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Category Archive: Opinions & Editorials

Fast-Changing Realities

16 September 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Just a few years ago, oil prices would fluctuate without even signs of any conflict anywhere in the world. A meeting of OPEC members or a harmless general statement from let us say the Saudi oil minister would cause the fluctuation. No doubt, oil prices are volatile.

Interestingly, despite major events unfolding across the globe — possible confrontation between Russia and the Europe, unprecedented outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa, another round of fight against terror in the Middle East and crisis in Libya — oil prices are stable. Is it because of the shale oil or is it just because the biggest oil consumer, the United States, has plenty of oil.

Two years ago, top US officials and energy experts announced with full confidence that the US was not only the biggest consumer of oil but soon it would emerge as the biggest producer as well. Many US oil and gas experts announced that America’s shale oil reserves are more than what Kuwait has. They went as far as saying that the oil from the Middle East was no longer a vital strategic supply source. To be honest this is fine by me and everyone else. But then aren’t we supposed to rewrite some of the history books and petroleum analysis and oil shortage theories?

The US oil experts are simply either informing the world that the US has more oil than it used to claim or they already had oil but wanted to use cheap oil market and had it reserves left untapped for future.

And of course we all know that new oil exploration technologies are used. In 1973 there was an oil crisis and Saudi Arabia was in the spotlight. People in the United States spoke a lot about Saudi Arabia in their press and on the family dinner table listing to CBS Walter Cronkite say (that’s the way it is). And the American public realized that because of the oil crisis they had to change their social habits such as eliminating the regular family Sunday drive. And in addition to this, Americans started to drive slower when President Nixon introduced the 55 MPH highway speed. And people saw the mile long stretch of cars lined up at gas stations. Most depressing was the regular gas station sign that read, “Sorry, out of gas.”

Few years passed and oil shortage continued around the world and many American states introduced rationing by using odd and even numbers. So, was there real oil shortage or was it the so-called “Seven Sisters” trying to make huge profits. Just for the information of the reader. The US population is about 300 million people but it consumes more oil than China, India, Russia, Indonesia and Brazil combined with total population of about 3 billion people. So, what has changed? If there was an oil shortage 40 years ago and there had been a sharp increase in oil consumption all over the world since then, then why the oil glut that we see coming up on the horizon?

There is one more reason due to which we need to rewrite history books and oil energy analyses i.e. every time the US goes to war, people around the world always say, America went to war because of oil. Now it is clear that America has oil in abundance, so historians should come up with some other theory.

These days shale oil has become the hot issue and we have seen significant developments in the field of renewable energy. With the introduction of electric cars, the world is moving toward less reliance on oil. This trend will, definitely, change the strategic map of the world. Nowadays, the US has more oil than the world ever knew. And this is why 30 years ago it was easier to get the blueprint of America top spy plane, the SR-71 Black Bird than it is to know about the American oil barrel. And one important note, US Department of Energy was established only in 1977. Its first director was James Schlesinger. What did Schlesinger do before assuming the post of this department? He used to be the chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Secretary of Defense. Oh, going back to the recent coalition against the Islamic State (IS), did I mention that some of the Iraqi oil is sold by the Islamic State (IS) to some of their neighbors. Finally, to be frank, if the business is about oil, then leave it to the Americans. They discovered it first in Pennsylvania in 1859 and they have plenty of it.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Fast-Changing Realities reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

We Must Act Before it’s Too Late

14 September 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Youths constitute a major chunk of the total population in Saudi Arabia; to some extent it is the world’s highest. This calls for an approach that caters to the needs of this segment of society whenever planning social, political and educational reforms.

Taking care of the young is not an easy job and especially when the youth come from different socioeconomic backgrounds within the Kingdom. Last week, the Ministry of Interior made two announcements.

One was that the Saudi drug enforcement agency intercepted large amount of drugs worth more than SR1.5 billion. And there is no need for anyone to think as to what was the targeted segment. The drug traffickers are targeting the youth. And the other was that the Ministry of Interior issued stiff warning to the Saudi youths regarding any contact with any terrorist organizations. Just like the drug dealers, it is the youth who are targeted by terrorist organizations across our borders.

The general perception is that our youths are well-behaved and law-abiding men and women. And it is true that most of them are well-behaved and well-mannered and well-raised but there is a very high number of young Saudis who are not and they are not only hurting themselves by their behavior but they are also harming the society. There is very big need to change our methods to raise our children. A good vocabulary in a speech or giving an advice during a Friday sermon is not enough if we are dealing with young men and women. Parents must monitor raising young children first and our youth should be taught many things, which would help them get mature and subsequently they would know right from wrong. Not just about drugs but just about everything under the sun.

