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Category Archive: Opinions & Editorials

Growing Road Deaths, A Cause of Concern

13 August 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

During the past few years, Saudi Arabia has lost tens of thousands of lives. Most of the dead were so young they did not even reach their 20th birthday. Nowadays, road accidents claim hundreds of lives of Saudis and non-Saudis every month and that is a commonplace.

Roads, streets and highways in Saudi Arabia are generally built to be of very high standard. But, building good roads is not enough to prevent road accidents. Now, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of highway fatalities in the world. Thousands of lives are lost every year and billions of Saudi riyals are spent to treat the injured and additional billions are wasted because of discarded automobiles wrecked in accidents. It is true that we have tried to implement new rules and new methods in order to reduce highway fatalities, but it seems nothing is working to prevent road accidents. We have introduced the so-called Saher system to monitor speeding and traffic violations but still these are merely cameras catching speeding motorists and traffic violators. Most accidents occur because of negligence by the drivers, especially the young ones.

During the past few years, most of the fatal accidents occurred due to lack of concentration by drivers. Many try to make calls, read and send text messages while driving. And all it takes is just two seconds for an accident to happen. In other words, two seconds are long enough to change your life and the lives of others forever.

Saudi Arabia’s road accidents and the growing number of fatalities is becoming a national issue and there must be a total evaluation of the existing traffic rules in addition to introducing new ways of watching the roads. The traffic police should not only rely on Saher cameras and neglect the direct supervision and monitoring of the traffic. Many youngsters in Saudi Arabia have very bad driving habits with no respect for traffic rules or rights of other drivers. Bad driving for a short while is more dangerous than driving 10 kilometers within the speed limit. Also, the traffic police must be involved in preparing the traffic structure within the city to make the streets safe for driving. They should be trained how to deal with speeding cars and errant drivers. The traffic police should be educated and given orientation about new and tougher laws to check violations.

Nowadays, with the increase in road accidents because of the modern day gadgets such as mobile phones, new laws must be implemented to check careless driving. Young drivers must be told about the dangers of driving and texting. Both can’t be done at the same time. In other words we need more traffic police on the roads and not cameras next to traffic lights.

Many tougher traffic laws need to be introduced and implemented because only two seconds of callousness can cause a fatal accident.

We have lost thousands of lives and billions of riyals in accidents. What is worse is that many parents’ lives have been devastated and ruined because they have lost their loved ones in accidents.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Growing Road Deaths, A Cause of Concern reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Gaza: Are the Arabs Divided?

6 August 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Are the Arabs divided over the war in Gaza? If so, then why are they divided? And if not, then why we don’t see the unity in the official statements and media talks the way we used to see and hear during past confrontations with Israel?

Since the establishment of Israel, the Arabs have maintained unity regardless of their differences or at least they have demonstrated that unity in public, especially whenever there is a direct confrontation between Israel and any Arab country or Palestinian organization. In other words, enmity between the Arab countries and Israel is known worldwide. So, have there been any changes in the general attitude of the Arab masses or governments?

Since the start of the latest bloody confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza, Arab countries and people have maintained different approaches to the conflict.

There were many talks and talkbacks between Arab politicians, analysts, columnists and media commentators. Many blamed the Israelis, but few wondered if Hamas was to blame. And this is a first in the Arab world. In the past, it was impossible for any politician or the media to point a finger toward the Arab side as the one to be partly blamed.

Nowadays, things are changing for many reasons. It is true that there are over 1,900 casualties on the Palestinian side and the whole world saw the amount of destruction and barbarity unleashed by Israel in Gaza, but, many observers are referring to the human side of the conflict and not the conflict itself.

Many in the Arab world are even saying that they have seen far worse killings and atrocities during the past three years of the so-called Arab Spring than in all wars and battles between the Arabs and the Israelis during the last 66 years. Also, many in the Arab world are questioning the killings, devastations, displacement of people not only in Gaza, but the entire Arab World.

Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya all have a huge number of refugees and suffered destructions. The number of deaths due to Arab Spring is in hundreds of thousands and the number of refugees, displaced and missing persons is in millions. So, many in the Arab world are simply too busy grappling with their own problems and chaos thay had never experienced before. Besides, the IS (Islamic State) announced that Israel is not its enemy, but it is the other Arabs and Muslims. And the Syrian Air Force had flown more sorties against its own people than it did in all its wars with Israel.

Iraqi and Libyan air forces had never fired a shot against Israel, but they sure did many turkey shoot runs against their own civilians. This is why many in the Arab world are sick and tired of seeing more blood being spilled and more destructions of an already dysfunctional infrastructure. So, many in the Arab world are divided with regard to the killings in Gaza not because they lack patriotism or are not sympathetic toward the Palestinians, it is just a question of then what?

