for Muslims. And it shows the limits of the “moderation” push.