New Jewel in the Kingdoms Crown

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					                              Issue 14 - July 2008

                              Interfaith Conference

                           For the Sake of
                        Peace and Stability

                                A Peep into the Past

                                      Okaz Soul
                             Wild Life Conservation

                             Breaking Fast
                                with Foxes

                                 King Fahd Academy


  World Heritage Award to
       Madain Saleh

New Jewel in the
Kingdom’s Crown
   Foreword                                                                                                                   1
                                                                                                               Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                      July 2008

                                                                          Let Us All Join
HRH Prince Saud Al-Faisal
    Foreign Minister
                        I  t was a historic conference. The three-day
                           international interfaith conference in Madrid
                        emphasized the need for promoting dialogue
                                                                              of moral values and ethical principles, which
                                                                              are common denominators among such
                                                                              followers, would help strengthen stability and
                        among religions and cultures in order to              achieve prosperity for all humans.
                        strengthen world peace and stability.                      The conference adopted 10 principles that
                             For those who were there, the final              included unity of humankind and the equality
                        declaration rejected the notion of the so-called      of human beings irrespective of their colors,
                        clash of civilizations and warned against             ethnic backgrounds and cultures; purity of the
                        the danger of campaigns seeking to deepen             nature of humans as they were created liking
                        conflicts and destabilize peace and security.         good and disliking evil, inclining to justice and
                             The conference has thoroughly reviewed           avoiding injustice; diversity of cultures and
                        the process of dialogue and its obstacles as well     civilizations.
                        as the catastrophes that afflict humanity and              Other principles adopted included:
                        noted that terrorism is one of the most serious            The heavenly messages aim at realizing the
                        obstacles confronting dialogue and coexistence.       obedience of humankind to its Creator and
                             It has always been Saudi Arabia’s consistent     achieving happiness, justice, security and peace;
                        stand that terrorism is a universal phenomenon             Respecting heavenly religions, preserving
                        that requires unified international efforts to        their high status, condemning any insult to
                        combat it in a serious, responsible and just          their symbols, and combating the exploitation
                        way... This demands an international agreement        of religion in the instigation of racial
                        on defining terrorism, addressing its root causes     discrimination;
                        and achieving justice and stability in the world.          Observing peace, honoring agreements
                             King Abdullah has a universal vision. He         and respecting unique traditions of peoples
                        believes that the followers of different faiths and   and their right to security, freedom and self-
                        cultures, who uphold common values, can play          determination as the basis for building good
                        a big role in solving problems. He said there         relations among all people.
                        was no problem among the various religions.                The conference emphasized the significance
                        The problem is created by the behavior and            of religion and moral values and the need
                        practices of their followers.                         for humans to revert to their Creator in their
                             The conference called for enhancing              fight against crime, corruption, drugs, and
                        common human values and for their                     terrorism, and in preserving the institution of
                        dissemination within societies. It emphasized         the family and protecting societies from deviant
                        the need to promote a culture of tolerance and        behaviors.
                        understanding through dialogue by holding                  There can hardly be two opinions that
                        conferences and developing relevant cultural,         dialogue is one of the most important means
                        educational and media programs.                       for knowing each other. The preservation of the
                             The participants agreed on international         environment and its protection from pollution
                        guidelines for dialogue among the followers of        and other dangers are considered a major
                        religions and cultures. They said the deepening       objective of all religions an d cultures.
                   Issued by
     Institute of Diplomatic Studies
        Ministry of Foreign Affairs
                 Saudi Arabia

            General Supervisor
         Dr. Nizar Bin Obaid Madani
        Minister of State for Foreign Affairs

              Director General
       Ambassador Dr. Saad Alammar
                 Director General
          Institute of Diplomatic Studies

               Advisory Board
           H.H. Prince Ambassador
Dr. Torki bin Mohammad bin Saud Al Kabeer
      Under Secretary for Multilateral Affairs

           H.H. Prince Ambassador
     Khaled bin Saud bin Khaled Al Saud
        Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

 Ambassador Dr. Khalid Ibrahim Al Jindan
       Deputy Minister of Bilateral Relations               4     Interfaith Conference
                                                                  For the Sake of Peace and Stability
              Dr. Adel S. Merdad
      Assistant Professor & Media Consultant                      Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah took the lead in
            Ministry of Foreign Affairs                           convening interfaith conferences to promote reconciliation among
                                                                  followers of all religions.

      Correspondence to be sent to:
        Institute of Diplomatic Studies
                  P.O. Box 51988
                   Riyadh 11553                    King Abdullah’s Interview With
                   Saudi Arabia                    La Republica                                          Bilateral Relations
          Tel. (01) 2199500 Ext. 2014
               Fax. (01) 2011186
                                                   ‘Iraq Is in                                           Expanding
                                                   Dire Need of Being                                    Saudi-Sri-Lankan
                                                   Free from                                             Ties
 Opinions expressed in the magazine do not         External Interference’                                Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman Al-
  necessarily express the viewpoints of the                                                              Jammaz, the Kingdom’s new
                                                   King Abdullah says Iraqis are fully capable           ambassador to Sri Lanka, promises to
Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Institute of
                                                   of maintaining security, promoting stability,         explore new areas of cooperation for
              Diplomatic Studies.                  achieving prosperity and maintaining national         boosting bilateral ties.
                                                   unity. And so nobody should interfere in its
                                                   internal affairs.

                                               10       Madrid Interfaith Conference
                                                        A Landmark in
                                                        The Madinah Charter can be a
                                                                                                                  A company of
                                                        good model of ways to create
                                                        and sustain dialogue in a
                                                        pluralistic society.

                                               18       Makkah Interfaith Conference                          Managing Director

                                                        A Giant Leap                                        Dr. Azzam M. Al-Dakhil

                                                        for Humanity
                                                        King Abdullah has taken a
                                                        huge step forward in bringing
                                                        the world together. He is
                                                        bound to succeed.

                                                         The Role of OIC
                                               13        Dialogue Is
                                                                                                                 P.O. Box 62116
                                                                                                                  Riyadh 11585

                                                         the Key                                                Tel. (01) 4419933
                                                                                                                Fax. (01) 2121774
                                                         The West should not perceive
                                                         the Muslim world as an
                                                         adversary but a partner in                                 Printing

                                                                                                                 P.O. Box 55019
                                                                                                                  Riyadh 11534
32                             30                                       50                                      Tel. (01) 4821313

Big boost to Saudi Tourism    Minorities in the British Media           Changing Landscape of                   Fax. (01) 4829620

New Jewel                                                               Saudi Arabia
in the                        Misconceptions                            Expanding                            Letters to the Editor:
Kingdom’s                     King Fahd Academy in London
                                                                                                       Saudi Specialized Publishing Company
                                                                        The Madinah Knowledge
Crown                         fights back a rather unfair trial
                              by the country’s media.                   Economic City is one of the                P.O. Box 478

The award of World Heritage                                             four cities launched by King               Riyadh 11411
Status to Madain Saleh                                                  Abdullah to make the Kingdom            Tel. (01) 4401602
places Saudi Arabia’s                                                   a high-tech bastion.                    Fax. (01)4401367
heritage on the global map.                                                                             
                    Saudi Arabia
                                      Cover Story

                    Interfaith Conference

                    For the Sake
                    of Peace
                    and Stability
                    Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah takes the lead in convening interfaith
                    conferences to promote reconciliation among followers of all religions.

                    P.K. Abdul Ghafour

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
Diplomat Issue 14
       July 2008
                    Saudi Arabia
                                     Cover Story

W       hen Custodian of the
        Two Holy Mosques
King Abdullah announced
                                    reconciliation, King Abdullah
                                    cautioned against the forces
                                    of extremism, injustice and
                                                                        is for the leaders of world
                                                                        religions to get to know each
                                                                        other and to look for ways to
                                                                                                           US, Adel Al-Jubeir, said he
                                                                                                           believed the conference would
                                                                                                           help reinforce the common
last March his plan to hold an      darkness that often seek            cooperate,” said Abdullah Al-      values shared by different
interfaith conference, skeptics     to exaggerate and exploit           Turki, secretary-general of the    faiths. “The idea stemmed
thought it would not take           differences between cultures        Makkah-based Muslim World          from King Abdullah’s view
place. But King Abdullah kept       and societies for the purpose       League, the main organizer         that there are universal values
his word. Within four months        of instigating conflicts and        of the event. He added that        that are common to all faiths,
he brought together leaders of      wars. “You will find these          Saudi Arabia “affirms to the       and that if we focus on those
world religions in the Spanish      forces in panic when they           whole world its openness and       universal values there is a lot
capital Madrid to accomplish        feel that there is an effort        cooperation with the world         more that binds us as human
his vision and usher in a           to engage in dialogue and           community.”                        beings. If we adhere to those
new era of dialogue among           promote understanding instead            “Islam requires Muslims       values we will be able to
followers of different faiths and   of confrontation and rivalry.       to inform people about Islam       overcome adversity, we will be
cultures, with the objective        These same forces know that         as the final divine message        able to achieve peace, we will
of realizing world peace and        dialogue is the effective way to    that came after the previous       be able to protect the structure
stability.                          abort their evil plans,” he said    prophets, and that they must       of the family, we will be able to
     King Abdullah, who called      in a reference to Al-Qaeda’s        also challenge the link between    maintain values in our society
the interfaith dialogue in          denunciation of the interfaith      Islam and violence and             and our life and essentially
order to end human suffering        dialogue.                           extremism,” the MWL chief          make our world a better place,”
caused by wars and social                The Saudi leader said he       said while speaking about the      he said.
and economic problems,              was optimistic about interfaith     objectives of the conference.           The conference focused
believes that dialogue would        meetings. “My optimism              He hoped the conference            on four major themes: The
help remove mistrust and            stems from the broad positive       would change the minds of          importance of dialogue
suspicions from the minds           response to the call for            the protagonists of the clash of   in human society; the
of believers of different faiths    dialogue from many circles          civilizations. “Some researchers   foundations of religious and
and strengthen human unity.         inside and outside the Muslim       in the West still deal with        civilizational dialogue; the
“A dialogue which emphasizes        world.” Nearly 200 delegates        Islamic civilization thinking      common human aspects in
what we hold in common as           representing Islam, Judaism,        that it would definitely clash     dialogue; and the evaluation
human beings... will make           Christianity, Buddhism,             with the Western civilization,”    and promotion of dialogue.
us realize that values and          Hinduism and other faiths           he pointed out.                    Well-known theologians,
principles uniting us are more      from around the world took               Al-Turki spoke about          political scientists, and
than those dividing us,” the        part in the conference that was     the MWL’s long-standing            sociologists working on issues
King said in an interview with      held at Madrid’s Auditorium         experience in holding              of international cooperation,
La Repubblica, a leading daily      Hotel. Invitees included the        dialogues with leaders of other    human rights, security, peace
newspaper in Italy, one the         secretary-general of the World      faiths in the past 50 years.       and coexistence were invited to
eve of the Madrid conference,       Jewish Congress Michael             He urged the media to work         present papers and take part in
which was held on July 16,          Schneider and Cardinal Jean-        for promoting a culture of         discussions.
2008.                               Louis Tauran, in charge of          dialogue among the followers            “The King is committed
     The King went on: “We          dialogue between the Vatican        of different faiths.               to bring humanity together,
are a nation with a sublime         and Muslims.                             According to Saudi            irrespective of our faiths. This
mission and a deeply rooted              The interfaith conference,     Ambassador to Madrid               is a vehicle that cuts across
cultural heritage. Our religion     which comes after the Saudi         Prince Saud bin Naif, Spain        religion and ethnicities, and
urges us to embrace the             King held talks with Pope           was chosen as the site for the     brings us together as human
principle of dialogue and to        Benedict XVI at the Vatican         conference as it is “a natural     beings,” said Al-Jubeir. “We
cooperate and coexist in peace      in November last year, has          place for this type of dialogue”   think of this conference as a
with others, and promote            sparked interest among Jewish       since for centuries it has been    first step. It is our hope that
understanding, peace, accord        and Christian groups across         home to members of three           it will be followed by many
and good values among               the world. The King “has been       of the world’s great religions.    steps.”
people.”                            calling for this type of dialogue   Furthermore, the UN Alliance            The opening session
     An advocate of peace and       between religions for the past      of Civilizations, aimed at         attended by King Abdullah and
                                    three years,” said Saleh Al-        promoting dialogue between         Spain’s King Juan Carlos was
                                    Namlah, undersecretary at the       different cultures, was the idea   followed by four sessions. The
                                    Saudi Ministry of Culture and       of Spanish Prime Minister Jose     first session on “Dialogue and
6                                   Information.                        Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.           Its Religious & Civilizational
Diplomat Issue 14                        “The aim of the conference          Saudi Ambassador to the       Foundations” was chaired by
July 2008
                                                                                                                       Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                              July 2008

Bawa Jain, secretary-general      Judaism and in oriental creeds   Cultural Foundation for Peace      in Areas of Dialogue” was
of Millennium World Peace         respectively.                    in Spain, spoke on Dialogue        chaired by William F. Vendley,
Summit. During the session,           Saleh Bin-Humaid,            and its Impact on Peaceful         secretary-general of World
Hussain Hamid Hassan of           president of the Shoura          Coexistence. Abdulhadi Tazi,       Conference of Religions
Dubai Islamic Bank spoke          Council in Saudi Arabia,         a member of the Moroccan           for Peace in the US. Nihad
about dialogue in Islam while     presided over the second         Academy, presented a paper         Awad, executive director of
Lebanese Minister of Culture      session that focused on          on Dialogue and Its Impact         Council on American-Islamic
Tariq Mitri, who is member of     “Dialogue and Its Importance     on International Relations         Relations, Muhammad Ali
World Council of Churches,        in Human Society.” Nichiko       while Redwan Al-Sayyed,            Taskheeri, secretary-general,
spoke about dialogue in           Niwano, president, Japan         chairman of International          World Forum for Proximity of
Christianity. Arthur Schneir,     Committee of World               Institute for Islamic Studies in   Islamic Schools of Thought in
founder of Appeal of              Parliament for Religion and      Lebanon, spoke on Dialogue         Iran, Shankaracharya Omkar
Conscience Foundation in the      Peace, presented a paper on      in the Face of Calls for Clash     Anand Saraswati of India and
US and M.M. Verma, director       Dialogue and Interaction         of Civilization and End of         Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot,
of Interfaith Foundation in       of Cultures & Civilizations      History.                           rector of the Pontifical Council
India, also addressed the         while Professor Federico             The third session on           for Inter-Religious Dialogue
session, explaining dialogue in   Mayor Zaragoza, president of     “Common Human Values               at the Vatican, were the
                    Saudi Arabia
                                   Cover Story

           “              The Muslim world should take steps to counter the forces against
                          human progress. We should counter challenges of rigidity, ignorance,
                          narrow-mindedness and make the world accommodate the concepts
                          and the prospects of the kind message of Islam without enmity or
                          antagonism... Islam’s greatness founded the concepts of dialogue and
                          sets its milestones, which are reflected in Allah’s saying, ‘Were Thou
                          severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about

                          Yes, the way to the others is through shared values advocated by
                          the divine messages, which were revealed by Allah for the benefit of
                          humanity to preserve their dignity and promote the ethical values
                          and dealings, which certainly are not in conformity with deception.
                          These values, which reject treason, alienate crime, combat terrorism
                          and despise lying. These lay the bases for good morals, honesty,
                          truthfulness and justice, and enhance the concepts of family values
                          and its cohesion and ethics, which are slowly diminishing at present
                          and disintegrating ties, and where human beings are distancing
                          themselves from their Lord and the teachings of their religion.

                          From the vicinity of the Holy Mosque of Makkah, we begin — with
                          the Will of Allah, and, from there, we will move in our dialogue with
                          the others in confidence derived from our faith in Allah and then
                          from knowledge sought from our tolerant religion. We will argue in
                          ways that are best; what we agree upon we accept it in our hearts,
                          and what we disagree about we refer to the sublime, saying ‘Lakum
                          Deenakum Waliya Deen’ (To you, be your way and to me mine).

                          A dialogue which emphasizes what we hold in common as human
                          beings... will make us realize that values and principles uniting us are
                          more than those dividing us.
                                       Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                                                                          Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                 July 2008

speakers at this session. They     the Culture of Dialogue and              King Abdullah reminded        distancing themselves from
spoke on Ethical Reality in        Coexistence).                       scholars and thinkers of the       their Lord and the teachings of
Contemporary Human Society,             A major meeting of Islamic     purpose of the conference.         their religion.”
Significance of Religion and       experts was held in Makkah          “We are the voice of justice            King Abdullah stressed
Values in Combating Crimes,        last June to prepare for the        and human moral values, and        the importance of the task at
Drugs and Corruption, Role of      Madrid conference. King             we are the voice of rational       hand. “From the vicinity of
Religion and Family in Stability   Abdullah, who opened the            and just coexistence and           the Holy Mosque of Makkah,
of Society and Protection of       Makkah meeting, sought the          dialogue, the voice of wisdom      we begin — with the Will of
Environment as a Common            help of Almighty Allah take up      and admonition. Allah says,        Allah, and, from there, we will
Human Duty respectively.           the Islamic mission of cordial      ‘Invite all to the Way of          move in our dialogue with the
    The fourth session on          dialogue with other faiths.         Thy Lord with wisdom and           others in confidence derived
“Evaluation and Promotion          The King cited Chapter 16,          beautiful preaching; and argue     from our faith in Allah and
of Dialogue” was chaired           Verse 125 of the Holy Qur’an:       with them in ways that are         then from knowledge sought
by Rabbi Caudio Epelman,           “Invite to the Way of the Lord      best’ and Insha Allah, we will     from our tolerant religion,”
secretary-general of Jewish        with wisdom and beautiful           do so.”                            he said. “We will argue in
Congress in Latin America          preaching; and argue with                The Muslim world, he said,    ways that are best; what we
& Caribbean, Argentina.            them in ways that are best and      should take steps to counter       agree upon we accept it in our
The speakers at this session       most gracious.”                     the forces against human           hearts, and what we disagree
                                                                       progress. “This invitation         about we refer to the sublime,
                                                                       from your brother is to            saying ‘Lakum Deenakum
                                                                       counter challenges of rigidity,    Waliya Deen’ (To you, be your
                                                                       ignorance, narrow-mindedness       way and to me mine).”
                                                                       and to make the world                   Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh,
                                                                       accommodate the concepts           the Saudi grand mufti,
                                                                       and the prospects of the kind      endorsed the King’s project and
                                                                       message of Islam without           said the whole Ummah was
                                                                       enmity or antagonism... Islam’s    looking up to the benevolent
                                                                       greatness founded the concepts     King to take the lead and
                                                                       of dialogue and sets its           bringing different communities
                                                                       milestones, which are reflected    of the world together. “He
                                                                       in Allah’s saying, ‘Were Thou      has taken this step with good
                                                                       severe or harsh-hearted, they      intention and this is the only
                                                                       would have broken away from        way of propagating the real
                                                                       about thee.’”                      values of Islam,” Al-Asheikh
                                                                            He also said that hearts      said, adding: “We cannot live
                                                                       are filled by faith, tolerance     in an isolation. We need to
                                                                       and love. “Yes, the way to         cooperate with others to make
                                                                       the others is through shared       the most of advancement in all
                                                                       values advocated by the divine     aspects of life.”
were: Ezzuddin Mustafa of               The King said in his           messages, which were revealed           The Makkah conference
the UAE (Muslim-Christian-         opening speech that those           by Allah for the benefit of        was attended by many leading
Jewish Dialogue: Its Future        amid Muslims that hold              humanity to preserve their         scholars in the Muslim world,
and Horizons), Xue Cheng,          extremist ideologies have           dignity and promote the ethical    including Sheikh Yusuf Al-
vice-chairman, Buddhist            compounded the challenges           values and dealings, which         Qaradawi from Qatar, Sheikh
Association of China (Dialogue     faced by Islam. “The enemies        certainly are not in conformity    Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi,
with Oriental Creeds: Its          of Islam target the salient goals   with deception,” he said.          head of Al-Azhar, Lebanon’s
Future and Horizons), Econos       of Islam such as tolerance          “These values, which reject        Mufti Sheikh Muhammad
Nabbel Haddad, executive           and justice. That is why your       treason, alienate crime, combat    Rasheed Qabbani, Darul
director, Jordanian Center for     brother invited you to assemble     terrorism and despise lying.       Uloom Deoband’s Marghoobur
Religious Coexistence (Efforts     here in order to find ways          These lay the bases for good       Rahman, Organization of
of World Countries and             to counter the challenges of        morals, honesty, truthfulness      the Islamic Conference
Organizations in Augmenting        isolation, ignorance, narrow        and justice, and enhance the       Secretary-General Ekmeleddin
Dialogue and Overcoming            vision and convey to the world      concepts of family values and      Ihsanoglu, Pakistan Jamaat-
Its Obstacles) and Nabil Luka      the broad Islamic messages          its cohesion and ethics, which     e-Islami chief Qazi Hussain
Bibawi, member of Shoura           based on humanitarian               are slowly diminishing at          Ahmed and president of
Council in Egypt (Media and        principles and away from            present and disintegrating ties,   Indian Jamaat-e-Islami Syed
Its Impact on Disseminating        hostility and aggression.”          and where human beings are         Jalaluddin Umari.
                    Saudi Arabia
                                    Cover Story

                        Madrid Interfaith Conference
                        A Landmark in
                        Civilizational Dialogue
                        The Madinah Charter can be a good model of ways to create and sustain dialogue in a
                        pluralistic society.

