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Category Archive: Opinions & Editorials

Time To Stop Blaming Others

27 May 2015 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Today, there are more than 50 countries that make up the entire Muslim world. Followers of Islam are not confined to any particular geographical entity. Muslims are found all across the world. Islam is a very simple religion. It is a complete code of life aimed at making its followers a better person. Its teachings govern all aspects of human life. The success of a Muslim in this world and the Hereafter depends on his/her adherence to the five pillars of Islam.

Islam is also the world’s fastest growing religion today. Muslims around the world particularly in the West enjoy social equality and freedom of practicing their religion.

We see Muslims living in the western societies more united than their brethren in the Muslim world.

One fails to understand the root cause of the differences or divisions among Muslims. We believe in the same God and believe in the same Prophet (peace be upon him). This fact should have been enough for us to forge unity among our ranks. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Is it politics that divide us? Or is it mutual mistrust?

Surprisingly, Muslims in the West are more tolerant toward others. The teachings of Islam are universal and don’t change with the change of geographical locations. A Muslim living in the Middle East or the subcontinent is supposed to follow the same teachings as the one living in Norway.

Why, then, we are witnessing so much violence and killings among Muslims across the Muslim world? Sometimes, while reading such violent reports coming out of the Muslim world one is reminded of Hollywood flicks, even more gruesome at times.

The self-ascribed Islamic State (IS) is on a killing spree in the Muslim world. This terrorist organization kills people in the name of Islam!

This group does not only kill, it invents the cruelest ways of putting people to death. Groups like the IS are only harming the unity of Muslims. The Muslim world condemns these terrorist organizations and always tries to explain to the world that these groups don’t represent Islam or Muslims. It remains to be seen as to when the outside world gets convinced that the IS does not represent Islam.

The name of this terrorist organization is also very confusing. They call themselves the Islamic State and continue to brutally butcher Muslims.

It is true that many Muslim countries are not Arab countries but all Arab countries are Muslim countries. The so-called Arab Spring exposed the sorry state of Muslim unity. We see Muslims, from as far away as Australia, joining the ranks of the IS. Many, if not all, of them turned to extreme violence in the name of Islam. Their actions are only deepening the divide among Muslims.

Unfortunately, it has become fashionable in the Muslim world to blame the outside world for all the problems facing the Muslims. We seldom engage ourselves in the practice of self-accountability.

There is no ambiguity in the teachings of Islam and there is no room for any addition or deletion. Hence, no need for any innovation. The validity of Islamic teachings is not time bound. Islam has the potential to adapt to changes in a very civilized manner. There is no need for resorting to violence against anybody with a different perspective. There is great flexibility in Islam.

It is a religion that encourages the culture of dialogue. Unfortunately, we see self-appointed custodians of faith killing people in the name of Islam and attacking mosques to “promote the cause of Islam.”

Such elements tend to forget that the very essence of our religion is peace. Individual Muslims and Muslim countries should concentrate on implementing the true teachings of Islam.

Islam is all about transparency, social equality, good education, respecting others and eradicating corrupt practices. Muslims are supposed to learn how to live side by side with others but if they can’t live in harmony with each other then they will not be able to live with those of other faiths.

In the past, Muslims drew their strength from their unity and tolerance toward others. The world is moving fast and it is the duty of every Muslim to respect everybody. Seeing Muslims killing each other because of minor differences will only bring a bad name to Islam.

The Muslim world is divided not because of any outside enemy. We should try to assess ourselves before blaming others.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Time To Stop Blaming Others reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Qatif is the Pride of Saudi Arabia

24 May 2015 | comments (4) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Three days ago, a suicide attack was carried out during the Friday prayer at a mosque in the village of Al-Qadeeh in eastern Saudi Arabia. In the dastardly attack, 21 worshippers lost their lives and 100 sustained injuries. Al-Qadeeh is situated in the Kingdom’s Qatif city.

Shortly after the incident, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack. It would be pertinent to mention here that Al-Qadeeh is a predominantly Shiite area.

