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Category Archive: Opinions & Editorials

Can We Use Islamic Rules in Better Way?

29 July 2015 | comments (1) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Just a few weeks ago, a group of young Saudis led by Ayman Al-Sharif initiated a web link that they called Makkah Almukarrama Live. The group broadcast live pictures and activities from the Grand Mosque and its surroundings. The Grand Mosque houses the Kaaba, which is the most sacred site in Islam. The broadcast was done at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which is one of the busiest times of the year. But, hundreds of Internet watchers especially non-Muslims who have never been to Makkah were fascinated by scenes of more than the two million worshippers busy in religious rites and the massive infrastructure surrounding the Grand Mosque.

The worshippers numbering more than two million and scattered all over the mosque and the courtyard line up around the Kaaba in less than a minute after the call for prayer. This discipline among such a huge number of worshippers is seen by people around the world.

The videos and pictures also showed the surrounding area of the Grand Mosque, a scene that is only appreciated by the millions of Muslims who have been to Makkah. Non-Muslims are not allowed to go to the two holiest places for Muslims — the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. Many non-Muslims always ask why only Muslims are allowed to enter these two cities located in the western part of Saudi Arabia?

Many say they can get first-hand information about Islam in a better way if they are allowed to enter the surrounding area of the holy places.

To be honest, I don’t know the exact answer. And for this reason we can only ask, can Muslims reform some of the rules of Islam?

Muslim scholars can discuss the issue and the reason behind not allowing non-Muslims to enter Islam’s two most holy places. Muslim’s holy places with their greatness, massive structure and the enormous spiritual feelings play the most important role in promoting peace not only in the Muslim world, but in the whole world.

A known fact is that Islam is the fastest growing religion with more than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. But, why Muslims are not among today’s inventors and innovators? Why do they lack behind in science and technology? Why are they so divided? And most importantly, why Muslims still gloat over the past glory and never try to catch up with the modern-day developments?

The world knows that early Muslims had contributed immensely to past civilizations. From coffee to surgery, Muslims were in the forefront.

When we talk about bringing about reforms in some of the Islamic rules, it does not mean changing the teachings of Islam, rather it means utilizing the rules in a better way taking into account the present day needs.

Islam encourages reading, education, transparency, respecting others and respecting women and even protecting our planet earth. Even during full-scale conflicts and wars, Islam prohibits attack on places of worship, hurting women, abusing children, hurting the elderly and even prohibits cutting of trees. In other words, a good Muslim is the one who does not hurt the other. That is why it is important for Muslims not only to talk about Islam, but to show others the good behavior of a true Muslim.

As a matter of fact, there was a poll about which countries follow rules regarding transparency, social equality, respecting others and following good manners that are truly based on Islamic teachings. It turned out that places like Ireland, Sweden and Norway were the countries that followed such rules.

The division among Muslims especially in this region gives a very bad image about Islam. People are killed in the name of Islam that makes one wonder why some Muslims would attack and kill others just because they belong to another sect. It is clear many of them interpret the Islamic teachings very wrongly. And that is why we need to ask why even after 1,400 years many issues remain unresolved. Islam is a religion that is appropriate for all times and places if followed and interpreted correctly. Islam is not only about dos and dont’s. It is not about Halal and Haram (allowed and forbidden). Islamic teachings are pure and simple. But, Muslims have made them very complex. Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) always chose the easier path, but, we today always choose the difficult path. As long as Muslims gloat over the past glory, they will not be able to deal with the future. Bringing changes to Islamic rules don’t mean changing them. It is only to follow them the right way. Early Muslim scholars and scientists had changed the world by their hard work and innovation.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Can We Use Islamic Rules in Better Way? reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.

Valor and Loyalty of Saudi Soldiers

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

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

It has been a few months since the start of operation Decisive Storm that was launched to bring peace to Yemen and rid it of Houthi rebels who wanted to cause chaos in the country and even threatened Saudi Arabia’s security. Following Houthis’ misadventure, Yemen slid into anarchy and needed an outside intervention so that the abuse of Yemen and its people could be stopped.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia was formed and a limited war was launched to hit specific targets. The aim of the operation was to destroy the capability of Houthi rebels to harm Saudi Arabia or block the strategic Bab Al-Mandab Strait which connected the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. Before the operation, Saudi Arabia made several diplomatic efforts to restore the legitimate government in Yemen but to no avail. Saudi Arabia did not want to launch a war against Yemen, but it had no alternative except to use limited force with precise mission against strategic ammunition dumps such as arms depots having Scud long-range missiles and radar installations. Saudi leadership and the military top command had planned military operations taking into account the fact that there should be no civilian causalities. Houthis had tried to send misleading messages to the world about civilian casualties. But, their propaganda failed as the whole world knows that Saudis had always opted for peaceful means to resolve any conflict.

Since the start of operation Decisive Storm, Saudi Arabia had allocated billions of dollars to help the Yemenis suffering due to Houthi occupation. Many logistical aids were sent by the Kingdom to Yemen in an effort to help the Yemenis. In addition to these efforts, the Saudi military command announced a truce so that the Yemenis suffering from the Houthis’ irresponsible actions could be provided aid and also to give a chance to the Houthi rebels to cease hostilities and lay down arms.