                        V.A. Mohamad Ashrof*

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                                                                        Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                               July 2008

                                       Dialogue is one of the most effective means in the struggle against negative conditioning,
                                       prejudice, narrow-mindedness and fanaticism. But in order for any dialogue to be effective,

I  t is a known fact that
   through the ages, religious,
cultural, and ethnic differences
                                       certain qualities are needed: Sincerity, humility and interest. By engaging in dialogue with
                                       others we can reduce tensions, conflicts and even wars.

have led to misunderstanding,      to God’s Will).’” (3:64). ‘Do     Prophet Muhammad (peace           quality of morality and human
hostility, and conflict. The       not argue with those who          be upon him) established          worth is to be judged by the
root of conflict is ignorance      were given the Book save in       in Madinah had recognized         person’s moral conduct, rather
and ignorance is the source of     the best way possible, unless     equal rights and obligations      than by his or her membership
prejudice. Through dialogue,       it be those of them who are       of the Jews and Muslims and       in a particular ethnic, religious
we can dispel such ignorance,      given to wrongdoing and           those tribes which were allied    or other group. Of paramount
promote better understanding       therefore not accessible to       to them, whether Muslims          significance are the words of
among cultures and religions,      friendly argument. Say to         or not. The Madinah Charter       the Verse 5:48: “Unto each
while acknowledging and            them: ‘We believe in what         could be a source for answers     of you, we have appointed a
accepting their differences.       has been sent down to us and      to questions about how to         law and a way of life: And if
Dispelling strongly entrenched     what was sent down to you,        live together and how to solve    God had so willed, He could
stereotypes about religious        and your God and our God          and prevent conflicts between     surely have made you all one
communities is not an easy         is one and the same. We are       groups based on differences in    single community, but (He
task, but it remains essential     Muslims wholly submitted to       culture and belief. The Charter   willed it otherwise) in order to
in our current fraught global      Him.”’ (29:46) “Call unto the     represents the principles         test you through what He has
political climate.                 way of thy Lord with wisdom       of law and good and right         given you (of His guidance).
     Dialogue is one of the most   and fair exhortation, and hold    reason, which is higher than      Vie, then, with one another in
effective means in the struggle    discourse with them (the          any individual man. On the        good deeds. Unto God you all
against negative conditioning,     People of the Book) in the        charter, God’s name comes         must return, and then He will
prejudice, narrow-mindedness       finest manner.’ (16:125). ‘Say:   first, as God represents the      let you truly know all that on
and fanaticism. But in             I believe in whatever (divine)    highest good and the highest      which you were wont to differ.’
order for any dialogue to be       book God has bestowed, and        principle of right reason.             The real solution to the
effective, certain qualities are   I am bidden to be just and        Thus, the Madinah Charter         problems of our intolerance
needed: Sincerity, humility        fair with you. God is our Lord    can be a good model of ways       is to embrace and harness
and interest. By engaging in       as well as He is your Lord,       to create and sustain dialogue    the positive energy of its
dialogue with others we can        to us shall be accounted our      in a pluralistic society,         pluralistic make-up through
reduce tensions, conflicts and     deeds, and to you your deeds.     and of ways to build and          the encouragement of various
even wars. Dialogue is possible    Let there be no contention        conduct political and social      types of dialogue. God alone
only when we respect each          between us and you, God           relationships among different     can judge human beliefs
other’s individuality. Thus,       will bring us all together, for   groups. Human diversity or        and deeds according to
knowledge of others in their       with Him is all journeys’ end.”   pluralism is not only inherent    every individual’s intention,
cultural setting is essential.     (42:15)                           in the divine scheme of things,   knowledge and abilities, and
By recognizing and accepting            The Qur’an calls people      but also deliberately designed    no human being has this kind
social, cultural and religious     to accept the former Prophets     to promote understanding          of comprehensive knowledge
diversity, an exchange of          and their Scriptures without      and cooperation among             of another person that is
mutual values takes place.         discrimination. Having            various people. This can be       essential for such a judgment.
     Fourteen centuries ago,       such a condition at the           inferred from the verse of        This is a fact which the Qur’an
Islam made history’s greatest      very beginning seems very         the Qur’an: “We (God) have        repeatedly stresses (2:113; 3:55:
ecumenical call: “O People of      important, especially in the      created you (human beings)        16:124; 22:17, 69; 32:25: 39:3.
the Book! Come to common           matter of interfaith dialogue.    into (different) peoples and      46:7).
terms as between us and            The Qur’an further says: “God     tribes so that you may (all)           People involved in inter-
you: That we worship none          forbids you not, with regard      get to know (understand and       religious and intercultural
but God; that we associate         to those who fight you not for    cooperate with) each other;       dialogue must remain aware
no partners with Him; that         (your) Faith nor drive you out    the most honourable among         of and concerned about the
we take not, from among            of your homes, from dealing       you in the sight of God are       global escalating ecological,
ourselves lords and patrons        kindly and justly with them:      the pious (righteous) ones.”      social, economic, political and
other than God.’ If they turn      for God loves those who are       (49:13)                           financial problems. Dialogue
back, say: ‘Bear witness that      just.” (60:8)                          The last part of the verse   invites us to come together as
we are Muslims (surrenders              Islamic State which          above emphasizes that the         people, not as belief systems.
                    Saudi Arabia
                                      Cover Story

                                                                                                           or innovation, but a revival
                                                                                                           of the most neglected aspect
                                                                                                           of Islam. The world religions
                                                                                                           should move from their
                                                                                                           “approach of converting” to
                                                                                                           an “approach of testifying.”
                                                                                                           Dialogue deliberately seeks to
                                                                                                           identify and dispel common
                                                                                                           stereotypes and inherited
                                                                                                           misconceptions based on
                                                                                                           misinformation. Dialogue is
                                                                                                           the act of talking together,
                                                                                                           especially an open exchange
                                                                                                           of ideas made in an effort by
                                                                                                           persons to understand each
                                                                                                           other’s viewpoints.
                                                                                                                It was surely a landmark
                                                                                                           event when 200 religious
                                                                                                           leaders and scholars engaged
                                                                                                           in rigorous interfaith and
                                                                                                           inter-civilizational dialogue
                                                                                                           in Madrid recently. The aim
                                                                                                           of the Madrid conference
                                                                                                           was to discuss cooperation
                                                                                                           between communities from
                                                                                                           different religions and cultures
                                                                                                           over common human values.
                                                                                                           Such conferences are a great
                                                                                                           opportunity to break down
                                                                                                           the stereotypes, suspicion
King Abdullah shakes hands with                                                                            and bigotry on various
an unidentified Jewish participant                                                                         denominations.
during the World Conference               The selection of Madrid as the venue for the interfaith               There was definitely a
on Dialogue at Pardo Palace in            dialogue was hugely significant. It was in Muslim Spain          historical significance in
Madrid.                                   that adherents of three Abrahamic religions lived in amity,      selecting Madrid as the venue
                                          cooperation and harmony for over six centuries. Jews and         of the interfaith dialogue.
                                          Christians in medieval Europe were welcomed to Muslim            History attests that in
                                          Spain, where they sought to benefit from what Muslim             Muslim Spain, adherents of
                                          scholars had to offer in various fields. It is the Muslim        three Abrahamic religions
                                          works translated into Latin that enlightened Europe and          lived in amity, cooperation
                                          paved the way for its Renaissance.                               and harmony for over six
                                                                                                           centuries. Jews and Christians
                                                                                                           in medieval Europe were
                                                                                                           welcomed to Muslim Spain,
                                          Dialogue is possible only when we respect each other’s
                                                                                                           where they sought to benefit
                                          individuality. Thus, knowledge of others in their cultural
                                                                                                           from what Muslim scholars
                                          setting is essential. By recognizing and accepting social,
                                                                                                           had to offer in various fields. It
                                          cultural and religious diversity, an exchange of mutual
                                                                                                           is the Muslim works translated
                                          values takes place.
                                                                                                           into Latin that enlightened
                                                                                                           Europe and paved the way for
                                     It acknowledges that each            and does not — represent all     its Renaissance.
                                     religious tradition is pluralistic   adherents of that faith.
                                     within itself, and realizes that         Dialogue is truly the        * V.A. Mohamad Ashrof has
                                     each dialogue partner speaks         remedy for the onslaught of      authored several books and
12                                   from a particular religious          terror, chaos and intolerance.   monographs on Islam and
Diplomat Issue 14                    perspective that cannot —            Dialogue is not his invention    contemporary affairs.
July 2008
            OIC                                                                                          13
                                                                                            Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                   July 2008

            The Role of OIC
            Dialogue Is the Key
            The West should not perceive the Muslim world as an adversary but a partner in peace.

            Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu*

            T    he expanded European
                 Union of today has in its
            folds millions of indigenous
                                             and the 15th centuries. The
                                             800 years of Muslim culture
                                             in Spain and in other parts
                                                                            mathematics, algebra
                                                                            (itself an Arabic word),
                                                                            law, history, medicine,
            Muslims who constitute           of Europe have enriched        pharmacology, optics,
            a considerable principal         Western culture and made       agriculture, architecture,
            demographic, intellectual        vital contribution in many     theology, music, etc.
            and cultural component of        fields of human endeavor           When we consider the
            Europe dating from the 8th       — in science, astronomy,       geographic dimension and

demographic reality, we find        attitudes, misperceptions,
that Europe’s boundaries            misgivings, prejudices and
from the 14th to the 21st           ignorance and, above all,
century include parts of the        the failure to recognize
Muslim world, particularly          its perilous implications.
in its southern and eastern         It requires a strong and
regions. Demographically,           determined collective
many Muslims in Europe              political will to address the
such as Albanians, Bosnians,        challenge.
Pomaks, Torbich, Romans                  The first and foremost
and the Turks are actually          action for us would be to
ethnicities of indigenous           determine our priorities
European origin. Besides,           and to bring focus of the
                                                                                         Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu
the millions of Muslims             international community to                                     Secretary-General
who have emigrated to               the core of the issue, which                         Organization of the Islamic Conference
Europe, the US and other            is accepting the reality of
Western countries over              the peaceful coexistence in
the past decades and who            diversity. The bridge that          constructively and frankly            impinge on the values and
have become an integral             we envisage must be laid            toward a set target.                  beliefs that may not conform
component of Western                on strong foundations of a              We must have the                  to those of our own. We
societies, are proud of their       committed political will not        strength to take a hard look          must demonstrate our
Western identity. Then why          only to talk, but also to listen    at ourselves to determine             courage and determination
this gap that should never          and to agree on a solution. In      our strengths and accept              to isolate those who stand
have been allowed to be             this task, all the stakeholders     our weaknesses. At the same           in the way of our efforts of
created in the first place?         would have to come out of           time, we must not stoop low           bridging the gap by resorting
     The gap has been built         the confines of preconceived        to judge the other as a lesser        to incitement, defamation
over time by preconceived           mindsets and to interact            partner, nor should we try to         or denigration of religious

Cross-Cultural Dialogue
East & West: How Do We View Each Other?
This is indeed a question of crucial importance to the success or failure of a cross-cultural dialogue
between the two sides.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu

I  t is well known that our behavior and characteristics
   are influenced by our surroundings. The differences in
geographical and climatic conditions, our varied cultural and
                                                                             As the secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic
                                                                        Conference, I must be frank in drawing attention to widespread
                                                                        misperception that I feel exist in many parts of the West about
religious beliefs, literature, history and traditions, determine        the status of women in Muslim societies. From the reports
our way of life, the dietary habits, our way of dressing and our        that are published in the Western media and deliberations and
attitudes. Those are the factors which make up the diversity of the     lectures at workshops and conferences, one can clearly sense
world population. The realization of this fact is therefore essential   the misconception which depicts women in Muslim societies as
for a successful cross-cultural dialogue.                               being treated as second class citizens, downtrodden and deprived
     The first ingredient to a successful dialogue therefore is that    of their rights and facing innumerable restrictions in leading a
there has to be a two-way communication that should not be              free life.
influenced by any bias or any presumptuous judgmental mindset.               Islam has been a pioneer in upholding the rights of women.
The interlocutors would have to rise above stereotypes and              If you were to go through the Hadith, you would come across a
tendencies of looking down at the other that will surely make the       number of instances where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon
dialogue a farce. The agenda of the dialogue must be dominated          him) had upheld the rights of women, to ensure their rightful
by clear-cut issues of common concern for all women without             place in society as a mother and a homemaker, businesswomen,
14 bias or prejudice linked to religious and cultural beliefs,
any                                                                     etc. He also came out strongly against girl infanticide of the Dark
Diplomat Issue racial backgrounds.
practices or 14                                                         Ages.
July 2008
                                                                                                                      Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                             July 2008

    The Organization of
the Islamic Conference has             “We must have the strength to take a hard look at ourselves to determine our strengths and
been an active player in the           accept our weaknesses. At the same time, we must not stoop low to judge the other as a
process of bridging the gap            lesser partner, nor should we try to impinge on the values and beliefs that may not conform
between the West and the               to those of our own. We must demonstrate our courage and determination to isolate
Muslim world. The OIC                  those who stand in the way of our efforts of bridging the gap by resorting to incitement,
today is the second largest            defamation or denigration of religious sentiments.”
international organization
outside the United Nations.
We can justly take pride that      of building bridges with         the OIC took the lead to          relationship based on mutual
our organization has been          the West beyond rhetoric.        engage with our partners          trust with the European
a pioneer in bringing the          The visionary Ten-Year           and stakeholders in the West      Union and its associated
concept of “Dialogue Among         Program of Action that           in a constructive dialogue        institutions as well as
Civilizations” into the            was adopted by the Third         to remove misgivings about        with the US government.
agenda of the international        Extraordinary Summit             Islam and raise awareness         We have also given our
relations as early as              of the OIC in Makkah in          of the dangers of a growing       unstinted support to the UN
1998 at the UN General             2005 provides a roadmap          trend of Islamophobia. We         High Representative of the
Assembly. Since then, we           for reconciliation and           made it a point to regularly      Alliance of Civilizations.
have remained firm and             healing through promoting        interact with the political       We have also interacted
committed in our outreach          dialogue and mutual respect      leadership and opinion-           extensively with the Western
to the West for meaningful         and condemning and               makers in the West and            civil society.
dialogue among civilizations.      rejecting extremism and          tried to draw them toward             In all our interactions, I
    In recent years, we            terrorism in all its forms and   a meeting of minds. I             have made it clear that the
have expanded the scope            manifestations.                  believe that we were able         Muslim world should not be
and mandate of our                     Since the adoption of the    to make some progress by          perceived as an adversary
activities in taking the task      Ten-Year Program of Action,      developing a close working        but a partner in peace. We

     Today Muslim women
are increasingly getting
aware of their rights to equal         The first ingredient to a successful dialogue is that there has to be a two-way
opportunities and gradually            communication that should not be influenced by any bias or any presumptuous judgmental
getting integrated into the            mindset. The interlocutors would have to rise above stereotypes and tendencies of looking
mainstream of society. They            down at the other that will surely reduce the dialogue to a farce. The agenda of the dialogue
are taking up leadership roles         must be dominated by clear-cut issues of common concern for all without any bias or
in politics and business. With         prejudice linked to religious and cultural beliefs, practices or racial backgrounds.
the passing of time, and with
the alleviation of poverty         security. The primary objective of a cross-       ignoring or downplaying it. It all depends on
that exist in the majority of      cultural dialogue would be the understanding      the question of responsible and sensible exercise
Muslim and Eastern societies,      of diversity of values and removal of             of the right to freedom of expression.
their status will be further       misperceptions. The misconceptions, the                I am strong supporter of people’s right to
strengthened.                      prejudices, the lack of knowledge or proper       know and therefore believe in the freedom of
     The negative view of          understanding of Islamic teachings and values     the media and expression. But I also believe that
Muslims in Western society         must be removed and corrected for the sake of     this freedom cannot be a license to do anything
has been created by a smear        a meaningful engagement between civilizations.    at will. It carries a great responsibility that has
campaign launched by               In this important objective, the role of the      to be exercised with care and that much sagacity
motivated radical groups and       media is very important.                          that it is not inflammatory, discriminatory
individuals to defame Islam            Here I must underscore the crucial role       or causing hurt and insult to people of other
and profile Muslims. If this       of the media for a successful cross-cultural      religious and cultural beliefs.
state of affairs is allowed to     dialogue. In present day information society,          Perhaps the greatest harm done by the
prolong or go uncorrected,         the media can use its influence to shape state    media in cross-cultural relationship has been its
it will pose a danger to the       policies and the attitudes of the leadership      insensitivity to sentiments held most sacred by
diversity of world civilizations   and of the common person. It can inflame the      religions and cultures. This has been inflicted
and cultural beliefs and           insignificant into major conflagrations and at    on the Muslims than others. The two most
endanger global peace and          the same time suppress a major issue by simply    glaring examples of this are the caricatures Contd

underscored the point that
our objective was not to
preach but to communicate;             “The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has been an active player in the process
to understand and to be                of bridging the gap between the West and the Muslim world. The OIC today is the second
understood. We emphasized              largest international organization outside the United Nations. We can justly take pride
that the commonalities                 that our organization has been a pioneer in bringing the concept of ‘Dialogue Among
between Islam and the                  Civilizations’ into the agenda of the international relations as early as 1998 at the UN
Christian traditions and               General Assembly. Since then, we have remained firm and committed in our outreach to
culture of the West far                the West for meaningful dialogue among civilizations.”
outweigh the differences and
that these commonalities           scourge of Islamophobia,          and publications against           media, being almost entirely
are the foundations that will      which is perhaps the              symbols that are sacred            in Western possession, make
hold us together and not set       biggest impediment that           to Muslims. The most               this unholy competition
us apart. In this, I have on       is keeping alive the gap          recent incidents in the            almost totally lopsided. The
several occasions called for       between the West and the          campaign of Islamophobia           repeated acts of incitement
a historical reconciliation        Muslim world. A marginal          are the reprinting of the          and insult do not augur
between the Muslims and            group of individuals and          cartoons and the film              well for the international
the Christians similar to          organizations are actively        “Fitna” denigrating Prophet        community. The
what has been achieved             involved in targeting             Muhammad (peace be upon            perpetrators of hatred may
between Christianity and           Muslims and Islam in              him) and the Holy Qur’an.          be limited in their number
Judaism. I firmly believe that     a campaign of hate and            This is not to say that I          but their outreach is long
this is an achievable target       discrimination. Of late,          am absolving those few             and widespread in fanning
and would go a long way in         this trend is on the rise.        in the Muslim world who            anger and distrust between
bridging the gap between           The hate-mongers have             are involved in preaching          the West and the Muslim
the two worlds that we are         resorted to incite passion        intolerance. But the               world.
speaking about.                    and unrest by inflammatory        technological advancement              We are encouraged
    Then there is the              and incendiary remarks            and the ownership of the           to see, however, that an

East & West: How Do We View Each Other?

of Prophet Muhammad                in the information society. And in view of the      the West is a decadent and impure society. I do
by a Danish newspaper in           unprecedented power of modern-day media             not concur with these views.
2005 and repeated earlier          to influence events and attitudes, they have             The globalization of our present day world
this year and the film Fitna       a crucial role in the responsible and correct       has transformed our lifestyle, our outlook and
produced by a Dutch politician     handling of the media and help in raising           attitudes totally. Civilizations and communities
denigrating the Holy Qur’an.       awareness of the dangerous implications of          have been brought closer in proximity and
These are just two examples        religious intolerance including Islamophobia.       there is nothing that one can hide or ignore.
of a motivated campaign by a            I, however, feel that it would not be fair     It is, therefore, of utmost importance how we
marginal few who are active in     to put the whole blame on the Western media         handle globalization because it is a tool that
driving a wedge between the        on the question of intolerance. Some Muslim         can bring us immense benefits or harm us. The
West and Islam. Regretfully,       media organizations should also bear the            developments in ICT such as the internet and
these actions were defended        responsibility of contributing to intolerance and   satellite cable television has brought cultures
in the name of freedom of          distorting other cultures and civilizations. I am   that were once distant and obscure, right into
expression. Women can play         referring to certain Muslim websites and media      our living room. Men, women and children are
a crucial role in addressing       organizations run by extremist elements that are    exposed to this intrusion.
this issue by including it as a    active in encouraging Muslims to believe that            The Internet is like a wild horse that
priority issue in the agenda of
their cross-cultural dialogue.
      I raised issue of
Islamophobia and religious             The negative view of Muslims in Western society has been created by a smear campaign
intolerance because women are          launched by motivated radical groups and individuals to defame Islam. If this state of
increasingly 14 getting involved
Diplomat Issue                         affairs is allowed to prolong or go uncorrected, it will pose a danger to the diversity of
and playing a decisive role
July 2008                              world civilizations and cultural beliefs and endanger global peace and security.
                                                                                                                             Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                    July 2008

awareness of the dangers
of Islamophobia is
gradually setting in the
West. The condemnations
by many Western leaders
and governments of
Islamophobic acts such
as “Fitna” are positive
confidence building
measures that lead us to
believe that all is not lost
and that the gap can be
closed in time. But mere
condemnation or distancing
from the acts of the
perpetrators of Islamophobia
will not resolve the issue
as long as they remain
free to carry on with their
campaign of incitement and
provocation on the plea of
freedom of expression.