It does not need very high IQ to understand that the attack was a dirty tactic to stoke sectarian tensions in the Kingdom. The terrorists are making efforts to drag the Saudi society into a mindless and endless cycle of violence by trying to drive a wedge between Sunnis and Shiites.

Fortunately, majority of the Saudis have already said no to sectarianism thus foiling attempts of the deviant elements. It is so sad to see innocent, simple and hardworking people losing their lives due to the madness of a handful of people hell bent on imposing their deviant ideology on others.

It bleeds my heart to read about children who become victims of these attacks. Children are not even aware of what is happening around them. In the Qatif attack, some of those who died were Saudi Aramco employees. One of the dead includes an official of the Saudi Civil Defense, which is part of the Ministry of Interior. The barbaric attack should not be perceived as against only the Shiites in Saudi Arabia. As a matter of fact, it is aimed against all Saudis.

Saudis belonging to all segments of society condemn the attack and vehemently oppose the nonsense ideology of the attackers. We fully realize the true purpose of such attacks. Saudi will never allow anybody to divide their society along sectarian lines. Let us talk about the beautiful city, Qatif, and its lovely people. During my entire life I have had the opportunity to befriend and deal with people from Qatif.

Due to my professional responsibilities, I had been a frequent visitor to this part of the Kingdom. People from these areas are very hardworking and dedicated and are considered one of the most innovative in the field of volunteer work. Qatif is considered one of the oldest inhibited areas and has very rich history. The land is very fertile thus farming has always remained popular among the people of this city. In addition to this, it is also considered an important fishing hub in the Gulf region.

Before the discovery of oil, people in Qatif did not only rely on farming or fishing, but many worked as merchants and used to travel to faraway places for trade. After the discovery of oil, a large number of youth got engaged with the oil sector. As we know, one of the most important oil fields in the Kingdom is named after the city of Qatif. It was discovered in 1948 and has a capacity to produce more than half-a-million barrels per day. Since the establishment of the modern-day Saudi Arabia, Qatif and its surrounding villages have contributed to the progress of the country through its highly educated and talented young men and women.

Many of them held and still hold top government and military posts. Many of them are holding top positions in the private industrial sector in the Kingdom such as Saudi Aramco and SABIC. Banking is a field in which many young men and women from Qatif have proved their mettle.

The people of Qatif enjoy the love and respect of all the people in the Kingdom. Thus, it would be impossible for the IS or any other terrorist outfit or country to drive a wedge between Saudis. Sunnis or Shiites in the Kingdom are citizens enjoying equal rights and opportunities. Unity among Saudis will serve as a solid wall against any outside interference. This latest terrorist act is a cowardly and desperate act. They failed in the past and they failed today. Saudi Sunnis and Shiites stand united.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Qatif is the Pride of Saudi Arabia reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

America’s Need for Speed

20 May 2015 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

On July 1, 1828 a song was written about the first American passenger train. As time passed, American songwriters and composers wrote countless emotional songs about trains and train rides.

Americans are fast in writing songs about trains but American trains could not keep up with the speed of the songwriters’ talents.

America loves trains and locomotives. Almost every city that I have so far visited has a railroad and train museum. One could not find a single amusement park across the United States — irrespective of its size — that does not have a train as part of the park.

Uniforms of train engineers and conductors continue to be American children’s favorite. Perhaps one of the reasons behind this popularity is the fact that American land is very suitable for high-speed trains. The United States has the most sophisticated railway infrastructure in each and every state making it possible for them to further upgrade it to support fast trains and extensive railroad network. Despite the fast pace of American life and the availability of infrastructure, high-speed trains are not seen in the United States. It is really very puzzling.

Two weeks ago, the world’s railroad industry came under the spotlight. In the United States, a tragic train accident claimed eight lives and around 200 people sustained injuries.

On the other hand, Japan’s railroad industry made headlines for different reasons. Japan’s Maglev train set a new record by moving at more than 600km/h.

