Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah seeks ‘a new, modern society’

| October 26, 2011 | 0 Comments
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, shown here with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, didn’t deserve to be listed as one of the world’s worst despots, writes reader A. Eed Murad.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, shown here with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, didn’t deserve to be listed as one of the world’s worst despots, writes reader A. Eed Murad.

As an avid and loyal reader of Diplomat & International Canada, I was surprised to see a photo of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia included in “The Dirty Dozen” on the cover of your Summer 2011 issue.
After reading what seemed to be an amateurish item about Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, I thought either the editor inadvertently approved the cover, or did not really review the article about the king. A seasoned editor would certainly have objected to the inclusion in The Dirty Dozen of a monarch whose foes and friends alike admit he is doing all that is feasible to modernize the kingdom without incurring the wrath of the solidly entrenched religious dogma in the society.
Despite the incoherence and shallowness, the article reveals encouraging information about the emerging modern Saudi Arabia, thanks to a king whose wisdom and determination are quintessential to moving Saudi Arabia into the 21st Century. But giving the writer the benefit of the doubt, I turned to reference books, to grasp a better understanding of the word “tyrant” and see how it is applicable to a king who, as the article summarizes: “…initiated several minor reforms…” and is “… spending $36 billion on public services and reform.”
Among the many definitions of the word “tyrant” or “dictator,” I did not find a single one that even slightly describes King Abdullah or his rule: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is neither “a cruel and oppressive ruler” nor “a person exercising power or control in a cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary way,” as tyrant and dictator are defined. The King and members of his extended family are strictly bound by Islamic Shari’a (law) and the constitution of the country. One may or may not approve of the constitution but that which does not conform to one’s belief and behaviour is not necessarily wrong or evil.
The King and his government do not rule by force or violence. On the contrary, Saudi Arabia and its government have been more often than not the target of terrorists who conceal themselves behind a thin veil of Islam.
The awakening of the Arab masses, or the “Arab Spring,” is hopefully the beginning of a new era for the Arab World that will eventually bring the 21st Century dawn to the many Arab states. Yes, the price for such a fundamental undertaking may be astronomical without a sure guarantee for the immediate future. It is not, as the article’s author states, “the level of fear in Saudi Arabia” that keeps Saudis from getting aboard, but the fact that the King and the government have mutually realized that, for orderly, beneficial, positive and substantial change to take effect, it has to be gradual and steady. This is what differentiates Saudis, and to a certain extent other Gulf Arabians, from the rest of their brethren. What is happening in Yemen and Libya is a lesson not to be missed.
Change will eventually and certainly take place in Saudi Arabia, not only because of a change of the times and mentality, digital technology, and dissemination of information, but because of a wise and true understanding by the King and his government, who are preparing the young Saudi generation to lead the future kingdom. Change, as some may claim, is very slow, granted, but one must not dismiss the entrenched traditions and culture when judging the pace of progress.
The King and his government’s quest to build a new modern society is best witnessed by the scope of free education at all levels. Per capita, Saudi Arabians may enjoy a world peak in higher education, in the distribution of wealth and in security.
Including King Abdullah in your pack of “Dirty Dozen” is a distortion of facts, or perhaps an intentional twisting of the truth. If accidental, this is regrettable and requires unequivocal retraction and correction.

A. Eed Murad
Scholarship Committee Chair,
The National Press Club of Canada
Foundation Inc.

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Category: Diplomatica

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