*Professor Ekmeleddin
Ihsanoglu is secretary-general of
the Jeddah-based Organization
of the Islamic Conference.

needs to be tamed so that
we can control it rather than
be controlled by it. Let our            The issue of morality often comes up in a cross-cultural debate. But morality has an
distinguished experts put               accepted definition and its dimension is a matter of perception. What is moral in one
their minds together on this            society can be perceived as immoral in another. But there is also a common meeting point,
issue of vital importance.              when we consider its implications on a given society.
Considering the all important
role of women as mothers
and homemakers and genuine          that would be damaging to their overall growth.       prevails in the West.
partners in society, their              The issue of morality often comes up in                At the same time it would not be correct for
voice on this issue must be         a cross-cultural debate. But morality has an          the East to view the West as decadent society,
strong and their message            accepted definition and its dimension is a            where family values are disintegrating, where
heeded by the managers              matter of perception. What is moral in one            unrestricted permissiveness are destroying
of Internet websites. Can           society can be perceived as immoral in another.       the social fabric of the Western society. Such
we imagine the horror and           But there is also a common meeting point,             attitudes are more than often influenced by
perilous consequences on            when we consider its implications on a given          some movies which surely do not mirror the
a child having access to the        society.                                              Western society truthfully or with responsibility.
revolting images posted                 One has to accept that changes and                     In conclusion let me say that in this world,
on many Internet websites.          transformation of social values that have taken       we have to live and let live. This would be best
The media therefore has to          place in the West since the latter part of the last   achieved when we are in a position to know
exercise its responsibility and     century may be perceived as not conforming to         and learn more about each other in a cross-
caution to take into account        what was traditionally considered moral. This         cultural dialogue. It has been my experience
the sensitivities of cultural       perception, in my view should not be a bone of        that in certain cases, women are more serious
diversity and avoid disrespect      contention. The West would have to understand         than men in achieving the targets. I, therefore,
or denigration of religious         and appreciate that Muslim societies are based        feel confident that this meeting will set forth a
and cultural values as well the     on strong traditional values and very strong          momentum that will only gain in strength in the
exposure of children to images      family ties which would differ from the one that      days ahead.
                    Saudi Arabia
                                    Cover Story

                        Makkah Interfaith Conference
                        A Giant Leap for
                        King Abdullah has taken a huge step forward in bringing the world
                        together. He is bound to succeed.

                        Shaukat Piracha*

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                                                                         Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                July 2008

T    he international
     conferences on interfaith
dialogue by Custodian of                The world, if rated in terms of conflicts within monolithic religions as well as with followers
the Two Holy Mosques King               of non-monolithic faiths, is passing through one of the most difficult times in the known
Abdullah are novel initiatives.         history of civilizations.
Never in the history of religions
has an initiative like this been
                                    will certainly deny a victory    patronage of King Abdullah          peace and harmony is also
so timely and so significant in
                                    to those who attempt to          is of high value in itself. Saudi   emanating from Makkah.
light of the so-called theory of
                                    use religion to divide all       Arabia is respected in the              Another important
the clash of civilizations and
                                    of humanity, regardless of       Muslim world for obvious            aspect of the recent Makkah
the loose talk about the return
                                    whether this is on the basis     reasons. King Abdullah              conference was the status
of the Crusades.
                                    of objectionable sketches in     himself commands high               of the participants who
     On the one hand, the
                                    Denmark, the anti-Qur’an         respect in the entire Muslim        were mostly of a religious
world, if rated in terms of
                                    film in The Netherlands          Ummah and any message               background in that they
conflicts within monolithic
                                    or through the killing of        emanating from Makkah               were part of a religious
religions as well as with
                                    innocent human beings            is always binding for the           movement or ran religious
followers of non-monolithic
                                    anywhere.                        followers of this religion of       centers in different parts
faiths, is passing through
                                        The critical significance    peace. A simple connotation         of the world from South
one of the most difficult
                                    of the timing and venue of       can be derived that the             Korea to North America. In
times in the known history
                                    the international conference     religion of peace sprouted          general terms, the West, the
of civilizations. The initiative
                                    on interfaith dialogue           from Makkah, and now the            Western media and liberals
taken by King Abdullah
                                    notwithstanding, the             message of dialogue for global      in the Muslim world accuse
                    Saudi Arabia
                                     Cover Story

                        Al- Sheikh Abdul Aziz                                               Nuhammad Tantawi

                                    these religious leaders of     of the three-day Makkah          on the right path.” However,
                                    spreading hate against non-    Conference, one of the           these religious scholars not
                                    Muslims. These perceptions     leading religious-political      only actively participated
                                    or misperceptions are not      leaders was heard saying,        in the three-day discourse
                                    altogether unfounded, as       “We are on the right path        and provided their precious
                                    most of these scholars feel    and they (West) on the           input, but also endorsed the
                                    themselves too righteous to    wrong path. There could          Makkah Declaration at the
                                    be amenable to new ideas.      either be no dialogue with       end of the conference.
                                        Even during the course     them or they should join us          However, the nomination

                                        The initiative taken by King Abdullah will certainly deny a victory to those who attempt
                                        to use religion to divide all of humanity, regardless of whether this is on the basis of
                                        objectionable sketches in Denmark, the anti-Qur’an film in The Netherlands or through the
20                                      killing of innocent human beings anywhere.
Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                                                                     Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                            July 2008

                                                                with these communities            necessarily be conceived as
                                                                should have been there or         an anti-Muslim alliance. It
                                                                should have been engaged in       goes to the credit of the US
                                                                preliminary discussions.          to finally save the Bosnian
                                                                     The final outcome i.e.       Muslims from the agonizing
                                                                the declaration was quite         onslaught of the Serbians.
                                                                universal in its approach         The anti-war protests over the
                                                                and quite balanced in its         US war on Iraq were far huge
                                                                content. On the one hand, it      in size and human numbers
                                                                duly addressed the Ummah’s        in major cities of the US, the
                                                                concerns about the prevailing     UK, France, Germany or
                                                                misperception of Islam in         Belgium than in any city of
                                                                the Western world. On the         the Muslim world. The larger
                                                                other hand, it also talked        majority in the Western
                                                                about universal issues like       world wants peaceful co-
                                                                ensuring the sanctity of the      existence with other religions,
                                                                family system or even raising     including Islam.
                                                                environmental issues.                  The interfaith dialogue
                                                                     Many participants, during    initiated by King Abdullah
                                                                the conference, were of the       is about working together
                                                                view that there should first be   and creating genuine
                                                                a dialogue within the Muslim      understanding among the
                                                                world on sectarianism,            followers of all religions. If
                                                                obscurantism, superstitions       the Makkah conference was
                                                                etc. There were also vague        a big event, the challenges to
                                                                comments of the West being        this process are still bigger.
                                                                unprepared for a dialogue, as     The dialogue could break out
                                                                it has a superiority complex      if the Western arrogance or
                      Abdullah Al Turki                         like the white man’s burden       a sense of racial supremacy
                                                                etc. Both these percepts are      dominates itself or the
                                                                neither absolute in their         Muslim dogmatism or pride
                                                                veracity nor do they deem         of being on “the right path”
                                                                fitting in the contemporary       does not create “flexibilities.”
                                                                international framework. In            The question of how to
                                                                order to negate the impression    keep hardliners and liberals
                                                                of holding dialogue within        involved and engaged at the
of the participants in          Retired diplomats from          the Muslim world and not          same time is quite difficult.
the Makkah Conference           Muslim countries could          approaching the West, it is       Interfaith dialogue is a
should have been more           have provided adequate          sufficient to point out that      long journey to a humane
representative of Muslim        feedback of their experiences   former Iranian President Ali      destination. A Chinese
societies across the world.     in working with Christians,     Akbar Hashmi Rafsanjani           proverb says, “A thousand
As mentioned earlier, most      Jews, Hindus, Buddhists,        was sitting along with King       miles journey starts with a
of the participants were of     etc. Scholars such as Dr.       Abdullah at the inauguration      single step.” King Abdullah
religious backgrounds. This     Rasool Bakhsh Rais, former      of the conference. His            has not only taken the first
phenomenon provides a gap;      foreign secretaries such as     presence speaks volumes           step towards interfaith
scholars of international       Shamshad Ahmad Khan,            of togetherness if not the        dialogue. He has already
relations or international      Riaz Muhammad Khan and          unanimity when it comes to        taken a giant leap.
diplomacy from the              A.G. Noorani could have         dialogue with the non-Muslim
Muslim world should also        contributed immensely with      world.                            * Shaukat Piracha is a senior
have been invited. It is not    their expertise.                     Secondly, if Jews and        television journalist based in
naïve to invite religious            The purpose of the event   Christians in the United          Islamabad. He was a special
scholars, but this should be    was to initiate a dialogue      States, or Israel and India       media invitee at interfaith
limited to those who deal       with Christians and Jews etc.   on the global scenario            conferences in Makkah and
with international politics.    Those who have interacted       seem aliened, it should not       Madrid.

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                                              Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                     July 2008

                King Abdullah’s Interview With

      ‘Iraq Is in
 Dire Need of Being
      Free from
External Interference’
  King Abdullah says Iraqis are fully capable of maintaining security, promoting stability,
  achieving prosperity and maintaining national unity. And so nobody should interfere in
                                     its internal affairs.

                                I  n a recent wide-ranging
                                   interview with Italy’s leading
                                national daily La Repubblica,
                                                                    of dialogue and call upon us
                                                                    to cooperate and coexist in
                                                                    peace with others, to promote
                                                                                                       urged us to do the same. The
                                                                                                       policy of Saudi Arabia is also
                                                                                                       based on these principles.
                                The Custodian of the Two Holy       understanding, peace, accord            Q: What is the current
                                Mosques King Abdullah spoke         and good values among all          status of dialogue with the
                                on a host of issues. Following is   humans. My optimism stems          Vatican after your historic
                                the text of the interview:          from the broad positive            visit to Pope Benedict XVI?
                                     Q: What prompted               response to the call for           Do you expect the coming
                                you to call for convening           dialogue, both from inside         dialogue to help heal the
                                the Madrid conference on            the Muslim world and from          deep wounds suffered by
                                dialogue of religions, and to       various religious and cultural     both sides and allay Muslims’
                                invite believers of different       circles around the world.          fear of new Crusades and
                                religions and cultures from             Q: You organized               Christians’ fear of extremists
                                all over the world? What            an international Islamic           who threaten Western values
                                are the results you hope            conference in Makkah. Do           and cultures? What is your
                                for? What makes you so              you see that conference as         response to Al-Qaeda’s
                                concerned about the fate of         an opportunity provided to         denunciation of the dialogue
                                humanity in this world?             improve relations between          among religions?
                                     A: The need for dialogue       Muslim countries, as well               A: We can remove
                                between believers of different      as those between Sunnis            mistrust and suspicions
                                religions and cultures is           and Shiites? You entered the       from our minds through
                                called for by the current           Conference Hall holding the        the principle of dialogue. A
                                world conditions and the            hands of the grand mufti of        dialogue that underscores
                                many crises faced by human          Saudi Arabia and former            human commonalities that
                                communities. Also, the              Iranian President Rafsanjani.      find expression in all religions,
                                growing challenges threaten         Does this picture symbolize        beliefs and cultures. They
                                to worsen existing economic,        better understanding               all call for good in all its
                                political and social problems       between the two countries          forms, and reject evil in all
                                and deepen human suffering.         and the two sects?                 its manifestations. We will
                                Such a situation prevails at a          A: We always look forward      then realize that values and
                                time of widespread injustices,      to establish accord and peace      principles that unite us are
                                corruption and immorality,          not only among Muslims with        more than those dividing
                                and the breakup of the              their various sects, but also      us. The differences that exist
                                family — the basic unit of all      among all the peoples of the       between cultures and societies
                                societies. Humanity is moving       world with all their beliefs.      are a fact of life. But it is forces
                                away from noble values and          Muslim scholars have not           of extremism, injustice and
                                principles that form the            encountered difficulties in        darkness that often seek to
                                essence of all religions and        their Islamic conference in        exaggerate and exploit these
                                beliefs. We are part of this        Makkah in terms of stressing       differences for the purpose of
                                world. We influence and are         the principle of dialogue, since   instigating conflicts and wars,
                                influenced by it. We are a          dialogue is an integral part of    thus bringing about a chaotic
                                nation of a sublime mission         our Islamic teachings. God         situation around the world.
                                and deeply rooted cultural          ordered us to have dialogue in     That is why we find them
                                heritage. Our religion urges        the Qur’an, and Our Prophet        always in panic when they feel
                                us to embrace the principle         (peace be upon him) also           that there is an effort to engage

                                    “Stability of the world oil market is the common goal of both the producers and the
                                    consumers, and we are striving hard to reach it. In spite of the fact that the Kingdom and
                                    a number of oil-producing countries have raised their production capacity, we have not
                                    detected a positive response in the international oil market. This demonstrates the extent of
24                                  the effect of other causes and factors on the market prices outside the framework of supply
Diplomat Issue 14                   and demand – most importantly, speculations in the international oil market and the
July 2008                           imposition in many oil-consuming nations of additional taxes on imported oil.”
                                                                                                                        Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                               July 2008

in dialogue and promote
understanding instead of
confrontation and rivalry.             “Nuclear proliferation in the region does not serve its security and stability. We hope that
These same forces know that            all countries of the region will follow the policy of the GCC and the Arab League to make
dialogue is the effective way to       the Middle East and the Gulf region free of all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear
abort their evil religions and         weapons. As regards the Iranian nuclear issue, we call for abandoning the language of
human beliefs, and inherent            tension and escalation, and the adopting of diplomatic solutions to solve this issue. As long
human nature.                          as diplomatic efforts are still active and ongoing, I do not think there is room for discussing
     Q: The G-8 met after the          other options.”
Jeddah Energy Meeting, in
an attempt to resolve the
crisis of rising crude oil
prices. But expectations are
not optimistic and prices
are continuing to rise. What
bothers you most about
the consequences of this
international crisis? And
what are, in your opinion,
the main reasons for the
continuous rise in oil prices?
     A: Stability of the world
oil market is the common
goal of both the producers
and the consumers, and we
are striving hard to reach
it. In spite of the fact that
the Kingdom and a number
of oil producing countries
have raised their production
capacity, we have not detected
a positive response in the
international oil market. This
demonstrates the extent of
the effect of other causes and
factors on the market prices
outside the framework of
supply and demand – most
importantly, speculations in
the international oil market
and the imposition in many
oil-consuming nations of           consumer, is the guarantor          of dialogue and to coordinate   other. These efforts include a
additional taxes on imported       to stabilize international          between producers and           fund for energy, environment
oil. Saudi Arabia called for a     oil market. We followed             consumers. In the context of    and climate change, as
meeting of oil-consuming and       up closely the meeting of           our endeavor to protect the     initiated by the Kingdom and
oil-producing countries in         the G-8, and the resulting          environment and to address      announced during the third
Jeddah to discuss the current      resolutions, including a call for   global climate change, Saudi    OPEC summit in Riyadh.
situation of the oil market.       dialogue between producers          Arabia had established King     Saudi Arabia contributed $300
We believe that strengthening      and consumers. It may be            Abdullah Center for Oil         million to this effort. I might
cooperation between the            important to note here that         Research and Studies in order   add that this program will
parties in tackling the global     a World Energy Forum has            to seek technology that would   fund research in many areas
oil situation, with all the        already been established, with      preserve the environment on     including carbon emissions.
variables that influence and       Riyadh hosting its secretariat-     one hand and contribute to      We urge the G-8 to support
impact the price of oil to the     general to achieve the goals        global economic growth on the   these existing programs and

projects rather than duplicate
efforts in similar programs.
     Q: Food shortage is the
second crisis affecting the
world after the oil crisis.
What is the scenario you
see that would occur in the
future regarding the scarcity
of food and the causes of the
food shortage? Will Saudi
Arabia follow the example of
China and invest in the fertile
lands in other countries to
ensure food security in the
     A: The world has to put
this crisis on the top of its list
                                     produce and providing             parallel program and allocate      by you in 2002. What made
of priorities. It must redouble
                                     food to the world in order        $1 billion to it. Saudi Arabia     you put forward this peace
the effort internationally to
                                     to alleviate the crisis. Third:   announced its readiness            initiative? Is this peace plan
address the food crisis because
                                     We have been working to           to financially contribute to       still in place? Can it still
it has a direct bearing on the
                                     strengthen international          these programs within the          be implemented? After 60
life of every human being.
                                     cooperation to solve the          framework to be agreed             years of establishing the
Saudi Arabia has dealt with
                                     crisis through our call at the    upon. Also, we have allocated      state of Israel, is it closer to
this crisis at three main levels:
                                     Jeddah Energy Conference          $500 million of low-interest       living in peace with its Arab
First: It has supported the
                                     to launch the “energy for the     loans through the Saudi            neighbors?
World Food Program (WFP)
                                     poor” initiative, which aims to   Development Fund to finance             A: The Arab Peace
with $500 million in response
                                     enable developing countries       projects that help developing      Initiative reflects the overall
to a worldwide appeal to cope
                                     to meet the increasing energy     countries obtain energy and        sincere and serious will of the
with the increase in global fuel
                                     costs. We called on the World     initiate other development         Arabs for achieving a just,
prices and food commodities.
                                     Bank to hold a meeting as         projects. Undoubtedly, these       lasting and comprehensive
Second: It is pursuing a
                                     soon as possible for donor        objectives require efforts from    peace in the Middle East on
medium- and long-term
                                     countries as well as regional     all countries.                     the basis of international
strategy to launch agricultural
                                     and international financial            Q: The continuation of        legitimacy and laws. The Arab
investment initiatives aimed at
                                     institutions to discuss this      the Arab-Israeli conflict          Peace Initiative is regarded
developing agricultural output
                                     initiative and put it into        poses a third challenge.           as one of the main points of
in countries that have the
                                     effect. We proposed to the        In case of failure of the          reference in the peace process,
prerequisites for agriculture.
                                     Council of Ministers of the       Annapolis conference, the          which the Arab Summit in
Saudi Arabia has agricultural
                                     OPEC Fund for International       only remaining peace plan          Riyadh has reemphasized. In
experience, technology and
                                     Development to meet and           on the table is the Arab           addition to the Arab Peace
capital to invest in this area.
                                     consider the adoption of a        Peace Initiative presented         Initiative, there are several
The initiative is not only
limited to buying land or
even leasing them; it also
includes technology transfer
and exchange of expertise,
development of agricultural
companies, and other steps               “The Arab Peace Initiative reflects the overall sincere and serious will of the Arabs for
that would contribute to                 achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of
increasing agricultural                  international legitimacy and laws. The Arab Peace Initiative is regarded as one of the main
                                         points of reference in the peace process. In addition to the Arab Peace Initiative, there are
                                         several international initiatives aimed at advancing the peace process in the region. But
                                         all these efforts and initiatives are still colliding with an Israeli policy of rejection and of
                                         continuously seizing more Palestinian land, building new settlements, expanding existing
26                                       ones, imposing all kinds of unjust restrictions and laying siege on the Palestinian people in
Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008                                clear defiance of all international laws and ethical principles.”
                                                                                                                            Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                   July 2008