The battle of Gaza will hopefully come to an end with the truce that went into effect Tuesday morning, but, no one will know for sure the actual number of dead and injured. The scars and the hatred between all parties concerned will become more severe. Palestinian and Israeli children will grow up with more hatred in their hearts.

Most likely there will be another conflict(s) and with simple calculation, if the money that was spent on weapons and the money needed to rebuild what has been destroyed were used to build schools, roads and hospitals, then there would have been more people alive and the children maimed would have been playing in the streets and attending schools learning to live together in peace. This is why there is a division among the Arab masses.

Arabs are frustrated because they see the world progress and advance while their countries are being destroyed. But, at the end of the day, maybe the key problem is that Arabs have never been united, some of them even hate each other than they hate Israel. Of course I did not mention the crocodile tears that many shed at the Palestinains’ miseries while at the same time they are the beneficiaries.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Gaza: Are the Arabs Divided? reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Celebrating Eid Away From Home

5 August 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

After the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world celebrate three days of Eid Al-Fitr marked by interesting and exciting events. While celebrating Eid, we mainly share happiness with close relatives, extended family members, neighbors and friends. Children usually get money (Eideyyah) from their elders. In other words, Eid is a religious event, but it is at the same time a family gathering. So, what would one do during the three days of Eid if he/she is away from home?

Just before the end of Ramadan, I and my family left Saudi Arabia and traveled to the American capital, Washington DC, to be with my eldest son during Eid. He is an ER doctor doing his residency at George Washington University Hospital. He has been sent on scholarship by King Fahad Specialist Hospital in Dammam. Before my arrival to Washington, I was wondering how I would spend Eid in the American capital. I thought I would mostly stay at my son’s apartment with the family.

Later on I found out that the Saudi Embassy in Washington had lined up events for all Saudi citizens from the DC area and its surrounding cities on the Eid day. So, I decided to go. Shawwal moon was sighted Sunday evening (Saudi time) and Eid was celebrated on Monday. There are many mosques in Washington DC and Muslims observe their religious festivals respecting the sentiments of others. During Eid prayer or Friday prayers, policemen direct traffic flow around the mosques.

After Eid prayer early Monday morning, I headed to the Saudi Embassy. When I went to the main lobby, I was surprised to see a large number of Saudi men, women and children. They comprised diplomats, Saudi tourists and students studying in the US under the Saudi government scholarship program. The gathering was huge and the event was very well organized with plenty of food.

During the event, Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir was present chatting with the guests and taking photos with the young and old. The young Saudi ambassador is known for his capabilities to deal with the most difficult issues in the capital of the world’s superpower. He is a highly educated and talented politician. He is soft spoken, but with solid approach to major issues that concern Saudi-American interests. During the function itself, the ambassador took time to solve issues of many attendants who sought his assistance. The programs at the Saudi Embassy were enjoyed by all those present. At the embassy everyone felt at home.

The next day, which was the second day of Eid, I was in for another good surprise. The world’s famous two European football teams, Manchester United from the UK and Inter Milan from Italy were on a US tour and they were supposed to play on Tuesday in FedEXField in the state of Maryland, not far from Washington. My kids bought me a ticket and we watched the game at the stadium. Watching a sport’s event in the US is different. It is a family fun. The stadium was packed with more than 60,000 spectators. I was very surprised to see so many fans for the European teams in the US and even more surprised to see so many Saudis at the stadium. At the end of the day we all know that it is true that Eid celebration is different at home, but, people who are away from home can celebrate Eid and have fun too.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Celebrating Eid Away From Home reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Question of Observing Ramadan in Iceland

23 July 2014 | comments (1) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Iceland is a country the size of the American state, Kentucky, or about 40,000 sq. miles and considered one of the least populated countries of the world. Its capital, Reykjavík is the most northern capital in the world. And even though Iceland is volcanically and geologically active with very small population, Iceland is famous for its achievements in social and political systems and for its advanced infrastructure. Every time I meet a lady from Iceland, she would tell me that Iceland became famous around the world when it became the first country in the world to have a political party formed and led entirely by women. But when I met a man from Iceland he told me that Iceland became famous because of the (Icesave) dispute in which Iceland instituted capital control that made it impossible for any foreign investor to take money out of Iceland. This ruled had changed in the past years. This is Iceland but what about the Icelandic midnight summer sun and the few Muslims in Iceland during this holy month of Ramadan?

First, let me start by saying that since I started fasting during the holy month of Ramadan at an early age (at around 11), I have asked myself, why don’t I get hungry in Ramadan during the day when I don’t eat my regular breakfast meal or lunch? But, if I don’t eat breakfast or lunch during other months, my stomach starts making many funny noises and I loses the ability to think or do anything while my stomach craves for food. As a matter of fact, I even used to play basketball or football in the morning or late afternoon during Ramadan.