In the past, it was easy to monitor our youths. Now life has changed. In the past, if your child was sitting next to you, then you would keep an eye on him. But, nowadays, your child can be sitting next to you, but, he could be talking to a drug dealer hundreds of miles away or he could be a terrorist recruiter across the border. Our youth has to know the danger surrounding them. These days, many conflicts are going on in some neighboring countries and many unscrupulous elements are targeting our youths by exploiting sectarian differences. At the same time, the drug traffickers are taking advantage of the spare time and the ready cash that many of our youths have plenty of both, the tile and the cash. This is why our youth must be taught at an early age about the world surrounding them. But, it must be taught in a very realistic manner. They must be taught they are responsible for their behavior and must learn how to work and earn money at an early age. If they work hard for their money the more likely they will try to save it. If they make money the easy way, which is the regular hand out from the parents, then they will not appreciate its value.

As for the government and the society, they both have to understand the youth demands and listen to them. Our youths need to make good use of the spare time they have. There are many forms of entertainments that our youths should have. In the Kingdom, the few sources of entertainment our youths have are shopping malls, eateries and driving and roaming the streets aimlessly till the early hours of the day. We must encourage part time jobs and volunteer work for our youth. We have millions of young men and women in the Kingdom; we should utilize their talents effectively. Too much free time is not a good indication in any society. Many thoughts go through the head of a young man or women, and no one knows about these thoughts till it is too late.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. We Must Act Before it’s Too Late reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Tale of Two Arab Cities

9 September 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

At the beginning of this year 2014, Baghdad — Iraq’s capital city — was voted to be one of the least hospitable cities in the world. And Dubai, on the other hand, was voted as one of the most hospitable places. Nowadays, people are fleeing Baghdad in droves and Dubai is experiencing the exact opposite trend, as it has not only become a major tourist hub but has also emerged as a land of opportunities in its own right.

Baghdad is one of the most significant cities in the history of human civilization. It was the first city in the world to reach a population of over one million. This city was once the hub of learning in the world. It had a translation house and one of the oldest academic institutions, which was named the House of Wisdom. During the Abbasid rule, Baghdad was the center of science, art and music. It was a melting pot at its best. This magnificent city has a rich history but instead of marching further on the road to progress, it started to decline. It seems that on July 14, 1958 the clock stopped ticking for Baghdad and the city refused to move forward. What was the status of the two Arab cities — Baghdad and Dubai — in 1958 and what happened afterward?

On July 14, 1958, Iraqi army officers, under Abd Al-Karim Qasim, staged a bloody coup that transformed the Kingdom of Iraq into the Republic of Iraq. King Faisal II, Prime Minister Nuri Al-Said and many members of the royal family were killed and their bodies were dragged through the streets of Baghdad. In later years, Abd Al-Karim Qasim was killed in more violent coup and the cycle of violence continued in the second largest Arab capital.

In 1958, the city of Dubai had nothing to boast about. It was still under British protection and the world hardly knew anything about Dubai.

Just few decades ago, a minute of the water flow from the Tigris River, which runs through Baghdad, carried more water than what the city of Dubai could see in a year. Baghdad’s system of education was far advanced at a time when there were virtually no schools in Dubai. And just few decades ago, Baghdad was one of the richest cities in the world. Iraqi Dinar equaled about $3 at a time when Dubai didn’t have any form of economy. Dubai was a small fishing village and Baghdad was the center of technology in the Arab world. There are many historical tourist attractions in Baghdad. The Iraqis could have built high-rise buildings, shopping malls and boat ramps along the Tigris River and would have made more money than what they are making from exporting oil. And this is what Dubai did. The government of Dubai built the most modern civic infrastructure for the citizens, expats and tourists. Just a few decades ago, Baghdad was light years ahead of Dubai but now Baghdad is light years apart from where Dubai stands now. Dubai achieved miracles in a very short time and Baghdad self-destructed itself in a very short time.

Now, Dubai is emerging as the center of world’s tourism through its massive development projects. Dubai hosts various sporting and cultural events round the year attracting millions of visitors from across the globe. Recently, Dubai announced its plans to build the World’s Mall, which is expected to be the largest entertainment and shopping center of the world. Most important aspect of Dubai’s modernization is its commitment to preserve its heritage.

While the city of Baghdad was busy recovering from the continuous political instability, Dubai was busy achieving new heights in various spheres of life.

Baghdad and its people can once again rise to new heights and reclaim the city’s old status. Iraqis are very talented and hardworking people. They should learn from their own history. They should realize that the reason behind Baghdad’s greatness was its tolerance. There was a time when talented people from around the world converged on Baghdad and worked together for its betterment. The ongoing sectarian violence will only bring more destruction. Assets are supposed to be utilized not wasted and this is what Dubai did.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Tale of Two Arab Cities reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Defining the Role of Haia is a Must

7 September 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

What was supposed to be a routine trip for grocery shopping became a major media attraction around the globe for a Briton and his Saudi wife. Many people witnessed the incident — the video of which went viral on the social media within a few minutes.

The incident involved some members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice or Haia as it is commonly known in Saudi Arabia.

The concept of a team of volunteers (Hesbah) is as old as the religion of Islam. Those volunteers used to roam streets and were responsible for preventing people from committing any crime. They used to frequent marketplaces to ensure smooth functioning of the market and check any wrongdoing on the part of shoppers and the shopkeepers. It was their responsibility to protect the rights of consumers by ensuring the scales the traders used were not tampered with and nobody was adding water to milk etc.