international initiatives aimed
at advancing the peace process
in the region. But all these            “Observers of Saudi Arabia’s efforts in fighting terrorism will note the significant
efforts and initiatives are             achievements we have made in fighting this scourge and sedition over the past year. These
still colliding with an Israeli         achievements would not have been possible without the blessing of God, the courage and
policy of rejection and of              sacrifices of the security forces, and the Saudi people standing united in confronting this
continuously seizing more               phenomenon extraneous to their religion, society and culture. Since the beginning of the
Palestinian land, building              recent terrorist attacks in the Kingdom, we adopted a comprehensive strategy to fight it.”
new settlements, expanding
existing ones, imposing all         of Israel? Israel has recently      European, Islamic or Arab,        but it also includes fighting
kinds of unjust restrictions and    conducted military exercises        we will not hesitate to support   financing of terrorism, and
laying siege on the Palestinian     simulating an attack on Iran.       it as long as it is sincere and   dealing with its intellectual
people in clear defiance of all     What will be the results of         serious in dealing with these     roots through the adoption
international laws and ethical      such an attack?                     crises, and as long as it aims    of an integrated program
principles. Whenever the                  A: Nuclear proliferation in   at achieving regional security,   for defying the deviant
Arabs and the world make a          the region does not serve its       stability and prosperity,         thought and rehabilitating
step forward toward peace,          security and stability. We hope     including the legitimate rights   its followers by giving them
Israel embarks on polices           that all countries of the region    of the people of the region.      counseling and advice. In
of injustice and aggression         follow the policy of the GCC        Our international friendships     this regard we called for an
against the Palestinian people.     and the Arab League to make         are based on the defense of       international conference to
Therefore, the international        the Middle East and the Gulf        those rights and interests of     combat terrorism, which
community is urged, more            region free of all weapons of       the region and its peoples and    was convened in Riyadh.
than ever, to deal seriously        mass destruction and nuclear        nothing else.                     The conference called for
with the Israeli intransigence,     weapons. As regards the                  Q: What has Saudi Arabia     the establishment of a
so that the longest crisis in       Iranian nuclear issue, we call      achieved so far in combating      counterterrorism center
modern history would find its       for abandoning the language         terrorism? Do you think that      for the purpose of prompt
way to solution.                    of tension and escalation, and      you have defeated Al-Qaeda        exchange of information and
      Q: Are you concerned          the adopting of diplomatic          and rid the country of its        for preemptive measures
about Iran strengthening its        solutions to this issue. As         supporters? Or is there a         to prevent terrorist action.
power in Iraq?                      long as diplomatic efforts are      need for more efforts to be       However, the proposed
      A: Iraq is in dire need       still active and ongoing, I do      exerted? Is the world making      center is yet to be established
of being free from external         not think there is room for         enough efforts to fight           in spite of the support of
interference by any party in its    discussing other options. The       terrorism?                        many members of the world
internal affairs so that it can     responsibility about statements          A: Observers of the Saudi    community. In addition,
move forward in its efforts         made by certain countries lies      efforts in fighting terrorism     we are working assiduously
to achieve security, stability      with the countries making           must feel the significant         toward closer regional and
and prosperity and maintain         these statements.                   achievements we have made         international cooperation to
its national unity, sovereignty           Q: Some people believe        in fighting this scourge and      confront the phenomenon.
and territorial integrity. The      that the United States has          sedition over the past year.      We are continuing with our
Iraqi people are capable of         lost its traditional influence      These achievements would not      efforts in this strategy till we
achieving these objectives          in the region because of            have been possible without the    completely eliminate this
with a sincere and serious          its policies and because            blessing of God, the courage      phenomenon and dry up
national will and a full sense of   of the emergence of other           and sacrifices of the security    its sources and the deviant
singular nationhood shared by       competitive forces looking          forces, and the Saudi people      thought leading to it. We still
all Iraqis regardless of ethnic     for a role. What do you             standing united in confronting    believe that the international
backgrounds and political and       think of this? Has it become        this phenomenon extraneous        community can exert better
religious affiliations.             difficult for America’s friends     to their religion, society and    efforts in close cooperation
      Q: Does Iran have the         to continue defending it?           culture. Since the beginning      and coordination to tighten
right to continue its nuclear             A: We think that the          of the recent terrorist           the noose on terrorist
program? What is the                situation in the region requires    attacks in the Kingdom, we        networks wherever they exist,
extent of damage caused             every possible international        adopted a comprehensive           and deprive them of any safe
by President Mahmoud                effort in light of the difficult    strategy to fight it. This        haven that could be used to
Ahmadinejad’s statements            crisis it faces. Whether this       strategy does not depend          threaten the international
concerning the elimination          effort is American, Russian,        on its security side only,        community.
                    Saudi Arabia

                                                                  Bilateral Relations
                                                                  Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman Al-Jammaz, the Kingdom’s new
                                                                  ambassador to Sri Lanka, promises to explore new areas of
                                                                  cooperation for boosting bilateral ties.

                                                                  Mohammed Rasooldeen

                                                                  T    he new Saudi Ambassador
                                                                       to Sri Lanka, who took
                                                                  over duties in Colombo in
                                                                                                            In an interview with
                                                                                                       Diplomat, Al-Jammaz said
                                                                                                       he would initially focus on
                                                                  April this year, says that his top   exchange of high-level political
                                                                  priority is to promote political     and business visits between
                                                                  and economic relations               the two countries. A visit by
                                                                  between the two countries and        Prince Alwaleed bin Talal to
                                                                  strengthen bilateral ties.           Colombo on an invitation from
                                                                       Ambassador Abdul Aziz           the Sri Lankan government
Saudi Ambassador to Sri Lanka Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman Al-Jammaz
                                                                  Abdul Rahman Al-Jammaz               is on the cards; the Saudi
with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo.
                                                                  succeeded Ambassador                 mission in Colombo and the
                                                                  Mohammed Mahmud Al-                  Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh
                                                                  Ali, who went to Pretoria in         are currently coordinating with
                                                                  December as the Kingdom’s            the relevant authorities to make
                                                                  new ambassador to South              it happen soon, Al-Jammaz
                                                                  Africa. Al-Jammaz will also be       said, hoping the visit would
                                                                  accredited to Maldives during        pave the way for more avenues
                                                                  his tenure in Colombo.               of cooperation between the
                                                                       A graduate, who                 two countries. He added that
                                                                  specialized in geography at          regular exchange of visits
                                                                  the Imam Muhammad bin                between the two countries
                                                                  Saud University in Riyadh,           would bring Saudi Arabia and
                                                                  Al-Jammaz counts 27 years of         Sri Lanka closer and would
                                                                  experience in the Kingdom’s          create a new environment for
                                                                  foreign service. During his          greater cooperation for mutual
28                                                                career, he has served in Accra,      interests.
Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                  London, Brussels and Amman.               During his meeting with
                                                                                                                                Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                       July 2008

the president, the envoy
extended an invitation to Sri
Lankan President Mahinda                 “We have a special place in our hearts for the Sri Lankan Muslims who form seven percent
Rajapaksa to visit the Kingdom.          of the island’s 20 million population. While assisting the other communities, we also would
Sri Lankan Petroleum and                 like to help distressed Muslims in all parts of the island.”
Petroleum Resources Minister
Abdul Hameed Fowzie,                While assisting the other            he said, adding that the wheels       rupees for the Mahaweli Ganga
Parliamentary Affairs Minister      communities, we also would           of justice is fair to all living in   Development Project System B
Mohamed Haniffa Mohamed,            like to help distressed Muslims      Saudi Arabia.                         Left Bank in 1984.
Construction and Engineering        in all parts of the island,” he           Saudi Arabia is currently             Speaking about his
Services Minister Dr. Rajitha       stressed. Even this year, he said    building a 2.25 billion rupee         other priorities, Al-Jammaz
Senaratne and Deputy Foreign        Saudi Arabia would be sending        worth Epilepsy and Diagnosis          said he hopes to shift the
Minister Hussein Bhaila also        200 metric tons of dates to          Hospital in Colombo, which            present Saudi mission to a
visited the Kingdom in the past     Sri Lanka for the Muslims to         will be the first of its kind         better location in Colombo
three months.                       enable people on the island to       in Sri Lanka. It has already          to improve its services. “The
     Recently, he said a four-      break fast during the month of       completed a Neuro-Trauma              mission will soon be moved
member Saudi trade delegation       Ramadan.                             Hospital in Colombo and               to a place which is easily
headed by Mazen Batterjee,               “These dates will be            is currently building 1,000           accessible to the members of
vice chairman of the Jeddah         distributed among the 2,500          houses for the tsunami victims        the public,” the ambassador
Chamber of Commerce and             mosques throughout the island        in the island. The Saudi Fund         said, adding that the mission
Industry, visited the island and    where they will be consumed          for Development (SFD) had             needs a larger space in view of
met Sri Lankan businessmen          by worshippers who break             given an additional grant of          the extended services offered
to explore new areas of             fast during the holy month           330 million rupees for the            to the increasing number of
cooperation. A group of             of Ramadan,” he said, adding         development of health facilities      Sri Lankans seeking consular
Jeddah-based journalists from       that the Kingdom will donate         at the Neuro-Trauma Hospital,         assistance.
Arabic dailies and magazines        100 metric tons of dates to          which was built with Saudi                 “I have heard a lot of good
also visited Sri Lanka on a         Maldives.                            aid of 440 million rupees in          things about Sri Lanka and
familiarization tour to the              Besides the 5,000 Sri           Colombo. Three years ago, the         now I am happy that I am able
island’s holiday resorts.           Lankan pilgrims who annually         Kingdom gave 440 million              to see them for myself — the
     On July 23, another            frequent the holy cities of          rupees for the construction           beautiful landscape, smiling
Riyadh-based group from the         Makkah and Madinah during            of a bridge and widening of           people and their hospitality
electronic media is set to make     Haj, a large number of Sri           a highway in the island. The          are fantastic,” Al-Jammaz,
a similar visit to Colombo to       Lankans come to the Kingdom          bridge linked the Eastern town        who had traveled to some
produce a documentary on            on Umrah visas throughout the        of Trincomalee with Kinniya,          of the popular resorts, said.
Sri Lanka for Saudi Arabia’s        year, he said. “A good number        a village located some 300            He pledged that he would
Channel 1, which will bring         of Sri Lankan expatriates in         km away from the Sri Lankan           continue the good work of
Sri Lanka to every home in          the Kingdom also make use            capital. The Trincomalee-             his predecessor and explore
the Kingdom. The program, to        of the online facility to obtain     Batticaloa Highway was                new areas of cooperation for
promote Sri Lanka as a tourist      visas to their close relatives and   also widened with the funds           bilateral ties to reach greater
destination, will be broadcast in   visit the Colombo mission to         allocated under the agreement.        heights in all sectors.
three episodes for 20 minutes       get them stamped officially,”        So far, SFD has given more                 The Saudi Embassy in
each. It will show the beauty,      he said.                             than 1.2 billion rupees for           Colombo was established in
people, culture, development,            Al-Jammaz said he wants         various projects in the island.       the early 1990s with Abdullah
heritage and landscape of Sri       to project a new image of the             SFD had provided the             Al-Zahrani as the first charge
Lanka. “Such visits will do a       Kingdom by highlighting the          island with project loans on          d’affaires, who was succeeded
great good for both countries to    contributions it has made            three previous occasions. It          by Ali Al-Hamdan. In 2001,
understand each other’s culture,    in strengthening bilateral           offered SR99.9 million for            the Kingdom upgraded the
heritage and traditions,” Al-       relations. “The Kingdom is           the second stage of the Water         mission and sent Mahmud
Jammaz said.                        home to 550,000 Sri Lankans.         Supply and Sewage Project             Al-Ali as its first ambassador
     “We have a special place       They have earned a good              and gave SR48.1 million               to Sri Lanka. Al-Ali served in
in our hearts for the Sri           reputation for their hard work       for the Mahaweli Ganga                Colombo until he moved to
Lankan Muslims who form             and perseverance, and they           Development Project System            Pretoria after his appointment
seven percent of the island’s       have contributed a great deal        B in 1981. Subsequently, Sri          as ambassador to South Africa
20 million population.              to the nation’s development,”        Lanka obtained 255 million            in December 2007.
                    Saudi Arabia
                                    Cover Story

                                   Minorities in the British Media
                                   Clearing Misconceptions
                                   King Fahd Academy in London fights back a rather unfair trial by the country’s media.
                                   Shabana Syed

                                   O     ver a month ago, London
                                         hosted a conference
                                   entitled “Minorities in the
                                                                     often spoken of the implicit
                                                                     unspoken racism in the media,
                                                                     enflamed by the desire for
                                                                                                        that there may be racism and
                                                                                                        stereotyping in the media, but
                                                                                                        when it comes to Muslim issues,
                                   Media: A United Solution,”        getting the next big story. Many   the approach is normally guilt
                                   which was well attended by        feel that key minority groups      by association.
                                   the media, journalists and        have long been misrepresented          The incident, which made
                                   broadcasters - many from ethnic   and negatively stereotyped in      some of those attending feel that
                                   minority backgrounds. One of      the Western media across the       even at a minorities conference
                                   its main themes was mentioned     globe.”                            there was not going to be a fair
30                                 in the conference’s brochure:          As the conference             discussion on Islamophobic
Diplomat Issue 14                  “The media are under constant     progressed, one instance           press reports, involved a
July 2008                          attack by minorities, who have    affirmed more than any other       presentation by Dr. Farah Saraj,
                                                                                                                                 Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                        July 2008

a lecturer from the King Fahd                                                                                  according to Paxman, there was
Academy in West London.                                                                                        no “innocence,” as the books
     The school had been                                                                                       were found at the school. “I
accused of racism, resulting in                                                                                tried to emphasize to Paxman
the country’s media camping                                                                                    that the books were there
outside the school and every                                                                                   but that they were not on the
negative slur being thrown at                                                                                  curriculum and those chapters
it. The people living in the area,                                                                             that were seen as offensive were
subjected students from the                                                                                    taken out of context and had
school to discrimination and                                                                                   been ‘misinterpreted’. Paxman
abuse, even leading to a shop                                                                                  continued his onslaught without
near the school writing on its                               Dr. Sumaya Alyusuf                                listening to my answers and
windows that students from                                                                                     kept repeating: ‘Will you now
the school were not welcome.                                                                                   remove this nonsense from your
Many reporters at the school         even books that referred to               Taking a closer look at         school?’ I told him that I had
were approached by bewildered        Muslims as Mohammedans.              the King Fahd Academy and            designed the curriculum so I
students, keen to tell them that     However, we still have some of       whether it was inciting racial       knew what was being taught and
the “school did not teach hate.”     Shakespeare’s works - “Othello”      hatred one had to examine the        that we don’t teach hatred of
     Dr. Saraj highlighted how       and “The Merchant of Venice”         background of the school and         Judaism or Christianity,” said Dr.
a disgruntled employee, Colin        - which are seen as “works of        the motives of Principal Dr.         Alyusuf.
Cook, who had been working           art” and are taught in schools.      Sumaya Alyusuf.                           The academy has a staff
at the school for over 18 years,     Both contain negative racist              The King Fahd Academy           of about 103, representing 28
decided, after he had been           descriptions.                        is based in West London. It          nationalities and 30 different
dismissed for misconduct, to              As Dr. Saraj continued her      comprises a kindergarten, and        languages spoken. “Our
take the school to an industrial     presentation pointing out that       lower and upper schools for          school is open to Muslims and
tribunal for unfair dismissal. He    those books were never really        boys and for girls. Its students     non-Muslims, and the Saudi
also approached the press with       used and how the press had           are all below the age of 18. The     government has done a favor
reports of how the school was        unfairly reported the issue,         school, which is funded by the       to the British government; they
racist in its treatment of non-      she was subjected to a line of       Saudi government, was founded        fund the school which means
Saudis.                              confrontation at the conference,     in September 1985 to provide         we don’t have to rely on this
     The question which the          which did not go beyond “Well,       education for the children of        country’s resources to educate
media should have asked before       your school should never have        Saudi diplomats, and Muslims         our students. Also, we supply
attacking the school was why         had the books in the first place?”   and Arabs in London.                 subsidized rates for families
did the teacher, who appears to      In another words, you are guilty          The school is a respected       whose students study here;
know the difference between          of having the books.                 institution, though its reputation   otherwise private education is
right and wrong, not blow the             When Dr. Saraj pointed          did suffer unfairly after the        very expensive in Britain.”
whistle on the school a long         out that the books were not on       racist books’ furor; the latest           Even if the Paxman
time ago. Did he need 18 years       the curriculum and were not          Ofsted report praised the school     interview did not pan out well
to decide to take a stand on this    being taught, one of those at the    and said it offered students         for Dr. Alyusuf, to her credit
issue? Does this mean that for       conference asked, “What should       “a balanced education and            she managed to look at the
18 years he was teaching racial      we do? Gag the press?” In other      opportunities to develop their       positive and take on a more
hatred? The story was blown          words, the press may be biased       intellects and skills.”              proactive role. She called a news
out of proportion in relation to     on ethnic minority issues, but            Dr. Alyusuf had a rough         conference to announce the
some books at the academy that       not when it comes to Muslim          time in the press when she took      school’s decision to remove the
should have been withdrawn           issues.                              a stand to defend the school. She    books, and explained that it had
long ago.                                 Dr. Noureddine Miladi           was invited to an interview on       never used those parts of the
     As Britain became more          from Northampton University,         Newsnight by Jeremy Paxman.          text anyway and gave an open
multicultural, British schools       who also presented a paper at        The interview was criticized         invitation to the media to come
had to remove offensive              the conference, argued, “Instead     from many quarters as Paxman’s       and visit the school.
material, which referred to black    of gagging the press, why can’t      line of questioning started from          The school recently
and Middle Eastern peoples in        we have fair, just and unbiased      the premise that she was guilty      announced that it had been
derogatory terms; there were         reporting?”                          until proven innocent. However,      granted the right to offer
                                                                                                               students the International
                                                                                                               Baccalaureate Diploma Program
                                                                                                               for the first time. “If we were
    The King Fahd Academy is based in West London. It comprises a kindergarten, and lower
                                                                                                               not a respected institution and
    and upper schools for boys and for girls. Its students are all below the age of 18. The school,
                                                                                                               if we taught hate and racism, we
    which is funded by the Saudi government, was founded in September 1985 to provide
                                                                                                               would never have been granted
    education for the children of Saudi diplomats, and Muslims and Arabs in London.
                                                                                                               this opportunity,” she added.
                    Saudi Arabia

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                                                                                           Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                                  July 2008

                                      Big Boost to Saudi Tourism
                                      New Jewel in
                                      the Kingdom’s
                                      The award of World Heritage Status to Madain Saleh places Saudi Arabia’s
                                      heritage on the global map.
                                      Roger Harrison

O      n July 8 2008, Madain Saleh
       (The City of Prophet Saleh),
the southernmost Nabataean city,
                                        recognition of the huge historic
                                        value of this global heritage site,”
                                        he said in a statement at the
                                                                                the pre-Nabataean period, some
                                                                                cave drawings and water wells.
                                                                                     Al-Hijr is a unique testimony
                                                                                                                        retreated. The defenders of the
                                                                                                                        city counterattacked in a wholly
                                                                                                                        unexpected night raid on the
joined Petra in Jordan and Bosra        time of the announcement by             to Nabataean civilization and           retreating army, massacred it
in Syria on UNESCO’s World              UNESCO of the site’s inclusion          its developed architectural skills      and recovered their treasure. The
Heritage Site list completing the       on the list adding that UNESCO’s        and hydraulic expertise. Petra          incident entered the name of
trio of best-preserved Nabataean        decision would contribute to the        in Jordan has more intricately          the Nabataeans in the historical
sites in the world. The World           preservation and development            carved facades and Bosra in Syria       record. Then they disappeared
Heritage Committee, meeting             of Madain Saleh. “Saudi Arabia          is a complete city with a Roman-        from the historical record for
for its 32nd session, finished          has presented a comprehensive           style amphitheatre. Madain Saleh        about 150 years when they are
inscribing 27 new sites on              plan to the UNESCO for the              was a southern outpost where            thought to have been involved
UNESCO’s World Heritage List            management, protection and              the Nabataeans lived, traded and        in the capture of a certain high
with the addition of 19 cultural        rehabilitation of the site and it has   controlled the frankincense route       priest. It was not until around
sites and eight natural sites to        started implementing the plan on        from Yemen and built a huge             100 BC that, judging by Greek,
the list.                               the ground.”                            complex of tombs.                       Roman and Jewish inscriptions,
     Many well-meaning Saudis                Madain Saleh is the first               It was their ability to utilise    they began to reappear in the
regard the ancient tombs and            World Heritage property in Saudi        water efficiently in an arid area       historical record.
dwellings at the site, formerly         Arabia to be included on the list       that allowed the inhabitants                 Originally, the Nabataeans
known as Al-Hijr, as a place best       and is the largest conserved site of    to survive in local conditions.         were probably Bedouin Arabs
avoided because of the reference        the civilization of the Nabataeans      That skill doubled as a form of         who lived in the area around
in the Holy Qur’an (Al-Hijr             south of Petra in Jordan. Its           military defence; wells and bottle-     Petra. Certainly the result of their
15:80-15:84). The view of the           best-known features are its well-       shaped cisterns to store water          sojourn there is spectacularly
Saudi authorities, represented          preserved monumental tombs              were cleverly concealed and any         evident in the magnificent
by the chairman of the Supreme          with decorated facades. These           potential invader had to carry its      carvings. The natural defences of
Commission for Tourism and              date from the first century BC          own water supply.                       Petra’s narrow entry and rocky
Antiquities (SCTA) Prince Sultan        to the first century AD. On the              Where did the Nabataeans           location allowed the Nabataeans
bin Salman, who was determined          site are 111 monumental tombs,          come from and who they were are         to exercise control over the towns
to place this significant piece         94 of which are decorated,              topics of debate still. Certainly, in   and trade routes of modern
of archaeological history on            each carved out of the rock             312 BC, some 10 years after the         Jordan and western Syria. They
the world map, took a global            faces that protrude through the         death of Alexander the Great, the       also maintained access to the
historical perspective.                 surrounding sand. The site also         Greeks captured the main fortress       Mediterranean through what
     “This is an international          contains over 50 inscriptions of        in Petra, looted the treasure and       is now the Gaza Strip. From
                    Saudi Arabia

