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Category Archive: Opinions & Editorials

Nothing Islamic About IS

28 October 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

A few days ago, a video released by the self-ascribed Islamic State (IS) showed an Australian teenage boy threatening western leaders. He was later identified as 17-year-old runaway boy who had left his home telling his mom he was going fishing. It still surprises many as to how he ended up joining the IS ranks thousands of miles away in Syria.

That teen is among the hundreds of western militants believed to be fighting along the IS. This writer wonders as to why an Australian teen would announce that the IS would not stop until the group’s black flags were hoisted at the Buckingham Palace and the White House.

He appeared very confident in that video and clarity in his voice was frightening as he was resolved to take lives. It is very unlikely that he will remain in Syria for long. Either he will get killed in the battlefield or one fine morning he will realize his folly. Anyway, cutting the long story short this Australian teen, who seems to be a second generation Australian with Middle Eastern origins, should have been busy doing his schoolwork at home not posing for a video threatening the world.

Thousands of miles from Australia, a Canadian identified as Micheal Zehaf-Bibeau killed a soldier in Ottawa and a gunbattle ensued on Parliament Hill during which he got killed. Later on, it was reported that he wanted to leave for Syria but due to some reasons his passport was confiscated.

Why would a Canadian, 32, or an Australian teenager wish to leave a peaceful and beautiful place like Ottawa or Sydney and travel thousands of miles to fight alongside people they knew very little about?

Most of these western militants are fighting in the name of Islam and claim that they are fighting to protect the faith. Reality, however, is otherwise. Islam is their first victim, as these groups are bringing a bad name to this peaceful religion by killing innocent people.

The Australian teen or the Canadian man has damaged the reputation of Islam and harmed Muslims in their respective countries. Perhaps, unknowingly, they have done more damage than any anti-Muslim extremist could have.

Both Australia and Canada are known for their tolerance toward religious freedom and their respect for Islam and Muslims. Muslim communities in both countries really need to open up to the community and become part of it. If somebody is not comfortable or not capable of getting integrated in a non-Muslim society, he/she should leave it in peaceful manner leaving behind a trail of pleasant memories among their former neighbors. It is important for religious figures to renounce all forms of extremism through their sermons. Islam is all about peace and whatever the IS and its likes are doing is not sanctioned by the true teachings of Islam.

Muslim communities in western countries have a task to not only open up their mosques for public relations but it is important that they open up to the communities they live in. Let us face the reality that Muslims living in western societies are a happier lot as compared with their co-religionists in many Muslim countries. As a matter of fact, many of them left their Muslim countries for a better life and social equality. Muslims in the West are allowed to build mosques and practice their religion in total freedom and among people who respect Islam. Islam teaches us tolerance. The IS has nothing to do with Islam. It is ruining the lives of Muslims and non-Muslims not only in Syria or Iraq but has also affected everyone across the globe. Destroying IS and what it stands for is a must for all countries around the world. The IS is a cancer that has to be removed.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Nothing Islamic About IS reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Understanding Saudi Demography

26 October 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Few weeks ago, I was invited to attend the C3 Arab-US Business Summit and Saudi-US Commerce. However, due to some reasons, I was unable to attend the event.

Anyway, I tried to catch up with the discussions that had taken place during the event by reading the reports posted on the SUSRIS website. I read with great interest answers to many questions hurled at the president of the Saudi-US Trade Group, Richard Wilson.

Many Saudi-related issues came under discussion but to me the most important was about Saudi demographics because it is one of the most important reasons behind unemployment in the Kingdom.

And I agree with some of the views expressed during the event especially regarding seeing the Saudi economic policies driven by the reality of the Saudi youth demography. I must add that the Saudi people should contribute to resolving the issues facing the government in planning for future due to the unique Saudi demography.

Saudi population is approaching 30 million people. Around 20 millions are Saudis and the rest are from many different parts of the world and this does not include overstayers or illegals.

But, in general, the number of Saudis and expats should be no economic burden on a country that has the strongest economy in the region and also it should not be seen as a problem to accommodate or finding enough housing facilities for these millions in such a huge country. So, why population growth and the lack of housing units are being portrayed as major issues facing Saudi Arabia and why foreign analysts consider these two topics sensitive to address while in the Kingdom?

I have written many articles on these issues. So, may be the topics are sensitive but we always talk and write about them. As for the population growth, we do have a major issue in the Kingdom. Fifty percent are younger than 24 and what is more, sixty percent are younger than 30. And as for the housing issue, the price of real state is one of the highest in the world and simply put, owning a house is not cheap and the government is simply trying hard to ease the problem by injecting billions to help the general public own a home through the Ministry of Housing.