Truth be told, America needs faster train than Europe and Japan mainly due to its geographical expansiveness. Many major US cities are located far apart from each other due to which train appears to be a much reasonable and attractive mode of transportation. It is also a known fact that the Americans love to travel. In addition to the trips during the summer vacations, the number of Americans who travel within the US during other designated holidays or weekends reaches more than 100 million.

American airports and freeways remain crowded year round. Strangely, America is yet to take some steps for the introduction of high-speed trains.

Following the Amtrak accident, the American railroad service is once again in the news. Analysts are reevaluating past train accidents particularly the one that happened in California back in 2008 and claimed 25 lives and around 135 were reported wounded.

After that accident, new rules were introduced regarding the need for positive control. But many companies indicated the need for a seven-year period to upgrade their safety procedures. During the past seven years, the world saw new technologies and new bullet trains that could travel at speeds as high as 600 km/h.

There are many reasons for slow American trains. Driving a car in America is very cheap compared to places like Europe and Japan. As time passed, European and Japanese cities modified their mass transit systems in major cities making it convenient for commuters to leave a train and reach their respective destinations very easily on foot. At the same time, American cities that are home to big train movements did not make it easy for passengers to use the service. You need a car to go to the train station and you need another one to leave the train station. So, why not take a car in the first place. This is why tourists in Europe very seldom rent a car for their transportation needs. Public transportation is very well connected to the train services. But in America, any tourist especially in the smaller cities will not be able to go around without renting a car. So, yes, America loves trains and sings about them. Millions of Americans heard of and still sing the 1941’s song “Chattanooga Choo Choo” but most of them have yet to see bullet trains. At the end, bullet trains don’t make Whoo Whoo train whistle sound. If even they do, you will not be able to hear it, as before it becomes audible these trains reach the other side of the town.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. America’s Need for Speed reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Four Decades of Credibility

17 May 2015 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Due to immense technological advancements, the field of journalism has taken on a completely different avatar, as compared to the year 1975 — the very year when the first English-language daily, Arab News, was launched.

We all know that the advent of electronic and subsequently the social media have increased the pace of news coverage manifold. It would not be wrong to say that the rules of the business have been turned upside down. Despite all these developments, Arab News has been able to successfully adapt to the rapid changes. It has always maintained pace with the current trends by continuously successfully latching on to new technologies to enhance its appearance and widen its coverage of local and international news.

Founded by Hisham and Muhammad Ali Hafiz in 1975, Arab News has been successful in continuously expanding its readers’ base within the Kingdom and in the Middle East. It was launched at a time when the economic boom in Saudi Arabia was attracting millions of expatriates to the country.

Those were the days without Internet and its related innovations due to which expatriates had to rely on newspapers coming from abroad days after their actual publication. However, with the emergence of Arab News things started to change and over time it became the most reliable source of information for the people living in the Kingdom and similarly turned into a window for the outside world into Saudi Arabia. Soon after its launch, people outside the Kingdom started considering Arab News a point of reference for matters related to Saudi Arabia.

Arab News not only continued with its role as a source of information but it also became a source of education for many in the Kingdom. Students in the Kingdom particularly non-Arabic speakers started using it as reading material and to gain insight into the global happenings. It provided many new and aspiring writers with a powerful platform to hone their writing skills. And in the process, many were exposed to great experiences such as the sudden shift to live reporting during early 1990s Desert Shield and Desert Storm that liberated Kuwait. The newspaper played a major part in getting timely and accurate news from the warfront. To this day, Arab News is playing a vital part in presenting to the outside world the Saudi perspective with transparency.

For the past four decades, Arab News is continuously playing its important role of objectively representing Saudi Arabia around the globe. It covered many events that took place across the Kingdom. The publication’s coverage of local events in the Kingdom gave its readers a chance to read and learn about the different cultures of different parts of the Kingdom. Its coverage of international events provided people in the Kingdom with updated and accurate information about others.

Arab News has been very vital in bringing together people from all over the world to live and work in Saudi Arabia. Arab News always gives its readers equal opportunity to express their views on various national and international issues. Comments from readers from all over the world are a testimony to the worldwide popularity of Arab News.