A Saudi man prays under his make   their control of the incense          what part Madain Saleh played in       threat of death,” this view seems
shift tent in a remote desert.     routes from the Yemen and the         the Nabataean empire. One view         at least credible. However,
                                   Hadhramout came what was the          suggests it was transhipment           there is counter evidence that
                                   sole source of the culture’s wealth   depot for the transfer of goods to     the Nabataeans developed a
                                   and power. The Romans used            Petra; another sees it as a thriving   technique for growing fruit trees
                                   vast quantities of incense in their   settlement with power enough           by gathering infrequent rain run-
                                   ceremonies; the Nabataeans had        to exercise dominance over the         off water.
                                   a stranglehold on the flow. The       tribes to the south. The Roman              There is however, based on
                                   source of the power contained         historian Diodorus wrote that          evidence from around Jordan,
                                   the seeds of their downfall. The      the Nabataeans were completely         quite a different possibility. These
                                   Romans found a cheaper, safer         nomadic — though he does not           indicate that the Nabataeans were
                                   and quicker way of accessing the      give references. Coupled with          very ingenious in conserving
                                   incense — by sea. By the end of       the lack of any archaeological         and using water for agriculture.
                                   the first century AD they were in     evidence of permanent dwellings        In Madain Saleh itself wells
                                   decline.                              and that they refrained from           are being cleaned out, the size
                                        There is some dispute as to      agriculture and wine “under            and number of which hint at

                                        “This is an international recognition of the huge historic value of this global heritage site.
                                        Saudi Arabia has presented a comprehensive plan to the UNESCO for the management,
                                        protection and rehabilitation of Madain Saleh and it has started implementing the plan
34                                      on the ground,” said Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Supreme Commission for
Diplomat Issue 14                       Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA)
July 2008
                                                                                                                                    Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                           July 2008

extensive smallholdings in
the area. Moreover, nomadic
peoples do not usually produce             Madain Saleh is the first World Heritage property in Saudi Arabia to be included on the
fine pottery — that requires               list and is the largest conserved site of the civilization of the Nabataeans south of Petra in
sophisticated kilns and a                  Jordan. Its best-known features are its well-preserved monumental tombs with decorated
source of clays. The Nabataeans            facades. These date from the first century BC to the first century AD. On the site are 111
produced such finely painted and           monumental tombs, 94 of which are decorated, each carved out of the rock faces that
created pottery.                           protrude through the surrounding sand. The site also contains over 50 inscriptions of the
     One further clue that Madain          pre-Nabataean period, some cave drawings and water wells.
Saleh was a frontier city with a
sedentary population is in the
oasis town of Al-Ula just to the      living cultures, and especially            world, on developments in              landforms, or significant
south. There, tombs are carved        ‘traditional cultures’, were               architecture or technology,            geomorphic or physiographic
into cliffs above the settlement      underrepresented.”                         monumental arts, town-                 features;
that, judging by their inscriptions        UNESCO adopted a global               planning or landscape             •	 To	be	outstanding	examples	
and decoration, are not               strategy to review the population          design;                                representing significant
Nabataean. Perhaps then Madain        of the list and broaden the           •	   To	bear	a	unique	or	at	least	          on-going ecological and
Saleh was the southern outpost of     definition of world heritage “to           exceptional testimony to               biological processes in the
the Nabataean empire.                 better reflect the full spectrum           a cultural tradition or to a           evolution and development
     It disappeared; no one is sure   of our world’s cultural and                civilization which is living or        of terrestrial, fresh water,
why. If after the decline of their    natural treasures and to provide           which has disappeared;                 coastal and marine
control of the incense trade and      a comprehensive framework             •	   To	be	an	outstanding	                  ecosystems and communities
eventual conquest by the Romans       and operational methodology                example of a type of building,         of plants and animals;
the large agriculture economy         for implementing the World                 architectural or technological    •	 To	contain	the	most	
was still intact, it should have      Heritage Convention.”                      ensemble or landscape which            important and significant
survived. Al-Ula did. Possibly             It continues: “This new               illustrates (a) significant            natural habitats for in-situ
overtaken by some natural             vision goes beyond the narrow              stage(s) in human history;             conservation of biological
disaster — plague or earthquake,      definitions of heritage and strives   •	   To	be	an	outstanding	                  diversity, including those
the civilization’s most southerly     to recognize and protect sites that        example of a traditional               containing threatened
city died.                            are outstanding demonstrations             human settlement, land-                species of outstanding
     Recognition of Madain            of human coexistence with                  use, or sea-use which is               universal value from the
Saleh as a World Heritage Site        the land as well as human                  representative of a culture            point of view of science or
might never have happened if          interactions, cultural coexistence,        (or cultures), or human                conservation.
the UNESCO convention for             spirituality and creative                  interaction with the                   The history and legends
conservation adopted in 1972          expression.”                               environment especially when       of the mysterious Nabataeans
concerning the Protection of               Madain Saleh without doubt            it has become vulnerable          is now under the protective
the World Cultural and Natural        in the Saudi authorities’ view             under the impact of               eyes of both UNESCO and the
Heritage had stayed in place          matched the general conditions             irreversible change;              SCTA. Relatively unexplored
unaltered. In UNESCO’s own            of inclusion on the list. The         •	   To	be	directly	or	tangibly	       archeologically — few digs
words: “The World Heritage List       unknown quantity was: Would                associated with events            have ever taken place there and
lacked balance in the type of         it meet any or all of the specific         or living traditions, with        there are huge areas containing
inscribed properties and in the       criteria for inclusion? Until the          ideas, or with beliefs, with      mounds that look constructed
geographical areas of the world       end of 2004, World Heritage                artistic and literary works       rather than natural — Madain
that were represented. Among the      Sites were selected on the basis           of outstanding universal          Saleh may yet prove to be a
410 properties, 304 were cultural     of six cultural and four natural           significance. (The committee      cultural treasure trove beyond
sites and only 90 were natural        criteria. With the adoption                considers that this criterion     the imaginings of current
and 16 mixed, while the vast          of revised guidelines for the              should preferably be used         archaeological knowledge.
majority is located in developed      Implementation of the World                in conjunction with other              The protection, management,
regions of the world, notably in      Heritage Convention, there is but          criteria);                        authenticity and integrity of
Europe.” Twenty years later, that     a single list of 10.                  •	   To	contain	superlative	           UNESCO listed properties are
changed after a study carried out          To be included, a site should         natural phenomena or areas        also important considerations
to determine the cultural balance.    meet a significant proportion or           of exceptional natural beauty     in achieving world heritage
It revealed that “Europe, historic    all of the following:                      and aesthetic importance;         status. Given the drive to
towns and religious monuments,        •	 To	represent	a	masterpiece	of	     •	   To	be	outstanding	examples	       increase cultural tourism in the
Christianity, historical periods           human creative genius;                representing major stages of      Kingdom and the commitment
and ‘elitist’ architecture (in        •	 To	exhibit	an	important	                earth’s history, including the    by the SCTA, protection and
relation to vernacular) were all           interchange of human                  record of life, significant on-   management are high on the
over-represented on the World              values, over a span of time or        going geological processes        agendum for the new jewel in the
Heritage List; whereas, all                within a cultural area of the         in the development of             Kingdom’s crown.
                    Saudi Arabia

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                    Diplomat Issue 14
                                                           July 2008

A Peep into the Past
Souk Okaz
Perhaps the biggest attraction of the event was the poetry
competition in which poets challenged each other and boasted
their achievements. The event was also used to settle inter-
tribal disputes and disagreements. Since the market offered so
many cultural activities it helped preserve the Arabic language
and encouraged talented poets to produce more.

Ismaeel Mohammed
                      Saudi Arabia

Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al-
Faisal inspects the Okaz Fair site near
                                          P    erhaps one of the best books of poetry I ever
                                               studied while learning classical Arabic at
                                          college in Britain was The Mu’allaqat - the title
                                                                                               the desert from Taif, on the high plateau of
                                                                                               Makkah. The fair used to be held for 20 days
                                                                                               and attracted poets from not just the region but
                                          of a group of seven long Arabic poems compiled       across the peninsula. Poets flocked to win the
                                          before Islam in the Age of Jahiliyya (ignorance)     ultimate of honors, a competition in poetry,
                                          by the best and most eloquent of pre-Islamic         while poetry-lovers came in droves to hear their
                                          poets of the Arabia.                                 favorite poets.
                                               The poems were named The Mu’allaqat -               The fair, which was first recorded in 500
                                          meaning The Suspended Odes or The Hanging            B.C., was initially developed by the Quraish - a
                                          Poems - due to their hanging on, or in, the Kaaba    famous Arabian tribe to which the Prophet
                                          at Makkah on account of their immense literary       Muhammad (peace be upon him) belonged - as
                                          worth. Such is their value and benefit in Arabic     a place where Arabs could gather and unite
                                          literature that the Arabic-Islamic madrasas of       against their enemies. The fair was held close to
                                          the Indian subcontinent continue to teach The        the annual Haj, when pilgrims would descend
                                          Mu’allaqat to help their “Ajami” (non-native         on Makkah, during the four months of Hurum
                                          Arabic) students develop their literary skills.      - the months in which the Arabs specified there
                                               The poems were most likely recited at The       would be no wars.
                                          Fair at Okaz, an event held a few miles toward           Perhaps the biggest attraction of the event

                                           The fair, which was first recorded in 500 B.C., was initially developed by the Quraish - a
                                           famous Arabian tribe to which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) belonged - as
                                           a place where Arabs could gather and unite against their enemies. The fair was held close
38                                         to the annual Haj, when pilgrims would descend on Makkah, during the four months of
Diplomat Issue 14                          Hurum - the months in which the Arabs specified there would be no wars.
July 2008
                                                                                                                          Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                 July 2008

was the poetry competition
in which poets challenged
each other and boasted their            Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been reported to have visited the market for
achievements. The event was             seven years to call the Arabs about Islam. As time went by, the fair stopped and its correct
also used to settle inter-tribal        location became unknown until the rule of King Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz, who ordered
disputes and disagreements.             historians to identify the location of the infamous fair by looking at ancient records and
Since the market offered so             historical documents.
many cultural activities it
helped preserve the Arabic
language and encouraged             and, of course, a souk for             “We should not get rid       poems of Imru’ Al-Qais, Amr
talented poets to produce           shoppers. Makkah Governor         of our past in order to build     ibn Kulthum, Tarafa, Zuhayr,
more.                               Prince Khaled Al-Faisal,          our future. We have to build      Labid, Antara ibn Shaddad
     The Prophet Muhammad           himself a renowned poet, is       on the foundation set by our      and Harith ibn Hilliza - poets
(peace be upon him) has been        keen to revive the historic       predecessors. We should not       who lived over a hundred
reported to have visited the        glory of The Okaz Fair and        underestimate what they have      years the end of which just
market for seven years to call      determined to make it a center    done,” said Prince Khaled,        touched the advent of Islam.
the Arabs about Islam. As time      of tourism during the hot         adding that he hopes project      Perhaps the most famous and
went by, the fair stopped and       summer months.                    would be completed soon.          greatest poems of ancient
its correct location became              “This place has huge              Speaking about recent        Arabic literature is the ode of
unknown until the rule of           tourist potential as it is        work to develop the region,       Imru’ Al-Qais, a member of
King Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz,         associated with the ancient       Jareed Al-Mansouri, secretary-    the house of the tribe Kindah,
who ordered historians to           souk where the poets of           general of the market, said a     which lost its prestige due to
identify the location of the        different tribes in the Arabian   committee has been formed         war. Imru’ Al-Qais generally
infamous fair by looking at         Peninsula used to compete         to dig out and preserve           recited poetry remembering
ancient records and historical      and select the best Arabic        antiquities in the area. “We      his family’s past glory and his
documents.                          poet,” said Taysir Al-Dabit, a    are working on this project       romantic escapades with the
     The location of Okaz was       local Saudi. He added that the    and it will be completed          damsels of Arabia. The poetry
finally located near Taif at a      moderate weather in Taif is       shortly,” he said. The panel      of Amr is in defiance of the
place currently known as Al-        something that would attract      includes representatives from     king of Hira, who eventually
Athdia.                             both domestic and foreign         the Supreme Commission for        died at the poet’s hands.
     After 1,300 years, the         tourists, particularly those      Tourism, College of Tourism             Tarafa’s poetry also speaks
market began operating last         from the Arabian region.          and Archaeology at King Saud      in defiance of the king of Hira.
year with a seven-day event,             Prince Khaled Al-Faisal      University and the Department     The poetry of Antara and
which included a souk and an        recently inspected the area and   of Archaeology at Umm Al-         Zuhayr mention the feuds
exhibition of old Arabic poems      told the local media that The     Qura University.                  between two tribes. Labid, who
written in gold. More than          Okaz Fair provides an insight          The organizers of the        lived past 100, is the only one
2,000 eminent Arab thinkers,        into ancient Arab culture.        fair aim to make it a major       of these poets who embraced
writers, poets, historians and      “Arabs in the past depended       Arab cultural center, similar     Islam when the Prophet
other cultural activists from       on poetry, more than any other    to Carthage in Tunisia and        (peace be upon him) began his
the Kingdom and abroad,             literary form, to express their   Jarash in Jordan. “By reviving    life-long mission. His poem,
participated in the festival.       emotions. Poetry is the history   and developing this market        which was compiled before his
     Once again the Makkah          of Arabs,” he said. According     we would like to project the      conversion, speaks about him
governorate is planning this        to the prince, Custodian of       heritage of Saudi Arabia. We      boasting about what his life.
year to make the festival a         the Two Holy Mosques King         also would like to compete        It is said that after accepting
major cultural attraction.          Abdullah and Crown Prince         with festivals held in Carthage   Islam he expressed regret at his
Custodian of the Two Holy           Sultan, have made The Okaz        and Jarash,” said Al-Mansouri.    previous life and the poetry he
Mosques King Abdullah is            Fair project a priority. “This    He added that this year the       had composed.
expected to inaugurate the          shows our leadership’s deep       area of the Okaz Souk festival          The Mu’allaqat was
festival.                           concern toward Arab culture       would be expanded to cover        compiled by Hammad Al-
     The opening event will         and heritage. They want the       the whole market. “It will        Rawiya who, spurned by
feature an operetta with            younger generation to be          also witness a number of new      concern that men cared little
celebrated Arab singers and         proud of their noble heritage     programs,” he added.              for poetry, collected the seven
artists participating. There will   while working for the future,”         The Mu’allaqat: The          pieces to urge people to take
also be art exhibitions, lectures   the governor said.                Mu’allaqat comprises the          interest.
                    Saudi Arabia
                                   Business & Economics

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                                                                        Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                               July 2008

                        Jeddah Energy Forum
                        Tackling Real Reasons
                        Behind Rising Oil Prices
                        The Kingdom makes it clear to the outside world that there are factors other than supply
                        alone which are driving oil prices upward.

S   audi Arabia’s concern
    at the rising oil prices
was in focus at the recent
                                  around the world.
                                       As many as 38
                                  countries, four international
                                                                    Arabia’s hosting of the oil
                                                                    conference comes out of its
                                                                    positive role in international
                                                                                                       the United States, Britain,
                                                                                                       Germany, France, Japan,
                                                                                                       China, India and South Africa
Jeddah Energy Conference.         organizations and 30 oil          relations and its concern          attended the conference.
Custodian of the Two Holy         companies attended the            toward world economy and oil            The conference
Mosques King Abdullah             conference, which received        market stability and its desire    discussed the situation in the
made it very clear in his         world attention as people         for cooperation between oil        international oil market and
opening address that nobody       across the globe thought it       producers and consumers,” the      how producers, consumers, oil
should point a finger at Saudi    would contribute to slashing      Cabinet said.                      companies and international
Arabia or other major oil         prices.                                The call for the conference   organizations can cooperate
producing nations for the              British Prime Minister       by Saudi Arabia and its plan       to deal with unjustifiable hike
increasing trend of oil prices.   Gordon Brown, US Energy           to increase output by 200,000      in prices and propose suitable
The Kingdom should not be         Secretary Sam Bodman,             barrels per day has already        solutions.
blamed as it is producing and     Secretary-General of the          left its impact on the market.          Saudi Arabia also
meeting the world demand, he      Organization of Petroleum         Minister of Petroleum and          emphasized its plan to invest
emphasized.                       Exporting Countries               Mineral Resources Ali Al-          about $90 billion in oil and gas
     The one-day conference,      (OPEC) Abdullah Al-Badri,         Naimi was forthright when he       projects during the next four
which was attended by world       India’s Finance Minister P.       announced that Saudi Arabia        years to increase production
leaders including presidents      Chidambaram and Petroleum         would increase its daily output    capacity and improve refining
and ministers, discussed          Minister Murli Deora, and top     to 9.7 million barrels a month,    facilities. The new projects will
ways to ways to curb rising       executives of international oil   pumping an extra 200,000           further increase the Kingdom’s
oil prices and stabilize          companies were among the          barrels to world markets.          oil output to 12.5 million bpd
international market. The         participants.                          In addition to members of     by 2009.
conference of oil producing            The Saudi Council            the Organization of Petroleum           OPEC President Chakib
and consuming countries           of Ministers expressed            Exporting Countries (OPEC),        Khelil, who attended the
was called by Saudi Arabia        its satisfaction over the         leading non-OPEC producers         Jeddah oil summit, said it
to discuss what it called an      tremendous response to the        such as Russia, Norway,            was illogical and irrational
unjustifiable increase in oil     Kingdom’s call for holding        Mexico and Brazil as well          to ask the organization to
prices, affecting economies       such a conference. “Saudi         as major consumers like            increase output so as to take
                    Saudi Arabia
                                       Business & Economics

                                      the pressure off soaring prices.   in some countries such as         “Just compare 300,000 (barrels
                                      “Saudi Arabia decided to           France and Britain were also      per day) with about 86
                                      hold this meeting in order to      to blame. OPEC pumps about        million (bpd), which are the
                                      determine the causes behind        40 percent of the world’s oil     market’s need! What would
                                      rising oil prices,” he said.       supply.                           be the effect?” Nozari asked
                                           Khelil said that just             Iran, a major OPEC            rhetorically.
                                      because computer or car            producer, said increased oil           German Economy
                                      prices were high, “would           output would not be able to       Minister Michael Glos,
                                      one ask their producers to         bring down skyrocketing           meanwhile, called for closer
                                      make more?” insisting again        prices. “Increased oil            cooperation between oil
                                      that oil was being driven          production does not have          producers and consumers to
                                      higher by factors other            such an impact that it would      curb prices. “The increase in
                                      than supply alone — most           decrease prices because           oil prices amounts to transfer
                                      notably speculation and a          enough oil exists in the global   of wealth from oil importing
                                      falling dollar. He also noted      market,” Iranian Oil Minister     countries. This has powerful
                                      that high tax levies on fuel       Gholam Hossein Nozari said.       effects on the global economy,”

                                          German Economy Minister Michael Glos called for closer cooperation between oil
HRH Abdulaziz Bin Salman Bin              producers and consumers to curb prices. “The increase in oil prices amounts to transfer of
Abdulaziz, assistant minister for         wealth from oil importing countries. This has powerful effects on the global economy,” he
Petroleum affairs, during the press       said and stressed the need for more energy efficiency, more investment in energy and the
conference at the Jeddah Energy           right energy mix including atomic power.

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                                                                              Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                     July 2008

he said and stressed the need
for more energy efficiency,
more investment in energy              OPEC President Chakib Khelil, who attended the Jeddah oil summit, said it was illogical
and the right energy mix               and irrational to ask the organization to increase output so as to take the pressure off
including atomic power.                soaring prices. “Saudi Arabia decided to hold this meeting in order to determine the causes
    The energy conference              behind rising oil prices,” he said. “Just because computer or car prices were high, would one
started with a discussion panel        ask their producers to make more?” he said, insisting again that oil was being driven higher
chaired by Prince Abdul Aziz           by factors other than supply alone — most notably speculation and a falling dollar. He also
bin Salman, assistant minister         noted that high tax levies on fuel in some countries such as France and Britain were also to
for petroleum affairs, with            blame. OPEC pumps about 40 percent of the world’s oil supply.
participation of the executive
director of the International
Energy Agency (IEA),
secretary-general of OPEC         view that market speculation          of new players has made it           International Energy Forum
and secretary-general of the      has at least as much of a role        difficult for us to put our          and the International Energy
International Energy Forum        in current pricing as supply,         fingers at a clear reason (for the   Agency while presenting a
(IEF). The panel presented a      the prince said that no single        current problems),” he said.         working paper to the meeting.
joint background paper on         factor is in play and that it is in        It is obvious right now             To combat the rise
current oil market conditions.    Saudi Arabia’s interests to see       that all market forces are           in prices, Saudi Arabia
    Deputy Minister of            a stabilization of the market.        in harmony so it must be             announced recently it would
Petroleum and Mineral             He attributed much of the             something outside the                increase its production
Resources Prince Abdul            cause of this current crisis to       supply-demand formula that           capacity by three million
Aziz bin Salman said: “The        “subjective circumstances” and        is causing the hike in prices.       barrels per day to 12.5 million
Kingdom has no ‘magic             warned that people should             Financial factors contributing       bpd by 2009. Saudi Aramco
wand’ that will resolve the       not be “overly optimistic”            to the hike include a weak           recently announced plans
skyrocketing oil prices. There    that anything but “temporary          dollar and high demand               to build new refineries with
are political, economic and       solutions” could be reached.          on the euro in addition to           French Total and US Conoco
regulatory factors involved.           A meeting of principal           the American subprime                in order to meet the shortage
The soaring oil prices require    producing and consuming               crisis. “The fluctuation in          of oil derivatives. Al-Muhana
immediate intervention by         nations was also held on the          the oil market is what made          acknowledged that there is a
everyone. Combined solutions      sidelines of the conference           the king call the meeting,”          link between the shortages of
are needed where roles are        to identify the causes and            he said, adding that there           refiners and rising oil prices
defined.”                         solutions to the current              was cooperation among                but said that this link is not a
    Echoing a commonly held       troubles. “The emergence              Saudi Arabia, OPEC, the              major factor.
                    Saudi Arabia
                                    Business & Economics

                                   Islamic Finance
                                   The Phenomenal Rise of
                                   Islamic Finance
                                   Saudi Arabia has in the last 30 years played a leading role in
                                   promoting this unique industry that has caught the imagination of the
                                   entire world.