The length of fasting hours in Ramadan varies according to the time between early morning and the sunset. And it varies between summer and winter. In this case, during the summer some Muslims observe fast for 10 hours in some countries and some fast 22 hours. If Ramadan falls during the winter months, then some Muslims might only fast for two hours. The month of Ramadan is a lunar month, which means that the start and finish of Ramadan shifts by an average of 9 days each year in regard to the Gregorian or any other calendar.

Few days ago, I read in a report in Arab News about Muslims in Iceland who fast 22 hours. These are very long hours of fasting. What is more, what about some areas near the polar circle in which they experience a strange phenomenon called midnight sun. The sun sets and rises at the same time. I experienced this phenomenon when I was touring the northern parts of Alaska and the Rovaniemi in Finland. Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) always urged his followers to take the easier way and Muslims are ordered to stop eating when they start differentiating between the white and black thread with the naked eye (seeing the signs of daylight). But this is impossible when you are close to the polar circle. So fasting for more than 18 hours is some time very dangerous to the health of people who are diabetic or people who have to work for long hours. Islam is a religion, which orders Muslims not to harm themselves and Islam wants Muslims to follow its teaching according to their abilities. So there is a need for Muslim scholars to look into matters like this one and issue an edict (fatwa) that clarifies fasting in countries like Iceland.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Question of Observing Ramadan in Iceland reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

MH17: Terror in the Sky

22 July 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

First of all, I would like to express my deep sympathy to the families and friends of all the innocent victims who died aboard Malaysia’s flight MH 17. My heart also goes to the beautiful and good people of Malaysia. This is a very difficult time for Malaysia and its national carrier which for a long time had been known to be one of the safest and best airlines in the world. But, in a very short time, the airline saw two tragedies. First one involved a mysterious disappearance of a wide-body aircraft that most likely will never be found. The other tragedy happened because of a conflict in Ukraine that neither Malaysia nor the unfortunate passengers had anything to do with.

I am not an aviation expert, but the minute I heard about the crash of Malaysia’s MH17, I asked myself why it was flying along a route which took it above Ukrainian air space. I and many others asked the question even before it was announced that the cause behind the crash might be a surface-to-air missile. As far as I know, when there is a conflict of any kind, then notices to mariners and aviators are broadcast worldwide to alert seafarers and aviators of any threats. So, was there any warning about any restriction regarding Ukrainian Airspace or was it up to the airlines to decide which areas to avoid?

Just a short time before the tragic incident, many airlines changed their flight plans and avoided flying over Crimea, the Black Sea and Azvos due to potential conflicting air traffic control between the Russians and Ukrainians. For the information of readers, the air traffic control over these areas had been lacking proficiency since the communist era. And at the end of the day, a civilian plane was shot with hundreds of passengers from different nationalities and now people are asking who did it and why they did it?

Most likely, MH17 crashed without sending any distress or voice messages. This means that there is a big and sudden malfunction in all its avionics. But, the crash area saw several deadly SAM missiles engagements which resulted in the downing of Ukrainian planes. This includes small and fast low-flying jets and slow flying cargo planes. MH17 was flying at an altitude of 32,000 feet at a speed of 500 knots and if it was downed by surface-to-air missiles, then this missile must have speed, acquisition ability, big war head, air search radar, fire control radar and trained crew….. Oops, did someone say or mention Buk missile system or SAM-11? So, who has this missile system in that area? Answer is easy. Russia or rebels backed by the Russians.

The BUK missile is a very sophisticated surface-to-air missile system that can travel at three times the speed of sound. It has four main components which consist of acquisition and targeting radar, command element, missile launcher and the logistic element. And it requires a crew of 4 highly trained personnel. The missile system can be readied in four minutes and it is very sensitive and only trained crew can operate it. It is designed to track about 16 targets at a time. But, why did the firing crew fail to identify a civilian plane cruising at 32,000 feet. So, the missile system is Russian and most likely the crew that fired the missile is from the Ukrainian rebels. But, if the information is accurate, then why did Russia provide the separatists with such an advanced weapon. For the information of the readers, after the missile is fired then it needs some guidance by the operator to guide it toward the target, but, the missile does not need to hit the target directly because it can destroy the target by detonating next to it and do the damage by its fragments… this is deadly.

Now, this unfortunate incident has already happened and nothing will bring the dead back. But, many people around the world are shocked of the behavior of the Russians and the Ukrainian rebels and their disrespect for the dead and their lack of cooperation with the concerned agencies. Europe has given stiff warnings to Russian President Vladimir Putin directly. Russians have a lot to explain because there are indications that the MH17 was downed by a surface-to-air missile.

Russia will be more isolated than before. And as a matter of fact, Russia has always been isolated not only by governments, but, also by people around the world. It is very seldom to hear a tourist spending his/her vacation in the Russian countryside or someone sending his child to attend school in Russia. If Russia did it or the one who provided this lethal weapon to uncontrolled and undisciplined separatists, then Russia will not only lose its respect in the world, but, will also lose its respect by its own people.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. MH17: Terror in the Sky reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

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