Nowadays, many people see the role of such a group of people is just to control the behavior of the two sexes. Until recently, the sight of Haia members used to be very comforting particularly for the women shopping alone in the market and prone to sexual harassment. However, with the passage of time, Haia’s perception in people’s mind started to change as a group of people “interfering” in their personal matters at their own free will.

These days, it appears as if people believe that Haia’s role is merely to ensure closure of shops and markets during prayer timings and the rest of the duties are being taken care of by police and the judiciary.

We should ask ourselves some important questions. Why do we need the Haia? Is their presence at marketplaces necessary to check unscrupulous elements? Why most of the confrontations involving Haia take place in shopping malls?

After the Riyadh incident, that made me write these lines, raised many questions regarding the Haia. Since, I am not fully aware of the details, I can only say that the action appears to be provocative. My question is: Why do I need a commission to monitor my son or daughter’s behavior at public places. Isn’t it the duty of parents to teach their children to behave politely and not to annoy anyone in the mall or at some other public setting? Why don’t we set certain rules regarding all types of harassment?

In the absence of a proper upbringing and clear-cut rules, any commission be it Haia or otherwise can never be able to control or monitor people’s behavior. The problem is the way Haia monitors people’s activities sometimes makes fall prey to misjudgment. People should try to trust each other and if there is complaint then normal procedure should take place to address the issue. That is why; people sympathized with the couple not because the man was a Briton
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If one’s watches the video, it would dawn on him that there is nothing in the video showing any Saudi or expatriate complaining about the couple’s behavior. The video made it clear that they did nothing wrong. Most importantly, the Haia members could have acted in a different fashion. Now, what happened should be taken as a lesson.

It is very important to modernize the overall functioning of the Haia by reducing the number of its employees and by properly defining their jurisdiction and their actual role. They could help the needy and the poor. As for watching who is praying and who is not in the shopping malls, it is an insult to Saudis who observe their religious duties with full conviction in the Kingdom and abroad.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Defining the Role of Haia is a Must reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Being a Good Muslim

2 September 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Beyond any shadow of doubt, people judge others by their behavior not by their faith. So, who is a Muslim? A Muslim is any individual who proclaims Shahadah. He testifies that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His messenger.

That is the first stage to enter the fold of Islam. Now come the basic traits of a Muslim. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) has defined a Muslim as a person from whose hands and tongues other people remain safe. Simply put, a true Muslim is not supposed to harm any individual (Muslim or non-Muslim) either physically or verbally. If one carefully studies Islam, it would dawn on him/her that the five pillars of Islam are kind of dealing between the Creator and the creation. Islam has laid great emphasis on interpersonal relations and how its followers deal with others regardless of their faiths.

Most of the Islamic teachings are concerned with an individual’s behavior toward society, his parents, children, spouse, the environment, the needy and so on. Ideally being Muslim is all about being nice to others. Our blessed prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Religion is the way you treat others.”

So, why aren’t many Muslims not following these simple teachings of Islam? For the past few years, some people (apparently Muslims) have been trying to hijack Islam and are committing monstrous atrocities in the name of Islam. They claim to be staunch followers of Islam but in reality they are committing acts, which are in sharp contrast with the teachings of Islam. They are in fact bringing a bad name to Islam and its followers.

These elements are not only targeting non-Muslims but also Muslims who refuse to submit to their skewed interpretation of Islam. They don’t appear to understand that being a good Muslim is very simple. Unfortunately, certain demagogues are hell bent on preparing a new breed of Muslims who consider Islam only as a religion of revenge.

It is sad to read about sectarian clashes across the Muslim world. Why don’t we stop this brutality? Islam teaches us to coexist. We are supposed to live in harmony with people of other faiths. Unfortunately, we are not even ready to set aside our petty differences and live together peacefully as one Ummah. This is not true Islam.

During the zenith of the Islamic empire, Muslim scholars used to work with scholars and scientists of other faiths without any problem. Perhaps, that was why cities like Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo were known as the seats of learning. Non-Muslims were protected under Muslim rule in accordance with the teachings of Islam.

It is important that Muslims living outside the Muslim world should adapt. They can live easily and become part of their host society without having any negative impact on their religious beliefs. A Muslim can pray in the mosque, at home, office or at any public place. A Muslim can fast during the month of Ramadan and no one will know he or she is fasting. And he can pay Zakat without any hassle.

In other words, Islam is not a religion that hampers an individual movement in a social setup. We have to acknowledge that all places East or West are very tolerant of religious freedom and Muslim behavior plays an important factor of how non-Muslims view Islam. The killings taking place in various parts of the region in the name of Islam have nothing to do with our religion. These are the actions of misguided individuals who are trying to impose their wrong ideology on others and are in fact not only a threat to non-Muslims but also to Muslims across the world. During the past few days, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has spoken candidly on this issue. He has openly condemned the brutality of those terrorists. A good Muslim should learn how to be a good person.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Being a Good Muslim reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

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