                                   Mushtak Parker

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                                                                                Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                       July 2008

A     n exciting new wind of
      change is blowing through
the Arabian Peninsula and the
                                          With the oil-producing countries generating huge surpluses due to the high oil prices
                                          and as such huge amounts of private liquidity, estimated in the GCC at over $1.5 trillion
                                          currently, perhaps it is not surprising that more such funds are migrating to and finding a
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is                natural home in the Islamic finance sector. This is particularly so in Saudi Arabia. It is no
at the forefront of this unique           mere coincidence that some 33 years ago, also in an era of high oil prices and huge liquidity
development. Over the last few            as a result of the 1973 oil price rise, King Faisal convened an extraordinary meeting of the
years, Islamic finance, with              finance ministers of the Muslim countries in Jeddah who signed a declaration of intent
its phenomenal estimated 20               to establish the Muslim world’s first and only multilateral development bank, the Islamic
percent year-on-year growth,              Development Bank (IDB).
has taken the world by storm.
Funds under management in             far the largest export markets      the rise of Islamic finance          other GCC investors wishing to
the sector have been estimated        for Saudi and GCC oil, gas and      is inextricably linked to the        invest into China. Hong Kong is
variously at $2 to $3 trillion. The   petrochemicals. Singapore and       renaissance of the famous            the only fund-raising platform
German state of Saxony Anhalt         Hong Kong have confirmed            ancient Silk Road, which             for China outside the mainland
used Islamic finance to fund          their commitment and ambition       was the mainstay of relations        which is like a window that
much-needed infrastructure            of becoming international hubs      between the Chinese empires          meets with the international
development. UK insurance             for Islamic capital markets.        and the Muslim nations of            markets. So if investors from
giant, Prudential, last year          Japan is on the verge of issuing    yesteryear. Indeed, Hong Kong        the Kingdom and other GCC
signed an agreement with Bank         its debut sovereign Sukuk           Arabists sees the island “right at   countries want to access China,
Al-Jazira in Saudi Arabia, to         through the Japan Bank for          the heart of the New Silk Road       they will look at Hong Kong,
convert the latter’s Takaful          International Cooperation           providing a gateway to business,     which we see as serving as a
Ta’awuni Division into an             (JBIC).                             financial, cultural and political    bridge between the Middle East
Islamic insurance joint venture.           Hong Kong on the other         cooperation.”                        and China.”
An American gas company, East         hand is positioning itself as            Eddie Yue, the young                But what is the rationale
Cameron Partners, used it to          the natural choice as a gateway     dynamic deputy chief executive       behind Hong Kong’s drive
finance its expansion program.        to doing business, including        of the Hong Kong Monetary            to become an international
Islamic finance, in fact, is now      Islamic investments, in and         Authority, the central bank,         Islamic capital markets hub?
being used on all the continents      forging cultural cooperation        confirms that “there is a lot of     Eddie Yue is emphatic: “We
of the world, making it, as one       with China. To many pundits         interest from Saudi Arabian and      recognize that Islamic finance
UNDP economist has stressed,
“one of the few original concepts
to emerge from the developing
     More recently, the UK
Government has passed
enabling legislation with tax                     Asked once, whether he was
neutrality to give its citizens                   satisfied with the progress
access to Islamic finance under                   of the Islamic banking
its social and financial inclusion                movement over the last three
policies. The UK, according to                    decades, since his father
City Minister and Economic                        (King Faisal) encouraged
Secretary to the Treasury Kitty                   him to set up an Islamic
Ussher, is hopeful of issuing                     financial institution and to
its debut sovereign Sukuk (an                     implement the Islamic system
Islamic bond) during early                        of financial management,
2009. Many countries including                    Prince Muhammed Al-Faisal
Saudi Arabia would indeed like                    confidently replied: “I am
London to play the driving role                   happy of course, but I am not
in establishing a Euro-Sukuk                      satisfied. There is still a lot of
market, akin to the same role                     work to be done to make it a
the Bank of England played                        system that can compete in
in establishing the Euro-bond                     the market.”
market in the 1970s.
     Perhaps an even more
important development in
this space is the emergence of
Islamic finance in East Asia, by
                    Saudi Arabia
                                    Business & Economics

                                                                                                             was given the mandate to
                                                                                                             operate exclusively under
                                                                                                             Shariah-compliant financial
                                                                                                             and development principles.
                                                                                                             Using this mandate, the IDB
                                                                                                             aimed to promote intra-Islamic
                                                                                                             trade; foster policies to alleviate
                                                                                                             poverty in member countries;
                                                                                                             and to promote Islamic finance
                                                                                                             globally. To date, the IDB
                                                                                                             has approved a staggering
                                                                                                             $53 billion of financing for
                                                                                                             its member countries, which
                                                                                                             currently total 56.
                                                                                                                  The IDB in fact started
                                                                                                             operations only a week after
                                                                                                             Prince Saud Al-Faisal was
                                                                                                             appointed as foreign minister
                                                                                                             in October 1975. At the same
                                                                                                             time, Prince Saud spearheaded
                                                                                                             Saudi foreign policy into a brave
                                                                                                             new world in which “black
                                                                                                             gold” or crude oil was assuming
                                                                                                             a new-found importance, the
                                                                                                             foreign minister’s older brother,
                                                                                                             Prince Muhammed Al-Faisal,
                                                                                                             was encouraged by his father to
is one of the major growth         than the conventional sector to     countries generating huge             spearhead another revolution
areas in the financial services    absorb the shocks of such crises.   surpluses due to the high             -- this time in ethical investment
industry, and Hong Kong                 At the annual summit of the    oil prices and as such huge           based on the principles of
being an international financial   Islamic Financial Services Board    amounts of private liquidity,         Islamic financial management.
center involved in financial       in Amman this year, Dr. Zeti        estimated in the GCC at over          Indeed, Prince Muhammed
intermediation activities, we      Akhtar Aziz, governor of Bank       $1.5 trillion currently, perhaps      Al-Faisal is one of the pioneers
feel that we need to provide a     Negara Malaysia, the central        it is not surprising that more        of the so-called Islamic banking
full suite of financial products   bank, stressed that the Islamic     such funds are migrating to and       movement and is the founder
to market participants round       financial system is indeed          finding a natural home in the         and head of the Geneva-based
the world. And obviously if        “well-positioned” as a form of      Islamic finance sector. This is       Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami (DMI)
you don’t have Islamic finance     financial intermediation, against   particularly so in Saudi Arabia.      Group.
you are missing a big market       a backdrop of an increasingly       It is no mere coincidence that             Asked once, whether he was
segment. The market players        uncertain global financial          some 33 years ago, also in            satisfied with the progress of the
have told us that they see great   environment underlined by the       an era of high oil prices and         Islamic banking movement over
potential in the Islamic finance   current credit crunch due to        huge liquidity as a result of the     the last three decades, since his
sector.”                           investments in dodgy subprime       1973 oil price rise, King Faisal      father encouraged him to set up
     The Muslim countries          US mortgages, which has             convened an extraordinary             an Islamic financial institution
indeed have leveraged this         already impacted badly on the       meeting of the finance ministers      and to implement the Islamic
unique opportunity. A few years    housing sector and threatening      of the Muslim countries in            system of financial management,
ago, the International Monetary    recession in the industrialised     Jeddah who signed a declaration       Prince Muhammed Al-Faisal
Fund (IMF) published a             countries.                          of intent to establish the Muslim     confidently replied: “I am happy
research paper which concluded          Dr. Zeti strongly believes     world’s first and only multilateral   of course, but I am not satisfied.
that in times of global economic   in the integration of the           development bank, the Islamic         There is still a lot of work to be
and financial crisis, Islamic      Islamic financial system            Development Bank (IDB).               done to make it a system that
finance seems better equipped      with the global financial                 The IDB, which is               can compete in the market.”
                                   system. But with globalisation      headquartered in Jeddah and                A sentiment which Hamad
                                   comes interdependence and           which today has an authorised         Al-Sayyari, the governor of the
                                   cooperation, which would            capital of 30 billion Islamic         Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency
46                                 benefit both systems.               dinars and an issued capital
Diplomat Issue 14                                                                                            (SAMA) recently echoed in
July 2008                               With the oil-producing         of 15 billion Islamic dinars,         Amman at the IFSB summit:
                                                                                                                                  Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                         July 2008

“In the last two decades the
world has seen a rapid growth
in financial services including            The IDB started operations only a week after Prince Saud Al-Faisal was appointed as
the Islamic financial services,            foreign minister in October 1975. At the same time, Prince Saud Al-Faisal spearheaded
essentially a system of financial          Saudi foreign policy into a brave new world in which “black gold” or crude oil was
intermediation. Hong Kong,                 assuming a new-found importance, the foreign minister’s older brother, Prince Muhammed
Singapore, South Africa and the            Al-Faisal, was encouraged by his father to spearhead another revolution -- this time in
UK have all recognized Islamic             ethical investment based on the principles of Islamic financial management. Indeed, Prince
finance as an acceptable form              Muhammed Al-Faisal is one of the pioneers of the so-called Islamic banking movement
of financial activity. However,            and is the founder and head of the Geneva-based Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami (DMI) Group.
despite its rapid expansion,
Islamic finance is still in its        the use of Islamic finance as       Islamic debt and capital market      first of its kind to be approved
infancy and comprises only one         a diversification tool for its      in the Kingdom and beyond.           by Saudi Shariah advisories for
percent of global financial assets.”   source of funding requirements      Similarly, the corporate believes    distribution in the Kingdom,
     The Kingdom’s leadership          for its operational and global      that an increasing component         and the first to be issued under
role in Islamic finance neatly fits    acquisition plans,” confirmed       of project, corporate and asset      the Capital Markets Authority in
in with one of the cornerstones        Mutlaq Al-Morished, chief           financing in the GCC countries       2006. It was also the first Sukuk
of Saudi foreign policy -- that is,    financial officer and senior vice   will be done under a Shariah-        to be cleared and settled through
promoting solidarity between           president of corporate finance      compliant basis over the next        the Tadawul Stock Exchange.
Arab and Muslim nations.               at SABIC.                           few years. Infrastructure            Globally, the Sukuk was also the
Riyadh’s wider foreign policy is            The chemicals giant is         projects in the GCC alone            first of its kind. The issuance
activated through “four circles”       setting the benchmark for           are estimated in excess of           was also the first rated Sukuk
which are the GCC; the wider           others such as Saudi Aramco,        $1.6 trillion over the next few      in the Kingdom. The SABIC
Arab; Islamic and international        the world’s largest oil company     decades.                             Sukuk are also at the cutting
circles, and which is based            and exporter, Saudi Electricity          In the last year or so, SABIC   edge of innovation of asset pools
on geographical, historical,           Company (SEC) and others            went to the market with its          earmarked for securitization.
religious, economic, security          to emulate. For a corporate         second Sukuk for $2.1 billion;       The asset pool for the SABIC
and political considerations.          whose global footprint spans        a third Sukuk for $1.3 billion       Sukuk-II, for instance is a parcel
     The latest and perhaps            the US , Brazil, Argentina to       which was rated A+ by Standard       of petrochemical marketing
by far the most important              the UK, Europe, the Middle          & Poor’s, the international          contracts into which SABIC has
manifestation of Saudi                 East, South Africa, India,          rating agency; two Murabaha          contracted.
involvement in Islamic finance         Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia,     (cost-plus financing) facilities          The involvement of SABIC
is the commitment shown by the         Philippines, China, Japan and       -- a $400 million facility for       and other Saudi corporates,
leading utilities and corporates       Australia, SABIC is perhaps         GAS and a $855 million facility      including Riyadh-based Dar Al-
in the Kingdom, especially in          surprisingly to some a major        for Ibn Zahar; and a $1.5            Arkan Real Estate Development
the oil, gas and chemicals sector,     proponent of the use of Islamic     billion Islamic tranche for the      Company (DAAR), in Islamic
in accessing Islamic finance           finance in its financing mix.       $6 billion financing facility for    finance would not have been as
for the their balance sheet,                In 2006, SABIC, which has      Saudi Kayan -- the largest ever      clear cut had it not been for the
corporate finance, acquisition         a market capitalization of $112     single project finance facility      pioneering work in this sector
and expansion activities.              billion (based on a share price     in history. Before this, in 2006     over the last three decades by
     Saudi Basic Industries            of SR140), acquired GE Plastics,    SABIC launched its debut             institutions such as Al-Rajhi
Corporation (SABIC), the               preceded by the acquisition in      domestic Sukuk issuance raising      Bank, Dallah AlBaraka Group,
world’s largest chemical               2002 of DSM Petrochemicals          $800 million.                        Bank Al-Jazira and others. They
company in terms of market             of The Netherlands, and the              According to Mutlaq Al-         have also laid the platform for
capitalization and assets, for         UK operations of Huntsman           Morished, SABIC has issued 75        the current phase of startups by
instance, in June reaffirmed           Petrochemicals of the US in         percent of the Sukuk issuances       such newcomers as Bank Al-
its intention and commitment           2006.                               in the Kingdom aggregating           Bilad and Alinma Bank, in which
to accessing more Islamic                   According to Al-Morished,      $4.3 billion in size to date. The    Saudi state entities such as GOSI
financing, which augurs well           SABIC raised some $6.155            SABIC-I and SABIC-II Sukuk           and the Saudi Pension Fund have
for the future involvement of          billion of Islamic financing in     issuances were both domestic         controlling stakes, together with
the sector in the vital oil and        the midst of the global credit      issuances, but in future the         30 percent public ownership as
gas industry. “SABIC remains           crunch which started in August      corporate may well raise funds       part of the Saudi government’s
committed to develop the               2007. Shariah-compliant debt        in the global markets with an        wider public share ownership
Kingdom’s financial and capital        at end of 2007 accounted for        international Sukuk issuance.        empowerment strategy.
markets and to actively promote        23 percent of SABIC’s total              The SABIC Sukuk issuances
Islamic finance. SABIC is              debt of $21 billion -- a mouth-     achieved several milestones.         * Mushtak Parker is a senior
keen to continue promoting             watering prospect for the           The SABIC Sukuk-I was the            journalist based in London.
                    Saudi Arabia
                                    Business & Economics

                                   Paradigm Shift
                                   Focus on Tomorrow’s World
                                   British speaker and thinker Mark Goyder was in Saudi Arabia recently to talk about the
                                   corporate world’s social responsibilities.

                                   P   ioneering writer, speaker
                                       and thinker Mark Goyder
                                   was in Jeddah recently. He
                                                                      Ashaikh’s Jeddah-based
                                                                      Tamkeen Development and
                                                                      Management Consulting last
                                                                                                         organization. “The report
                                                                                                         is all about the success of
                                                                                                         tomorrow’s global company,”
                                   talked about the future of         year, and the two companies        he said. “What will tomorrow’s
                                   business in Saudi Arabia, and      hope to change the way people      global company need to
                                   he says big changes are in store   think about doing business.        succeed? What is significant
                                   and that great opportunities       Goyder was in the Kingdom          about the report overall
                                   abound. The founder and            on a visit aimed at highlighting   is that it is the work of a
                                   director of the UK-based           corporate social responsibility.   group of business leaders
                                   Tomorrow’s Company has             At events organized by             from around the world. We
                                   inspired and challenged the        Tamkeen, he met Saudi CEOs         brought together a number of
                                   boards, leaders and managers       and business leaders for           North American companies,
                                   of both large and small            discussions on challenges facing   Continental European
                                   companies with his practical       their companies and evolving a     companies, companies from
                                   insights into the changing         socially beneficial strategy.      the UK and companies from
                                   agenda for leadership,                 Goyder spoke of                India.”
                                   governance, and stakeholder        “Tomorrow’s Global                      He said the report is the
                                   relationships for a decade.        Company: Challenges                result of an intensive dialogue.
48                                     Tomorrow’s Company             and Choices,” a report in          “You had in one place around
Diplomat Issue 14                  teamed up with Asya Al-            English and Arabic from his        the table more than 300 years
July 2008
                                                                                                                           Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                  July 2008

of CEO experience, and we
met over 18 months with that
group,” he said. “People go to           “People go to Davos, Switzerland, and talk about a problem for an hour, and they come out
Davos, Switzerland, and talk             with a solution. We are talking about something much, much deeper here. We also held
about a problem for an hour,             dialogues in parts of the world where we didn’t have companies involved. For example, we
and they come out with a                 went to Beijing, Australia, Paris, New York — you can see there is a wide range of dialogue.
solution. We are talking about           During that time I also had the benefit of being at the Jeddah Economic Forum and with
something much, much deeper              the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and that was more excellent input to the
here. We also held dialogues             whole thing,” said Mark Goyder.
in parts of the world where
we didn’t have companies             We are seeing major failures
involved. For example, we            in international frameworks.
went to Beijing, Australia,          We are not dealing with the
Paris, New York — you can            consequences of our economic
see there is a wide range of         success. We now have to deal
dialogue. During that time I         with them in a global context,”
also had the benefit of being at     he said.
the Jeddah Economic Forum                 “What we are seeing is the
and with the Jeddah Chamber          emergence of the new form of
of Commerce and Industry,            soft international law, which
and that was more excellent          is actually being developed by
input to the whole thing.”           companies and civil society
     He said the findings of         organizations together,”                                     Mark Goyder
                                                                                                 Founder Director
the report were surprising.          Goyder said. “First of all,
                                                                                               Tomorrow’s Company
“They didn’t say the purpose         companies identify a problem
of the company was to create         that a law is not dealing with.    issues. Saudi Arabia has a huge    in this very vast, very global
value for shareholders. They         It is a market failure.”           impact on the global company,      marketplace is fantastic
said that is the measure of its           Goyder said the               and we need international          because the world is not going
success,” Goyder said. “The          memorandum of                      standards. My aim is to            to be shaped by the global
purpose of the company is            understanding with Tamkeen         provide those frameworks           companies that were born in
to create goods and services         benefited both companies.          for the local companies. The       London and Detroit. It is going
in a way that is ethical,                 “What Tomorrow’s              concept is new. But people are     to be shaped by companies
environmentally sensitive            Company brings to that             beginning to understand.”          being born in Bangalore, Sao
and socially responsible. They       agreement is our relationships          For now in the Middle         Paulo, Shanghai, in Jeddah
also said that this purpose          with companies around the          East, Goyder said education        and Dubai and all around this
of business is important             world and our 15 years of          is the lynchpin. “The quality      region. The next generation of
because of the way the world         work on thought leadership.        of skills that are coming out      global companies won’t take
is changing — because of the         What Tamkeen brings to             of schools and universities        the time their predecessors
limits that we are hitting in        the partnership is a deep          as opposed to the quality          did. They will learn from
economic growth.”                    understanding of what is           of skills companies need to        those mistakes and adapt very
     He said companies in            happening here in Saudi            compete on a global scale is       quickly in this multicultural,
the future will have three           Arabia and thus enabling us        the major concern. The role        crossing-boundaries world.
specific priorities. “The first is   to form a relationship that        of government was discussed        They will have the opportunity
to redefine what it means by         we wouldn’t otherwise form         widely. When it comes to           to be global by design.”
success, and the report gives        and enabling our agenda to         corporate social responsibility,       Asya Al-Ashaikh said
lots of examples of companies        become known in this region.”      the government has to play its     Tamkeen’s goal is to create
who have done that who have               Asya Al-Ashaikh said their    role by providing incentives       a future for business which
said ‘How can I do business          organizations are succeeding       and creating indices.”             makes equal sense to staff,
in a way that still makes me         in driving home the point               Goyder said that in           shareholders and society. “We
profitable, that gets me closer      of social responsibility and       addition to being a time of        create value with our partners
to the needs of society?’            sustainability. “Goyder is a       great challenges, it also is a     by building a mutually
Second, embedding corporate          leader in his field, and this is   time of great opportunities.       reinforcing link between
values will be increasingly          the kind of credibility that I     “Saudi companies have              ideas and implementation
important to the success of the      want to bring to Saudi Arabia,”    fantastic opportunities to         — between theory and
company. Values have always          she said. “I want to serve the     succeed in this global world,”     practice,” she said. “In so
been important. At the heart of      private sector in a way that       he said. “If you look at some      doing, we achieve our purpose
what we do in business, there        introduces that new paradigm       of the major companies here,       of pushing the boundaries
is something moral. The third        of management and addresses        I think that the opportunity       of thought leadership and
aspect is creating frameworks.       environmental and social           for some of those companies        business behavior.”
                    Saudi Arabia
                                   Business & Economics

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                Diplomat Issue 14
                                                       July 2008

Changing Landscape of
Saudi Arabia
The Madinah Knowledge Economic City is one of the four
cities launched by King Abdullah to make the Kingdom a high-
tech bastion.