But, frankly put, we the Saudis have the highest birth rate and thus many Saudis would seek bigger houses, which at the end of the day, requires higher electric bills and more money for maintenance. Saudi families should promote family planning for a better future. Raising and educating children is time consuming, requires lots of patience and of course more money. The larger the family, the bigger the house needed.

As for the Saudi youth, we should improve the education environment and should teach them the importance of being responsible and aware of many chances and opportunities provided to them by the government.

They should be made aware of the many employment opportunities, which are available to them through the numerous mega projects. First, the Saudi youth should be exposed to best work ethics. Nowadays, we see a drive for the Saudization of the job market but at the same time we see an increase in the number of visas issued to various major companies around the Kingdom. At the end of the day, it is the duty of the young Saudis to prove themselves and to make it worthwhile to hire more Saudis because of their talents and work ethics and not because of administrative directives. Our youth should work harder because we have a unique demography and we still have the highest birth rate.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Understanding Saudi Demography reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Indoor Winter Olympics!

21 October 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Hosting a sports event is considered a major achievement of any country especially if it belongs to the Third World.

But there are some events, which can only be organized in a few countries such as the Winter Olympics. Since the beginning of major international sporting events like the Summer Olympics (1896), the Winter Olympics (1924) and the World Cup (1930), many countries literally run from pillar to post to host these events.

With the passage of time, the FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) emerged as the two most powerful and influential sports organizations. Interestingly, these are considered more powerful than the United Nations. That is why; their decisions usually create a stir in the media with numerous columnists coming up with analysis and commentaries. On the basis of some recent developments, a question comes in ones mind: Are various countries losing interest in hosting such events?

Until now, countries lobby fiercely to host the World Cup and the Summer Olympics. However, hosting of the Winter Olympics is a different story altogether.

This event is usually held in rich industrial countries mainly European. It is mainly due to its unique requirements. As the name suggests, holding of this event requires special weather conditions like snow etc. In addition to that sufficient infrastructure and special accommodation are also required.

These conditions restrict the options for holding this event. And this is why the world saw the Winter Olympics being held more than once in the same place such as Lake Placid in New York State.

Few days ago and to the surprise of many sports commentators, hosting the Winter Olympics enthusiasm is getting colder than the air in the Olympic villages. Earlier this month, Norway withdrew its bid to host the 2022 edition of the Winter Olympics.

When one sees Norwegian children skiing, one would think they were born with a pair of skis in their hands. Other countries like Sweden and Ukraine have also withdrawn their bids. There are rumors that German city Munich is also not interested in hosting the event.

Is it because people are losing interest in the Winter Olympics or is it the behavior of the IOC?

Many international sports watchers say that the IOC is becoming a Jet Set organization rather than an organization caring about and bringing the world youth together. Norwegian and other European media reports criticize the initial requirements of the committees visiting the bidding cities. According to those reports, when members of the Olympic committee visit the bidding cities, they would set many conditions, which have nothing to do with sports but for their personal prestige. For example, they want to stay in best hotels, priority traffic lanes during the events, red carpet arrival ceremony and mobile phones for their use. With these kinds of requirements, it is very easy to lose transparency, which results in corruption.

Due to these reasons, many European cities have lost interest in the event and the IOC is left with just two options for the 2022 event — Almaty in Kazakhstan and Beijing.

Many people have started to raise a question what if the Winter Olympics are held indoors. In such a case, the event can be organized anywhere across the world. Would there be any country willing to pay for the expensive super huge indoor facilities? Many experts say it is possible.

With the advent of social media, any sporting event could expose the host country’s achievements and the truth about life inside the country. Oh, I forgot to mention that Poland and Switzerland are also not enthusiastic about hosting the Winter Olympics. In the past decisions were coming from the top about hosting an international sporting event, nowadays, it is the ordinary people who decide. The IOC has to change the rules or it will find no takers or the future Winter Olympics games will be held indoors and the Summer Olympic will be played using simulators such as the PlayStation.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Indoor Winter Olympics! reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

The Italian Pirate in Saudi Desert

19 October 2014 | comments (0) | Opinions & Editorials | by

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

Last few weeks saw oil prices nosedive in such a manner that had left many economic analysts baffled. During the same period, this writer also wrote on the unusual decline in the oil prices. In response to one of those write-ups, this writer received an email from an Italian journalist, Federico Simonelli, who writes for the Italian newspaper, Il Secolo XIXI.

Truth be told, the only thing I knew about the paper was the fact that it was the first newspaper that switched to color printing. The Italian journalist wished to seek this writer’s opinion on the reasons and the impact of the decline in the oil prices.

Anyways, we had a nice telephonic conversation and discussed the issue of oil prices. The conversation, which was in English, went well despite the issues arising from this writer’s Saudi accent, Simonelli’s Italian accent and the static during the call.

The conversation somehow forced to ponder over Italy’s ties with Saudi Arabia in various spheres of life. The two countries enjoy strong ties.