As time passed, the world saw the valor and loyalty of our soldiers who are defending the Saudi borders with courage, but with restraint to show the Yemenis that they are there to help them and not to destroy their country. As it turned out, this was indeed true. Saudi Arabia did not unleash all of its military arsenal, only a fraction of it. Saudi Arabia is a huge country and its other borders have to be protected. This action showed the world and especially the enemies the might of the Saudi military.

Saudi soldiers on the front line did not only demonstrate valor but also showed the discipline of professional soldiers in the heat of the battle. As things are shaping up the coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia are showing strong advances on the ground with full control of Aden and clear air supremacy. This has left the Houthis with no option but to lay down their arms and think of the well-being of Yemen and its people.

Saudi Arabia is a peace-loving country but if threatened by any aggressor, it has the capability to defend itself and foil any evil design against its sovereignty and integrity. Saudi soldiers in all the branches of the military — land force, air force, navy, air defense, National Guard and the Ministry of Interior — are very qualified and capable personnel who are trained to use the most powerful and advanced military hardware that can easily defeat any enemy. The Saudi military will continue to defend the Saudi borders and will protect it from any outside enemy with all the necessary means available. Now, it is up to the Houthis to come to their senses and realize that facing the Saudi soldier is a losing battle. Our armed forces with all its officers and soldiers are the best trained and best equipped in the region. And most important is that they have the highest degree of valor, loyalty and discipline.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Valor and Loyalty of Saudi Soldiers reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.

We Need Action And Clear-Cut Laws On Harassment

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

Khaled AlmaeenaKhaled Almaeena

The arrest of several youth who were filmed harassing two young girls in the Corniche area of Jeddah during the Eid holidays should be an eye opener for all.

The authorities should have stricter laws to put a stop to such unruly and indecent behavior in the region.

Harassment is now becoming a social menace. I have personally witnessed women, even elderly, being accosted by youth, some young enough to be their sons, in broad daylight in Tahlia Street of Jeddah. They think it is amusing and are very brazen about it.

It is time we seriously address this shameful behavior and question the reasons behind such uncivilized acts that are common among the youth. Obviously it has to do with upbringing. Young men in this society are not brought up to respect women in their own homes.

Secondly in schools while religious studies form a major part of their curriculum the focus is more on rituals and worship rather than right and wrong. I am sure these youth that harassed the young girls must have fasted and also gone to the mosque in Ramadan. But all that so called “piety” disappeared on Eid day.

Many of these young men come from outside Jeddah where it is not the norm to see young girls or women out by themselves. To them it’s a strange phenomena — which by the way should be a normal one!!
So they go on the rampage!!

Unfortunately cultural barriers that segregate the men from the women within the family do not allow the youth to interact with their sisters, aunts or female cousins. The youth grow up with little respect for women.
It is this mentality that influences their behavior. Their women folk are usually subservient, they can’t make any decisions or take any action without the consent of the male guardian. They cannot even leave the house without a male guardian and if they do then they are asking for trouble. Coming from such an environment can we blame them for adopting such a negative attitude towards women.

We have to face the bitter truth. Our sisters, daughters and wives are more safe going to restaurants, shopping or the movies alone in adjoining states than they are in Jeddah. And here is where the anti-harassment laws can be helpful.

And while Shoura Council members debate and delay such uncivilized acts continue spoiling the social fabric and creating an unhealthy environment.

Enough of the absurd justifications and blaming the women for not being accompanied by a male guardian or demanding for more Haia (Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) patrols.

We need action. We need clear-cut laws that should be implemented immediately. We need judges and courts that are not anti women and have empathy for their plight.

We need a media that not only focuses on the incidents of harassments but also highlights the dangers of their acts that could lead to rape and murder.

Anti-harassment laws should be made very clear and be a public knowledge. Above all we need a religious curriculum that also teaches our youth the essence of decency and good behavior.

PS: I read that Jeddah seek Guinness entry as “city of festivals”. Well it should also try to be a city of no-harassment. That is our wish and prayer from about 80 km distance from Makkah the holiest spot in Islam.

— Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at kalmaeena@saudigazette.com.sa and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena

Nuclear Deal: What’s in it for us?

22 July 2015 | comments (1) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Now, the deal is sealed. A nuclear agreement has been signed between Iran and a number of the most powerful nations of the world — five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. In other words, it is like the whole world versus one nation. Subsequently, the agreement has been finalized with the approval of the United Nations.

Just hours after the announcement of the agreement, a talk and talk back between the parties involved ensued. It was like a tie match and the one speaking the loudest would be the winner. Nuclear deals are no laughing matter and Iran’s nuclear program did not come out of nowhere.

Iran’s nuclear program started many decades ago. It is true that Iran, like many other countries, is striving for energy resources no matter how much oil and gas it has. But it so happened that the Iranian main nuclear installations are at a stone’s throw from the western shores of the Arabia Gulf. In other words, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE are threatened by the physical presence of the Iranian nuclear installations especially the one located in Abu Shehr.