M      uslim scientists from
       different parts of the
Islamic world gathered in
                                to decrease genetic disorders,
                                knowledge infrastructure
                                development through
Madinah on June 22 this         engineering and information
year for the launch of an       and communications
international knowledge         technology (ICT), and
forum that was aimed at         bioinformatics-based
making the holy city a global   investment in the Kingdom.
center for knowledge. Saudi         Speakers included Dr.
Arabian General Investment      Afzal Hossain and Stein
Authority (SAGIA) organized     Sture from the United States,
the three-day event titled      Professor Sar Sardy from
“Noor” (light).                 Indonesia, Dr. Musa M.
    “The primary objective      Nordin from Malaysia, Dr.
of the annual forum is to       Omar Hasan Kasule of the
promote human civilization      University of Brunei, Dr.
from the land of Madinah        Faroque Ahmad Khan of King
by attracting investors,        Fahd Medical City in Riyadh
scientists, scholars and        and Dr. Anis Ahmed from
pioneer institutions to the     Pakistan.
Knowledge Economic City             There were four women
(KEC), which is set to become   among the 24 speakers. They
an international center for     were: Sabeeha Rehman,
knowledge,” SAGIA officials     president and co-founder
said.                           of the National Autism
    Topics discussed at the     Association in New York;
forum included high-tech        Dr. Naima Abdel Ghani,
innovation and creativity in    director of the Medical Clinic
the Muslim world, strategies    for Preventive Medicine,
                    Saudi Arabia
                                          Business & Economics

From left to right, Dr. Sami Mohsen Baroum, board member, Madinah Knowledge City, Professor Mansour M. Al Nozha, President of Taibah University, Amr Al-Dabbagh,
                    Governor of SAGIA, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Majid Bin Abdul Aziz, Madinah governor, Tahir Bawazir, CEO, Madinah Knowledge City

                                        Immunotherapy and Anti-                  and create more educational               investment to knowledge-
                                        Aging Medicine in Florida;               and training opportunities to             based industries at Madinah’s
                                        Arfa Khan, professor of                  its citizens. “There are a lot of         Knowledge Economic City
                                        radiology at the Albert                  investment opportunities in               (KEC). The new city also aims
                                        Einstein College of Medicine             knowledge-based industries,”              at attracting leading scientific
                                        in New York; and Dr. Khadijah            the prince said. “KEC will                institutions and Muslim
                                        Shamsuddin, a researcher on              become a base for economic                scientists and intellectuals
                                        maternal health, child health,           development and a cultural                from different parts of the
                                        reproductive health and                  monument for the people                   world to Madinah, he said.
                                        women’s cancers in Malaysia.             and visitors of Madinah,” the             “KEC is set to become a major
                                            Madinah Governor Prince              governor said.                            driving force of the national
                                        Abdul Aziz bin Majed opened                   Amr Al-Dabbagh,                      economy. It will also create
                                        the forum and emphasized                 governor of SAGIA, stressed               more job opportunities for
                                        Saudi Arabia’s efforts to further        his organization’s strategy               Saudis,” he added.
                                        enhance its investment climate           to attract international                       Reputable international

                                              The design of the Knowledge Economic City reflects the pattern of the classic Islamic
                                              architecture of Madinah that ultimately lends it a unique character in terms of spirit and
                                              heritage. The design takes into consideration the requirements of residents and visitors
52                                            within a consolidated area that enjoys complete services and spacious areas. These areas
Diplomat Issue 14                             are served by a state-of-the-art infrastructure supported by sophisticated communications
July 2008                                     networks.
                                                                                                                       Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                              July 2008

organizations and institutions
including Harvard University,
the Association of Muslim            Madinah Knowledge Economic City, which was launched by King Abdullah in June 2006,
Scientists in the US and the         is located some five kilometers from the Prophet’s Mosque and seven kilometers from
Islamic Foundation from              Madinah Airport. Work on the city began in April 2008. It will make Madinah the capital
the UK attended the forum.           of knowledge and the center for scholars as it was during the time of Prophet Muhammad
“We hope it will be a good           (peace be upon him).
beginning for the Islamic
world to restore its leading
position in knowledge and
science,” said Dr. Salim Al-
Malik, chairman of the forum’s
scientific committee.
     The forum received
hundreds of papers from
scientists around the world
who were eager to participate.
“Our scientific committee
selected only the best 40 for
the event,” Al-Malik said.
Papers on the first day of
the event discussed issues of
health care, and ranged from,
transforming health education
to strategies to decrease
genetic disorder. The second
day showcased a number
of papers dedicated to ICT,
where topics covered a wide      committee for knowledge            make Madinah the capital of        Islamic Civilization Studies
spectrum from pro-innovation     forums and other programs          knowledge and the center for       Center; Complex for
infrastructure to next           at the upcoming knowledge          scholars as it was during the      Medical Studies, Biological
generation tech-investments.     cities in the country. It also     time of Prophet Muhammad           Sciences and Health Services;
     The three-day forum         wanted the government to           (peace be upon him),” he said.     Complete Business Center;
called for technology-oriented   support the innovative ideas            Madinah has a unique          Residential Areas that include
primary education, incentives    of small investors in the field    position for attracting Muslim     towers, villas and hotel
for scientists, and funds to     of information technology          talents from all over the world,   apartments; Passengers station;
promote knowledge-based          and other knowledge-based          who are eager to live, work,       Commercial complexes with
research and enterprises.        industries.                        retire, or make extended visits    state-of-the-art marketing
Al-Dabbagh said the                   The conference stressed       to it as the second most sacred    facilities; and King Abdul Aziz
recommendations would be         the need for launching             city in Islam. It is rich in its   Mosque.
submitted to Custodian of        broadband network                  heritage and religious related          The design of the KEC
the Two Holy Mosques King        connections for fast               content and talents. It has        reflects the pattern of the
Abdullah for consideration.      interaction with the outside       been a leading city in digital     classic Islamic architecture
     The Madinah Knowledge       world. “For the free flow of the   economy initiatives and an         of Madinah that ultimately
Economic City is one of          highest intellectual caliber to    e-government pilot. There          lends it a unique character
the four cities launched         the knowledge cities, scientists   are well-established higher        in terms of spirit and
by King Abdullah to make         should be invited solely on the    education institutions serving     heritage. The design also
the Kingdom a high-tech          basis of merit,” it added.         both SMET and religious            takes into consideration the
bastion. The forum called             KEC, which was launched       segments.                          requirements of residents
on government departments        by King Abdullah in June                The Knowledge Economic        and visitors within a
to make concerted efforts to     2006, is located some five         City is composed of the            consolidated area that
complete preparatory works       kilometers from the Prophet’s      following main components:         enjoys complete services
on schedule in order to make     Mosque and seven kilometers        Taiba Complex for Technology       and spacious areas. These
the SR30 billion KEC a reality   from Madinah Airport.              and Knowledge-based                areas are served by a state-
by 2020.                         Work on the city began in          Economy; Technological             of-the-art infrastructure
     The forum called for        April 2008. Al-Malik spoke         and Administrative Colleges;       supported by sophisticated
setting up a global advisory     highly of the KEC. “KEC will       Theme Park “Seera Land”;           communications networks.
                    Saudi Arabia
                                    Wild Life

                        Wildlife Conservation a Real
                        Saudi Concern
                        Breaking Fast
                        with Foxes!
                        Saudi Arabia’s National Wildlife Research Center protects and reintroduces
                        rare native species.

                        Roger Harrison

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                                                                      Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                             July 2008

S   till as death and
    fangs gleaming in the
crepuscular evening light,            The National Wildlife Research Center’s headquarters is located 20km south of Taif
the beige predator lay with           and the reserve is operated under the banner of the National Commission for Wildlife
seemingly glacial patience,           Conservation and Development (NCWCD) which itself was established by a Royal
motionless against the                Decree in 1986. Among other things, the decree required the commission to “develop
ground. Stepping smartly              and implement plans to preserve wildlife in its natural ecology and to propose the
over the lifeless 8cm body-           establishment of proper protected areas and reserves for wildlife in the Kingdom, and to
length camel spider, Moayyad          manage such areas.”
Sher Shah, a field research
assistant, gently lifted a cage   sandstorm, together with        Wildlife Conservation and          fenced reserve in the world
with a slightly dazed desert      re-baiting the humane traps     Development (NCWCD)                and that the perimeter is
fox into the truck. We were       set to attempt the capture of   which itself was established       patrolled every day to ensure
ready to head out to the          the elusive Arabian Sand Cat    by a Royal Decree in 1986.         its structural integrity. “The
release point, which in this      (felis magarita harrisonii),    Among other things,                aim of the breeding and
case was where the animal         marked the end of another       the decree required the            conservation programs we
was captured. “We get lots of     day in the work of the          commission to “develop             run here,” he said, “is to
those running about here,”        National Wildlife Research      and implement plans to             produce a free range and
he said nodding at the spider.    Center’s Mahazat As-Sayd, a     preserve wildlife in its natural   sustainable population of the
“Annoying at night when you       2,244 sq km reserve located     ecology and to propose the         species we deal with.”
sleep out.” Sharp intake of       about 200km northwest of        establishment of proper                 The NCWCD has
breath and point noted.           Taif.                           protected areas and reserves       succeeded in carrying out
     Scientists who spend              The NWRC headquarters      for wildlife in the Kingdom,       its mandate to a remarkable
their lives researching           is located 20km south of Taif   and to manage such areas….”        degree, signal successes
and recording species in          and the reserve is operated         Director General Ahmed         being the reintroduction
their care they like to keep      under the banner of the         Boug is proud that Mahazat         of the iconic and almost
the taxonomy of their             National Commission for         As-Sayd is the second biggest      extinct Arabian Oryx (oryx
beasts accurate even if the
unfamiliar names confuse
the less knowledgeable
visitor. Their familiarity with
the Latin names — and the
creatures themselves — comes
with practice. To acknowledge
their professionalism the
correct taxonomy will be used
to introduce species and after
that the popular cognomen.
     Wide awake and fitted
with a collar-mounted radio
transmitter, the huge eared
wide-eyed desert fox (vulpes
zerda) seemed entirely
unaffected by its anesthesia
and ear tagging. Admirably
sustained by the hunk of fresh
chicken it had recently gulped
down as bait, it lounged
patiently awaiting its fate.
     Its release in a gathering
                    Saudi Arabia
                                          Wild Life

        Clockwise: The Foxes are tagged
        with a Radio collar to monitor
        their movments. Trapped Foxes
        are later relased in the desert. The
        rare Caracal peers defensively out
        of its shady rock hideout.
        An Arabian Oryx takes advantage
        of a patch of shade in the noon day
        sun while another stands watch.

Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008
                                                                                                                        Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                               July 2008

                                       Mahazat As-Sayd, 200km northwest of Taif, is the second biggest fenced reserve in the
                                       world. Its perimeter is patrolled every day to ensure its structural integrity.

leucoryx), the Houbra              sense, we don’t know,” he said.   possible — even likely —          contributions to scientific
Bustard (chlamydotis               “And because we don’t know,       scenarios well in time.           knowledge, attracting
[undulata] macqueenii) and         we should find out to head             Thus wiping out a lizard     specialists of international
the Arabian Sand Gazelle           off catastrophe. It is much       could, a century later, cause     stature to their facilities. As
(Gazella subgutturosa marica)      easier to plan and prevent it     irreversible desertification      usual with such endeavors,
to sustainable breeding levels.    than fix it when it happens.”     of an agricultural area.          convincing accountants
    There is, however, much        He gave a simple example that     Dr. Shobrak should know;          and budget setters of their
work left to do; several species   demonstrated the domino           uromastyx shoubrakii — a          importance in the long term
are threatened and some            effect of eliminating a species   dhub unique to the Kingdom        without so much as a sniff
have almost disappeared. The       from the sensitively balanced     — carries his name, although      of instant profit is an uphill
spiny-tailed lizard locally        desert ecosystem.                 his real fascination is with      struggle. There is no doubting
known as “dhub” (genus                  Seeds form part of           the lappet-faced vulture          however the dedication and
uromastyx) is under threat         the diet for many desert          (vultur tracheliotus) the study   energy of the staff working
from hunters, and two very         creatures. Some of those          of which earned him his           permanently in what can only
attractive cats — the Arabian      seeds cannot germinate until      doctorate.                        be described as arduous and
Leopard (panthera pardus           they have passed through the           The center runs an           primitive conditions.
nimr) and the Sand Cat — are       digestive tract of the “dhub”     educational program                    A ranger came into
other cases in point.              and have been re-buried in        and — administered by             the rickety trailer perched
    Once ostriches roamed          the sand. Kill out the “dhub,”    Abdul Rahman Khoja who,           in the Mahazat As-Sayd
the Kingdom’s desert —             and the plants die; the plants    because of his boundless          reserve while we were taking
evidenced in the petroglyphs       die and other animal species      enthusiasm and energy, is         a break from following
scratched into rocks at sites      die; the lack of plants also      known affectionately to the       Oryx. Unusually, for the
across the Kingdom. The            reduces the ground cover for      staff as “Wildman Khoja.” He      custom of the country, he
redneck ostrich (truthio           arid land. This in turn leads     enthusiastically welcomes         declined to shake hands but
camelus massaicus) is              to wind erosion as there are      schools and visitors to           acknowledged our presence
gradually being reintroduced       fewer physical wind-breaks        introduce future generations      gracefully, sitting with us
in the wild, though recent         provided by the plants and        to the need to conserve and       and taking tea and making
drought caused upsets in the       a reduced binding effect on       maintain the balance of arid-     conversation for a full 20
breeding cycle.                    the soil. Shade is reduced        land ecosystems. “Come,”          minutes.
    With urban development         and other species disappear       he says, leading a visitor in          It was only when we left
and the march of progress          or migrate, taking with them      friendly but firm grip to the     that a traveling companion
apace why, asking the              their individual effects on the   photos, videos and pamphlets      whispered to us that the
hard question, does the            environment, compounding          produced in the center’s          ranger did not want to make a
fate of a few — some quite         the developing problem.           offices, “come any time; you      fuss in front of guests or offer
unlovely — animals matter?              Eventually, the land         are welcome.”                     his left hand in greeting, but
What difference would it           becomes devoid of almost all           It would be a serious        a desert wolf — a critically
really make? In a word:            plant cover and windblown         misconception to regard the       endangered species — he was
Interconnectedness.                sand moves — perhaps onto         Mahazat As-Sayd reserve           dealing with had just bitten
    Dr. Mohammed Shobrak,          the few agricultural areas that   and the Taif center as empty      off one of his fingers and
who has been involved              sustain human life. This may      political gestures toward         badly mangled a thumb.
with the NWRC for the              take a century or two. The        the environment by the                 Accountants sitting in
best part of two decades,          key issue is that the research    government. They are not.         safe comfortable offices listen
took the question with total       done by the NCWCD and             They are centers of excellence    up; whatever this guy is paid,
equanimity. “The truth is in a     the NWRC points out the           producing important               it is not enough!
                    Saudi Arabia

                                   Novel project from professional carers
                                   Open Skies Therapeutic Riding
                                   Taking care of the physically challenged children is key to a balanced society.
                                   Mohammed Rasooldeen

                                   I  n one of the smarter parts
                                      of urban Jeddah there is a
                                   smart black hat. Twice a week
                                                                        extremely difficult for both
                                                                             Three years ago, Zed
                                                                                                            exactly what you say to him in
                                                                                                            English and Arabic — shouts
                                                                                                            cheerfully and gestures that
                                   it assumes a new significance        met Ashir, half a ton of a          he wants to get on with the
                                   when placed firmly by the            30-something grey horse. Since      exercises he has come for and
                                   owner on his head. Then it           then, they have developed a         loves.
                                   becomes the signal for its           relationship that stimulates             “Since Zed began riding,
                                   owner’s departure from his           hyperbole. Adjectives such          a new joy entered his life,”
                                   strange world to meet his            as miraculous, fantastic and        commented Allison Macoll, his
                                   friend Ashir.                        incredible jostle for selection     mentor. “It has affected other
                                        Zed, the owner of the           but none address the point. The     areas of his life profoundly
                                   hat, is now 18 and severely          relationship itself is the point.   — communicative skills,
                                   autistic. He lives in two distinct        Previously hardly able         relationships and physical.”
                                   but overlapping worlds. The          to relate to people — or they            The pair ambles into the
                                   physical world is well provided      to him — Zed has a deep,            arena where Zed goes through
                                   for; he has been supported           empathetic and wordless             the set of movements that
                                   since he was very young and          connection with Ashir.              have developed his muscles
                                   wants for little. Mentally, he       When seen together, it is           and reactions, and brought
                                   lives in a world few outside         plain that Ashir returns the        on a surge of mental activity
                                   the realms of psychiatrists          understanding. What happens         and, against all expectation,
                                   and professional carers could        is something no one has             laughter. “It’s therapy disguised
                                   even begin to understand. It         yet explained, however, it is       as fun,” commented Judy
                                   is a world of obsessive habit;       something special.                  Houry, a qualified therapeutic
                                   one that has few channels of              After three months of          riding instructor, who
                                   communication with our world         twice-weekly meetings with          founded and heads Open Skies
                                   and is in many respects solitary     his new chum, Zed was able          Therapeutic Riding Days in
                                   confinement for its inhabitants.     to lead Ashir out of his stable     Jeddah where Zed spends time
                                   They do not know this and they       to the mounting block where         each week.
                                   do not even know that they           he mounts unaided onto the               That riding horses benefits
58                                 do not know. This makes cross        saddle. There Zed — who is an       severely disabled people has
Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008                          boundary communication               echolalic autistic who repeats      been known about for over two
                                                                                                                               Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                      July 2008

and a half millennia. So well
recognized is it that in the US it
is heavily funded and claimable          That riding horses benefits severely disabled people has been known about for over two and
on medical insurance. In                 a half millennia. So well recognized is it that in the US it is heavily funded and claimable
Saudi Arabia, the program is             on medical insurance. In Saudi Arabia, the program is unique to Open Skies, which is
unique to Open Skies, which is           supported by volunteer helpers of all nationalities.
supported by volunteer helpers
of all nationalities and the
British community. Welcomed          people, copies exactly. He           results of a yearlong study        his walking demonstrated.
at Al-Aseel Equestrian               quickly learned to steer Ashir,      on the therapeutic impact of       “His personality, full of fun
Center last year, Open Skies         but teaching him to kick the         equine therapy for children        and laughter, has changed
now has its own arena and            flanks of the horse with two         with cerebral palsy. “Beliefs      dramatically for the better.”
facilities for disabled riders       feet rather than one proved a        about the positive effects of           Even very young severely
and their families. A qualified      teaching challenge. “If we stood     hippotherapy are strongly held,    disabled children benefit from
physiotherapist is also now          on one leg and demonstrated,         but not yet fully supported by     being introduced to a horse.
working along with Judy.             Zed would kick with just one,”       objective evidence,” reported      Simply watch the effect on a
      “My dream is to see this       Houry mused. “We got there           Tim Shurtleff, occupational        tiny girl like Amal who, unable
invaluable therapy that gives        in the end and now can ride          therapist and lead researcher.     to walk or even sit up without
so much to those who have            solo in the arena and negotiate      “We have shown that                assistance, lies face down
difficulties fully funded,”          the various obstacles. In the        hippotherapy is a therapeutic      sprawled stiffly over the back
mused Houry. “Our volunteers         process he has progressed            tool that makes a measurable       of a horse.
and supporters, Saudi and            from a stately walk on the           and visible difference in basic         “It’s a spiritual experience;
expatriate both, are wonderful,      end of a lead rope to a smart        skills that form the foundation    in one or two minutes of the
selfless people but these            trot independently which he          of most functional activities of   horse moving, her body relaxes
children need long-term              thoroughly enjoys.”                  everyday life.”                    and softens and she relaxes,”
security and continuity to get            Houry said Zed was now               The team used a computer      said Houry. When the horse
the maximum out of this. This        much more self-possessed             controlled motorized barrel to     is led at the walk, the motion
is my dream but also my goal.”       and goes about the business          mimic the motion of a horse        moves the tiny rider’s internal
      Ashir, completely happy        of unsaddling and rewarding          and video motion capture           organs in a way that mimics
with Zed tossing hoops and           Ashir with handfuls of carrots.      to measure the changes in          walking, cause her muscles to
catching soft balls thrown to        He is now learning to brush the      motor control, which might         work instinctively to balance.
him, lowers his head, crosses        horse’s coat and to take care of     have been learned on a real        “And she smiles!” said Houry
his front legs and snoozes.          his mount.                           horse, in their patients. They     who has her own opinion as to
The elderly horse has been                The benefits Zed has            saw real improvements. The         why the mental and emotional
carrying children such as Zed        derived from his riding have         research team wants to run         benefits flow from riding.
for 10 years now; he has seen it     carried over into other areas of     random clinical trials on the           “In a wheelchair everything
all before. So taken is he with      his life. Motor skills have vastly   technique, which, if successful,   has to be done for you and you
his young charges that an able       improved to the extent that he       put the efficacy of hippotherapy   look up the whole time. On a
rider boards him, Ashir gives        now plays tennis and can swim.       entirely beyond doubt.             horse, your take on the world
him a very tough time. “Zed          “It has added immense value to            Omar, another regular         changes — you have to control
still lives mainly in a world        his life,” said Houry.               at Open Skies is physically        yourself and the animal — you
of his own,” observed Houry.              The distinctions between        disabled. He frequently refuses    are in command to stay aboard
“But here, he breaks out for a       therapeutic riding and               to use a walker or crutches to     and you are looking down on
while.”                              hippotherapy are narrowly            walk. When he falls, which he      the world. The child or adult is
      Since meeting Ashir, Zed       drawn but the fields overlap.        does every few steps; he simply    suddenly taking part in a sport
began learning very quickly          Therapeutic riding refers            bursts into laughter, scrambles    that his brothers and sisters
and has started to talk. He          specifically to horseback            up and has another go.             can’t do and they encounter self
has learned his own name             riding lessons for people with            “He made it to the            respect at last.”
and those of the horses as           special needs. In hippotherapy,      mounting block recently —               The Washington team
well as the people working           a qualified physiotherapist          maybe 10 meters — it was           may well have provided the
with him. “This is much more         works with the therapeutic           furthest he has ever walked,”      empirical evidence through
than he had done before he           instructor to use the horse as       reflected Houry. “He is so         their electric barrel-horse for
met the horse,” Houry said.          a therapeutic tool. The mental       determined to clamber aboard       the benefits of the physical
“It has helped develop his           benefits that accrue to the rider    Badr — an ex-polo pony —           associations. No one has
speech and his memory and,           occur in either case.                whom he adores.”                   yet empirically proven the
in conjunction with his carer,            In June this year,                   Houry confided that Omar      emotional or mental benefits
Alison and her work, has come        researchers from the                 had derived tremendous joy         beyond the vast body of
on enormously.”                      Washington University                from his riding, his muscles       anecdotal evidence that goes
      Zed, as with most autistic     Program in Occupational              had strengthened and his           back over two and a half
                                     Therapy published the                balance improved hugely as         millennia.
                    Saudi Arabia
                                     Book Review

                        A Peep Into the World of Arab
                        Television Industry
                        Interesting Sequel
                        Naomi Sakr’s award-winning book, “Satellite Realms,” offers a sharp
                        insight into the present state of the television industry in the Arab world.