There was a time when Italian products were a craze among Saudis. This writer still remembers those FIAT cars roaming Saudi streets in the past. One wonders as to what happened to those cars and where have they vanished.

Now let us focus on the famous young Italian in the Saudi desert known to many old Aramco pioneers as the Italian pirate. In the mid 1940s, there were more than 2,000 Italians working at the Saudi oil installations. According to a book titled, The Caravan Goes On, by Frank Jungers, after the end of WWII, Aramco hired many Italian workers who were stationed in Eritrea. They were hired on single status like many other nationalities because the lack or shortage of family housing for Aramco employees. The Italians were housed in two places, one in Dhahran and the other in Ras Tanura. They had their own kitchen staff and their own recreation facilities. For the Italians, Saudi or American food does not work. We all know about the unique and delicious taste of the Italian cuisine. They were very talented.

Among them was a 24-year-old man with a good sense of humor and a camera. During those days, it was unique thing for the local population, as most of them were unaware of the technological developments taking outside of the Kingdom.

His name was Ilo Battiglli. He was basically a draftsman but during his daily work he used his camera more than any other tool. He was a bright photographer who recorded very important moments in the history of the Saudi oil industry. Workers in Aramco changed his name and started calling him “Ilo the Pirate” because he had his studio on the beach. Many people saw his work and the valuable photographs that he took at many different places. He was seen photographing Saudis, Americans, Italians and many others, which reflected the benefit of putting hands together. His and the work of some other workers helped preserve the story of discovering the most important commodity in today’s history, which changed the fortunes of Saudi Arabia. This Italian photographer or as he is called the Pirate by his coworkers 70 years ago showed us with camera shots the importance of working and living together no matter what part of the world you come from. As for the price of the oil barrel, well, we should leave it to the experts.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. The Italian Pirate in Saudi Desert reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Victim of Mismanagement

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

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

When people discuss Yemen, they usually refer to the large southwestern area of the Arabian Peninsula strategically sandwiched between Saudi Arabia and Oman with thousands of miles of beautiful and pristine seashores. Whenever Yemenis are discussed, they are seen as one people bound by centuries of tradition sharing a common ideology.

However, those well versed with true situation in Yemen knows fully well that the case is otherwise. It was until recently that Yemen was divided into two countries: North and South. Both sides, unfortunately, spent years fighting each other. Suddenly, we saw them getting united. That unity did not come cheap. Many Yemenis paid with their lives for that unity. The bloody game is far from over in Yemen; internal disputes continue to haunt this Arab country.

Historically, People’s Republic of South Yemen was more stable and prosperous as compared to its northern counterpart. Aden was famous for its beautiful streets and advanced civic infrastructure during the 1960s at a time when many major regional capitals even lacked basic amenities. It was years ahead of various Gulf cities such as Dubai and Doha. This ancient seaport continues to enjoy strategic importance in the region.

In 1967, it was seen as the future center of the so-called capital of the Middle East free zone. Simply put, Aden had more potential than Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait City and Doha put together to become the regional trade hub. Aden was destined to be the Hong Kong of the Middle East. But, communism took over and instability became the second name of South Yemen.

North Yemen was, however, different. There was no strong central government. Only the capital Sanaa, Taaz and Hudaidah had some traces of a government. The rest of the country remained beyond the control of any authority. Tribal infighting and bloody coups cost Yemen thousands of lives. North Yemen also had the potential to emerge as a prosperous country due to its rich and fertile land and easily accessible Gulf markets. It just needed construction of three major highways. Instead of utilizing its historical dam and rich soil, they grew Qat.

People grew poorer and as time passed got more desperate. Unfortunately, Yemen never utilized the billions of dollars of financial aid that they received from the Gulf states especially from Saudi Arabia and the US, Japan, Europe and many other countries. North and South Yemenis are considered the most skilled and hardworking people in the region. It was the Yemenis who built most of the infrastructures in Gulf countries but they simply forgot to build their own. They were busy chewing Qat and fighting each other. South and North Yemen got united in 1990 and later on a brief but bloody civil war erupted in 1994.

Whatever happening in Yemen is a result of years of instability and turmoil. Truth be told, Saudi Arabia and other friends of Yemen had been making all-out efforts to help Yemen but Yemenis don’t appear to pull themselves out of this bottomless pit of violence and instability.

Despite the availability of various raw materials and fertile land, Yemenis are unable to cooperate with each other to develop their country. As long as Yemenis belonging to different hues from across the country don’t sit together and iron out their differences, no foreign power can help restore stability in Yemen. The uplift of Yemen depends on the Yemenis. The money they waste on chewing Qat in one year can help build hospitals, schools and road networks. Yemenis could make hundreds of millions every year by just opening their archaeological treasures.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Victim of Mismanagement reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

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