Since 1975, Arab News has been tirelessly reporting local, regional and global events. It is always on the move to bring to its readers most up-to-date information from across the world. In the wake of the so-called Arab Spring, Arab News further consolidated its position as one of the most reliable sources of information.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Four Decades of Credibility reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

A Case of Missed Opportunities

13 May 2015 | comments (3) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me a short video of the late Iranian King Mohammad Reza Shah Pehlavi during his visit to Saudi Arabia around 40 years ago. The late Saudi leader, King Faisal, had received the Iranian monarch. The short video is a testimony to the depth of ties and mutual respect the two countries had toward one another.

It is a historical fact that during the Shah’s rule, Iran and Iranians enjoyed great respect around the world. Prior to the revolution in 1979, Iran was considered a key global player with great ambitions to become a leading industrial nation and a vibrant economy on the world’s map. Iran’s economy was booming long before even the coining of the term “Asian Tigers.”

Unfortunately, by forcing the Shah into exile, Iran simply chose to change the path. To many Iranians, clocks stopped ticking on Feb. 1, 1979 — the day Ayatollah Khomeini stepped out of the jet that had transported him all the way from France. Subsequently, Iran plunged into chaos and many top Iranian brains were killed, jailed or simply left Iran forever. Iran itself condemned to a state of global isolation. After the Shah’s departure, religious mullahs ruled Iran and the country’s name was changed to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Ironically, people with a good grip on Iranian affairs say that the revolution did not gain mass popularity as the outside world had been led to believe. Even the American hostage crisis that lasted 444 days was not planned at all. At that time there was no social media. The three major US news networks had organized special day and night transmissions about Iran.

Following the revolution, the mullahs promised more stability, social equality and eradication of poverty and corruption from the country. It, however, later turned out that Iranians had been better off under Shah’s rule. Sadly, since the day Iran emerged as an Islamic republic on the world’s map, instead of forging friendlier ties with all the Gulf states, it started threatening the security and stability of these countries.

By doing so, Iran missed a golden opportunity to become one of the most prosperous countries of the world. At around that same time, the Gulf countries were witnessing a boom in their economies and Iran could have managed to present itself as a very attractive place for all sorts of investments.

Undoubtedly, Iran has a very rich cultural history. During those days, the aviation industry of the world was also blooming thus boosting tourism industry. Many countries exploited the opportunity and gained economically by promoting their respective tourist sectors. Iran could have become a major tourist attraction due to its many archeological sites and with the help of a relatively advanced infrastructure and pleasant climatic conditions.

At that time Tehran airport was more ready for expansion in transit capacity and could have become the connecting hub between the East and the West at a time when Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha airports were not even known by aviation experts.

As a matter of fact, many former Saudi Aramco employees from all nationalities still talk about the Dhahran- Shiraz flights they used to take to spend part of their vacations. In addition to being rich in oil and gas reserves, Iran is famous for its Persian rugs, saffron, pistachio, caviar and many agricultural products that it could export.

Instead of getting closer to its neighboring Gulf countries, Iran tried to play on the sectarian differences. Iran should have known better because Iran’s population is very diverse. It is composed of many ethnic groups such as Persians, Kurds, Lurs, Balochs and many others. So, it is not in Iran’s interest to play on minorities or groups of different religious sects.

As we all know that Iranians born after the 1979 revolution never experienced life under the Shah and most likely are never allowed to talk about his son Reza Pahlavi. But Iran is seeing movements within that are using the new media to show life in Iran before and after 1979. Just like when Khomeini used the cassette tapes to talk to the Iranians 36 years ago to incite protests and riots. In the past, there was a law against the circulation of portraits of the Shah and his family.

Writing is also prohibited about the Shah, his wife or his son. However, with the advent of the social media, it is impossible to hide the past glory of Iran under the Shah.

Now, many Iranians are following reports about Reza, who was the crown prince when he left Iran in 1979.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. A Case of Missed Opportunities reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

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