                                                                                                       “      rab Television
                                                                                                              Today” is a sequel
                                                                                                        to Naomi Sakr’s “Satellite
                                                                                                        Realms” which was
                                                                                                        awarded the Middle
                                                                                                        Eastern Studies Book
                                                                                                        Prize in 2003. Naomi Sakr,
                                                                                                        the author, is a Reader in
                                                                                                        Communication in the
                                                                                                        School of Media, Arts and
                                                                                                        Design at the University
                                                                                                        of Westminster and this
                                                                                                        goes some way to explain
                                                                                                        the overtly academic style
                                                                                                        of the work.
                                                                                                            The book offers a
                                                                                                        sharp insight into the
                                                                                                        present state of the
                                                                                                        television industry in the
                                                                                                        Arab world. The author
                                                                                                        goes behind the scenes
                                                                                                        to show how the close
                                                                                                        interplay between owners,
                                                                                                        investors, journalists,
                                                                                                        producers and advertisers
                                                                                                        covers the entire Arab
                                                                                                        region and communities
                                                                                                            A growing number of
                                                                                                        viewers in Arab countries
                                                                                                        have been watching
                                                                                                        satellite television since
                                                                                                        their first appearance in
                                                                                                        the 1990s. In Lebanon,
                                                                                                        Algeria and Saudi Arabia,
60                                                                                                      90 percent or more of
Diplomat Issue 14                                                                                       television households
July 2008                                                                                               receive satellite channels.
                                                                                                                          Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                 July 2008

This new Arab media has
not only put forward a new-
style journalism but it has            Arab analysts agree that the arrival of satellite channels did not sever the relations of
also introduced a number               patronage that previously dominated the region’s television output. She also rightly
of programs whose format               suggests that where Arab television is concerned, instead of inquiring about political
and content were previously            pressures, one should focus on licensing commissions, independent production houses,
unknown in the Arab world.             professional alliances, audience research agencies, advertisers’ trade associations and
    The author points out that         media watch groups as a means of establishing autonomous platforms to express any
Arab analysts agree that the           shared or conflicting interests.
arrival of satellite channels
did not sever the relations
of patronage that previously       nor outside the Arab world         or the Israel-Lebanon war,         serious and often dramatic
dominated the region’s             in the past...all are convinced    journalists have to deal with      news. Najat Sharafeddine of
television output. She also        that local news in most Arab       their emotions. Jihad Ballout,     Future TV recalls a Lebanese
rightly suggests that where        countries has been neglected       who moved from Al-Jazeera to       director telling female
Arab television is concerned,      for so long,” writes Sakr.         Al-Arabiya in 2005 explained       presenters that viewers wanted
instead of inquiring about              Nabil Khatib, chief of        to AFP: “A journalist cannot       to see them rather than to
political pressures, one           MBC’s Jerusalem bureau             be isolated from his roots and     listen to them.
should focus on licensing          for several years and then         feelings. I cannot imagine              On the whole, the
commissions, independent           executive editor of Al-            being impartial... But there are   expansion of television
production houses,                 Arabiya, explains: “For 50         certain measures in practice to    opened the door to a
professional alliances, audience   years, all Arabs have heard        preserve objectivity.”             growing number of female
research agencies, advertisers’    about is Israelis, Palestinians,        The proliferation of          journalists, reporters, editors
trade associations and media       Americans, Arab summits and        satellite channels has brought     and producers. Women are
watch groups as a means of         so on, and nothing about real      to the forefront the question      even reporting business and
establishing autonomous            answers to the real questions of   of gender and power balances       financial news. Jamil Al-Hajj,
platforms to express any           why Arabs are poor, frustrated,    between men and women.             head of finance and economy
shared or conflicting interests.   and unhappy with the level of      Queen Rania of Jordan created      at Al-Arabiya, admitted that
    Arab satellite channels fall   health care and education for      an advisory council called         his main priority was to find
basically into three categories,   his children... We are inventing   the “Arab Women’s Media            experts who would not make
defined by contrasting             the basic tradition of being       Campaign” to remind heads          mistakes when covering
approaches to the broadcasting     sensitive to public interest and   of satellite channels and other    stock-market trends and other
business. First, viewers are       we need to fight for it.”          media leaders that they had        financial matters that could
seen as a potential market for          In one of the book’s          a role to play in correcting       affect viewers, investments
items to be advertised during      most interesting passages,         misconceptions about Arab          and savings. Furthermore,
program breaks; second,            Naomi Sakr brings up the           women. Many feel that              the new Arab media showed
viewers are addressed not as       subject of objectivity. Arab       satellite channels are a means     advertisers the importance of
a market but as a public with      television editors, reporters      to exchange ideas, a medium        female viewers as consumers.
information needs. A third         and presenters who believe         of education and a platform        Presently, an increasing
approach makes a distinction       in objectivity do not reflect a    for ‘empowerment’ but              number of Arab and foreign
between satisfying market          consensus on this issue in their   where women are concerned,         programs, morning shows,
demand and satisfying the          own societies. In this respect,    television programs exploited      serials, religious programs,
demand for favorable publicity     Al Arabiya’s Nabil Khatib          the differences between’s          talk shows, target a female
on the part of well-known          observes that conflicting          women’s visibility in different    audience in order to reach that
politicians.                       pressures were making it           countries to attract viewers.      lucrative market.
    Arab journalists are           hard for the so-called new         Lebanese channels aired                 Another profitable
presently attaining celebrity      Arab media to take ‘difficult      early aerobics programs and        business concerns the
status and their profession        decisions about priorities’ or     entertaining shows at night.       production of entertaining
has begun to enjoy prestige:       broadcast ‘news about issues       Lebanese anchor women are          programs. As Naomi Sakr
“They are reaching for a kind      those in power do not want the     known for wearing attractive       rightly points out, “The
of reporting about Arab affairs    public to know.’ Furthermore       clothes and extravagant            prevalence of a single language
that was possible neither inside   when reporting on Israeli          jewelry more appropriate for a     in a total Arab population
                                   forces hitting Palestinians        gala evening than for reading      of some 300 million in
                    Saudi Arabia
                                    Book Review

                                       Arab journalists are presently attaining celebrity status and their profession has begun
                                       to enjoy prestige: “They are reaching for a kind of reporting about Arab affairs that was
                                       possible neither inside nor outside the Arab world in the past...all are convinced that local
                                       news in most Arab countries has been neglected for so long,” writes Sakr.

                                   22 countries is a rare             controversial Faisal Al-Kasim        statistics but major advertisers
                                   phenomenon in comparison to        admitted that he enjoyed             have now pushed for long-
                                   other regions.”                    “defrocking political figures        delayed upgrading of data
                                       It seems however that          and de-iconizing icons.” But         thanks to the introduction of
                                   the most popular channels          despite the controversial issues     people meters in three Gulf
                                   rely heavily on Western-           discussed in these talk shows,       countries.
                                   style formats and large-scale      Arab broadcasters do not seem             “Arab Television Today”
                                   imports of foreign serials and     to have made a profit from           gives us a fascinating insight
                                   films. On the other hand,          them. Furthermore, the lack          into the new Arab media. We
                                   local production of films and      of profitability in Arab satellite   are drawn into the problems
                                   serials is far below its highly    channels is due to problems          faced by satellite television
                                   profitable potential.              linked to advertising budgets.       with its news, talk shows
                                       “Television companies          Sakr highlights the low level        and entertaining programs.
                                   appeare to be preoccupied          of spending in a region where        We are also made aware of
                                   with the immediate and short       oil revenues boomed before           the presence of conflicting
                                   term, giving very little thought   and after the US-led invasion        influences on Arab TV
                                   to sustainable programming         of Iraq in 2003. The other           journalism and get a glimpse
                                   strategies that would foster       problem concerns the wide            of the business strategies of the
                                   production capacity at the         disparity in advertising rates       main TV firms.
                                   national level and nurture the     charged for different shows,              Naomi Sakr concludes:
                                   local creativity which local       rocketing prices for some slots      “Established firms with the
                                   audiences have shown they          leveling out to much cheaper         backing of powerful political
                                   appreciate,” writes Sakr.          prices elsewhere.                    forces continue to enjoy big
                                       Novel talk shows have also          The necessity of                advantages in their political
62                                 enabled the satellite channels     maintaining an audience              ability to control economic
Diplomat Issue 14
July 2008                          to attract viewers. The            share has often led to flawed        aspects of the business.”
                                                                                                                           Diplomat Issue 14
                                                                                                                                  July 2008

                                   Crime Fiction in the
                                   Arab World
                                   Arab writers take a dim view of this highly popular Western genre.

C     rime fiction aficionados
      have been waiting for the
release of “The Final Bet,” the
                                   finding a good
                                   translator. The
                                   global success
                                                                                        means of the
                                                                                        fictional story
                                                                                        of Othman,
                                                                                                               As a writer of crime
                                                                                                          fiction, Hamdouchi has not
                                                                                                          only, for the first time, shown
first Arabic detective novel       of “The                                              a young           his readers what happens in a
published in English. “The         Yacoubian                                            Moroccan          police station but he has also
Final Bet” is the dark tale of a   Building” was                                        accused of        underlined the pressing need
handsome young Moroccan            widely due to                                        murdering         to reform the legal rights of an
lawyer, Othman, accused of         Humphrey                                             Sofia, his        individual at the beginning of
killing his much older French      Davies’ superb                                       much older        a criminal investigation.
wife. The author, Abdelilah        translation.                                         wife,” Smolin          “Without his lawyer,
Hamdouchi, is a Moroccan           Arab writers                                         explains.         Othman would have become
crime novelist and an award-       who want                                                  The title    the victim of a brutal, violent,
winning screenwriter for           to be read                                           of the novel      and incompetent police force...
television and cinema. All         abroad are                                           is partially      Without a full reform of the
of his eight police novels         also reminded                                        explained         police, the novel suggests,
including “The Final Bet” have     by Western                                           in the final      there must at least be reform in
been produced for Moroccan         publishers                                           pages of          the legal system that prohibits
television.                        that global trends influence       the novel when Alwaar, the          a lawyer from being present
     Crime fiction is not          readers’ tastes. Moreover, few     police detective, challenges        during the first 48 to 72 hours
popular in the Arab world. In      publishers are ready to take the   Othman’s lawyer, Hulumi to          of a suspect’s arrest,” explains
fact, some Arab writers take a     risk of releasing a book which     a bet. He asks him to find the      Smolin.
dim view of detective stories      will not sell because of its       element in his report which              One can only hope that
and do not consider the genre      unappealing content.               proves Othman’s innocence:          the release of “The Final Bet,”
a noble one. The Egyptian               Jonathan Smolin provides      “Sofia wasn’t trying to pull        the first Arabic detective
novelist Radwa Ashour admits       us with a useful translator’s      the picture toward her,” said       novel, will be a launching
she was humiliated when she        afterword in which we are          Alwaar with determination,          pad for other Arab writers to
was asked why she did not          told that the first modern         staring at Hulumi. “She             experiment with crime fiction
write crime novels with a wide     Arabic police novel originated     was pointing to her son as          and find a new readership
readership. She believes that      in Morocco during the              the killer.” Hulumi let out a       in their respective countries.
she does not have to be read at    mid-1990s. “This new form          ringing laugh. “You wouldn’t        Many Arab writers complain
any cost and so bow to market      of writing directly engages        have noticed that, Alwaar, if       that their novels are not being
conditions.                        hard-hitting issues such as        Othman was convicted,” said         read but they don’t bother
     However, a growing            crime, human rights and state      Hulumi. “You’re interested in       to investigate the reasons
number of Arab writers are         authority, providing a powerful    it only because he was proven       behind the lack of interest.
turning to the West, looking       medium for social critique.        innocent. Sorry, you lost the       The amazing sales of “The
for both, recognition and a        In ‘The Final Bet,’ originally     bet!”                               Yacoubian Building” by
wider readership which eludes      published in 2001, Abdelilah            In an interview to the         Al-Aswany and “Taxi,” an
them at home. As they face         Hamdouchi continues this           Moroccan daily “Al-Sabah,”          innovative documentary novel
the prospect of being known        literary experiment by             Hamdouchi explained that            by Al Khamissi, prove that a
abroad, Arab writers have          engaging the themes of police      “The Final Bet” is “the bet that    good Arabic novel will attract
to deal with the problem of        reform and legal rights by         Morocco now faces.”                 readers.

                                        Coexistence Is the Key
                                        A new survey reveals that there is a dire need to promote points of convergence rather
                                        than divergence.

T    he Gallup Organization
     — a world leader in global
opinion research — has recently
                                        with information to combat
                                        Islamophobia and anti-Semitism,
                                                                               Israelis represent a notable
                                                                               exception; almost two-thirds (64
                                                                               percent) believe the Muslim world
                                                                                                                      cartoons depicting the Prophet
                                                                                                                      Muhammad (peace be upon
                                                                                                                      him) originated in 2005, and
self-funded a World Poll which               How do Muslims around the         is committed to improvement.           The Netherlands (55 percent),
gathers opinion data in the areas       worldview relations between the             Among the majority-Muslim         where the 2004 killing of a Dutch
of leadership, law and order, food/     West and the Muslim world? Do          nations surveyed, we see roughly       filmmaker by a young Muslim has
shelter, work, economics, health,       they see cooperation or conflict?      the same pattern; majorities in        sparked controversy.
well-being, citizen engagement          Where there are problems, who          every Middle Eastern country                However, the index reveals
from the peoples of 130 countries.      do they think is at fault? Are they    studied believe the West is not        that even in the nations studied
     The World Poll gathers             optimistic or pessimistic about the    committed to better relations          with no obvious conflicts or
opinions around the world               future?                                with the Muslim world, while           significant dysfunction with local
annually following Gallup’s                  Though majority of Muslim         respondents in majority-Muslim         Muslim minority communities
guiding principles of                   populations around the world have      Asian countries are about evenly       — such as Italy (70 percent),
independence and integrity.             a great deal of pessimism about        split.                                 Canada (67 percent) and Sweden
The Coexist Foundation, a UK-           the state of the relationship, they         Despite low levels of             (54 percent) — high percentages
registered charity, has a mission       also believe that violent conflict     confidence in the commitment of        of respondents feel the West is
to promote better understanding         between the West and the Muslim        those on the “other side,” majority    disrespected.
between members of the                  world can be avoided. Though           in most nations surveyed in both            If residents of Muslim
Abrahamic faiths and also their         many Muslims believe the West          the Muslim and Western worlds          majority countries mostly say their
relations with other religions          does not respect them, they still      say that the quality of interactions   society respects the West, why
and the secular world through           believe greater interaction with       between the two is important to        do Westerners feel disrespected?
education, dialogue and research.       the West is more a benefit than a      them. In some Western countries,       A possible explanation is that
     As part of the World Poll,         threat. Americans and Canadians        including Denmark, the United          Westerners may conflate negative
Gallup gathers data from the            also believe greater interaction       States, Belgium, Italy, Canada and     opinion of the United States
Muslim World and the West               with the Muslim world is a benefit.    Spain, and Israel, the percentage      common in the Muslim world
about people’s beliefs about            Though both sides wish for better      who say the issue is important         with a rejection of the West and its
education, religion, culture            relations, both sides lack trust in    to them is even higher than the        values as a whole.
and democracy. The Coexist              the other’s good intentions.           percentage who give the Western             This perception is intensified
Foundation has developed a not-              Palestinians are among the        world credit for commitment to         by cultural firestorms such as the
for-profit relationship with the        most likely to say Muslim-West         improved relations.                    Danish cartoon controversy, which
Gallup Organization. Together,          relations are worsening, reflecting         In other words, some              leave some Westerners feeling that
these two entities share the belief     the acute conflicts currently raging   respondents believe their personal     Muslims do not respect “Western
that the accurate collection and        in the Palestinian territories and     level of concern is higher than        values” of free speech, and
dissemination of this data to key       underscoring the importance of         that of their own leadership, not      therefore do not respect the West.
opinion leaders will lead to a better   their resolution to the state of the   to mention the leadership of the            In reality, the vast majority
understanding between people of         dialogue.                              “other side.”                          of Muslims support the value of
different faiths and cultures and            Among both Muslim majority             These findings illustrate         free speech in principle. Ninety-
consequently better relations.          and non-Muslim majority nations,       a consistent sense of being            four percent of Egyptians and 92
     Gallup and the Coexist             the proportion that say they think     disrespected across nations that       percent of Iranians, for example,
Foundation will be pursuing             the “other side” is committed to       have very different economic,          say they would guarantee the right
collaborating partners in order         better relations rarely rises above    political and geostrategic             of free speech if they were asked
to advance the facilitation and         a minority. However, a majority        relationships with the West.           to draft a constitution for a new
dissemination of this information.      of residents in nations around the          While most respondents            country. Many Muslim-world
The first of these collaborating        world say that better interaction      in almost all Muslim-majority          respondents also cite freedom of
partners is the Coexistence Trust,      between the Muslim and Western         countries say the Muslim world         expression as among the qualities
a UK-based organization of              worlds is important to them.           respects the Western world,            of the West that they most admire.
parliamentarians, whose mission              Three in four US residents        majorities of those in Western              And yet, the Danish cartoon
is to provide senior Muslim             say the Muslim world is not            countries (and Israel) disagree.       was clearly offensive to many
and Jewish political leaders            committed to improving relations       Eighty-two percent of Americans        Muslims who felt it violated the
                                        with the West; an identical            and 73 percent of Israelis believe     boundaries of free speech. Some
                                        percentage of Palestinians             that the Muslim world does             Europeans agreed; 30 percent of
                                        attribute the same apathy to the       not respect the West. Similarly        the German public, 45 percent
                                        West. At least half of respondents     high figures are seen in Spain         French and a majority (57
                                        in Italy (58 percent), Denmark (52     (63 percent), site of the Madrid       percent) of the British public
64                                      percent) and Spain (50 percent)        terrorist bombing of 2004,             said in 2007 that printing the
Diplomat Issue 14                       agree that the Muslim world is not     Denmark (69 percent), where the        cartoon was not protected by
July 2008                               committed to improving relations.      international firestorm over the       freedom of speech.

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