Iran had in the past declared that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. If that is the case, why did it continue to refuse to negotiate during the past decades? Why did Iran mislead the international inspectors regarding the degree of uranium enrichment? And most ironic is that Gulf states are kept in the dark regarding Iranian activities. I think Gulf countries should have been involved in the negotiations in Vienna and also they should be given full access to the Iranian installations. Having Gulf countries only on specific committees in the United Nations, the European Union and the United States is not enough. Gulf states are the closest neighbors to Iran and Tehran must take into account the close proximity of its nuclear facilities to the Gulf states.

Iran’s main nuclear installations are old and had in the past been neglected and never maintained especially during the 8-year war between Iraq and Iran. Not only that, Iranian nuclear facilities had been hit by the Iraqi air force more than once and they could not be properly restored even after the repairs.

We all know that western technologies were used to build Abu Shehr nuclear reactor decades ago. But, after sanctions were imposed, Iranians sought Soviet-era horizontal technology to upgrade the installations. As we know, Iran is not a country that can only rely on its own technology for uranium enrichment, hence it had to depend on others. In the nut shell, Iranian nuclear facilities are not fully safe because of the above-mentioned factors.

Now comes the big question. How close has Iran been able to proceed in its quest to acquire a nuclear bomb? Another question is: Does Iran really need it? The answer is clear. No, they don’t need it and it will only escalate a nuclear race in the most volatile region of the world.

What is annoying about Iran is that it continues to threaten its neighbors. Just a few days ago, an Iranian leader’s statement demonstrated a clear intervention in the internal affairs of Bahrain. And to this day no one knows the real intention of Iran.

Yes, the nuclear deal can be the correct course being taken by the superpowers to at least keep Iran on check, but, the neighboring countries of Iran can’t be intimated by the irresponsible Iranian actions. The Iranians now can be stretching themselves too thin and it is the Iranian people who will end up paying for the actions of their government.

It is the duty of all the six Gulf states to demand assurances from Iran that it will act and behave in good faith and manner. But, isn’t it sad to see Iran pay hundreds of billions of dollars for a nuclear program rather spending it to upgrade its infrastructure. Generating electricity using nuclear facilities is not always economically feasible. And the Iranian nuclear facilities, if not maintained properly, is more of a threat to Iran than any other country.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Nuclear Deal: What’s in it for us? reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.

Inciting The Gullible Young Against The Other

20 July 2015 | comments (1) | Opinions & Editorials | by

Khaled AlmaeenaKhaled Almaeena

The report of the arrest of 431 suspected militants from 9 nationalities came as a relief. The arrests made over a period of time will go a long way to prevent further attacks on innocents.

In the past few days there have been two incidents where young extremists killed their blood relatives. One killed his father before being shot by security forces and the other blew himself up at a checkpoint after murdering his maternal uncle. What makes these young people become violent killers?

It is no use blaming outside forces or Daesh (so-called IS) only for the youth going astray. These people become deviants because of various factors. The most important factor is the lack of upbringing and neglect by parents.

There is also the schooling factor where there is too much emphasis placed on rote and rituals rather than character building. Add to that the absence of role models in the society.

The total lack of extracurricular activities keeps the youth bored and idle. Educational institutions do not provide the means to harness the energies of our young. No school plays, theaters. Hobby workshops. Or even just plain social work, planned and guided by schools that could help strengthen their moral fiber.

Moreover the lack of creative thinking leaves a vacuum in the minds of the youth making them easy prey for extremist teachers, imams and social media manipulators who are out there in abundance spewing hatred and inciting the gullible against people of other sects or even viewpoints.

Some abuse their position of authority by acting venomously in the open, while the cowards prefer the anonymity of the social media to disgorge their sullied and evil thoughts.

These are the merchants of death and they should be stopped. Sadly I still see their deadly poison spread across social media and it continues to increase with dangerous speed.

The proverb that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop is coming home to roost, and we as a society have failed to cater to our young by not directing them to character-building activities. Forget these functions where senior officials come and pay lip service to the youth.

What we need are school activities, sports facilities, debates involving the others, adventure games and imaginative and innovative activities that spur interaction. We need initiatives to promote healthy bodies and creative minds.

I believe government schools should include qualified teachers from the West and the East so that Saudi teachers can learn from their experience and exchange ideas to implement a modern education that can cater to the needs of the 21st century students.

We should also cater to the needs of teachers and give them incentives and show them more respect. Saudi teachers are by and large frustrated and underpaid. Unless teachers are encouraged to invent, innovate and given a free hand to impart knowledge within the parameters of the curricula, education would be in the same rut led by teachers devoid of motivation.

Meanwhile the business community should also bear responsibility in addressing the needs of the youth. Businesses should build sports facilities, parks, and other youth related centers instead of focusing only on malls that are mushrooming everywhere in the country.

This country has been built with great sacrifices. It is the land of the Haramain and should be a haven of peace, light and progress for all.

History will not forgive us if we fail to protect this sacred land.

— Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at kalmaeena@saudigazette.com.sa and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena

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