Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Welcome President Barack Obama - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

Your Excellency President Barack Obama, your visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as a first stop preceding your delivery of your address which you will direct to the Islamic world from Egypt, must be viewed within the framework of all its inferences and significances.

Your choice of the Land of the Two Holy Sanctuaries as a starting point into the Islamic world, and of Ard al-Kinanah (Land of al-Kinanh, or reservoir, as Egypt is often referred to in Arabic) to be the stage for delivering that address, as the strategic depth of the Land of the Two Holy Sanctuaries and as the citadel of Arabism, has a symbolic dimension that goes much farther than the traditional political perception of this visit. This is due to the religious, political, economic, and geo-strategic weight represented by these two states on the regional and international domains. The step you are taking also comes to honor what you promised the day you were sworn in as President of the United States of America, a day on which you extended your hand to the Islamic world, something which was not done by any American President before you.

You Excellency the President: The world has tasted and still tastes forms of injustice and domination coated in a glamorous, flowing envelope of freedom and human rights. This involves forcing some world peoples into an ideologized democracy that sees no freedom for peoples except the freedom that accords with its vision, within an attempt to rob the world of its positive diversity, so that it would fall in line behind it, and to deprive its people of the Divine rights that Allah gave them, as confirmed by your founding fathers like Alexander Hamilton who said in the year 1775 Gregorian that the sacred rights of the human race are not to be searched for in old manuscripts and documents because they are like the rays of the sun, written by the Divine Will and beyond being wiped out or hidden by human hands. Thus it is logical to say, Your Excellency the President, that justice, equality, human rights, and other sacred rights and values of civilization are not a monopoly for a sect or a people to the exclusion of others, for the Holy Books of all religions enshrined them to dignify human beings. God the Almighty says in his Cherished Book (the Koran) “We have honored the sons of Adam”.

Your Excellency the President, as you are well aware, the implications and significance of your visit to this land (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) is that this is not a land for petroleum only. It is the pioneer of the Islamic world to whom you have extended your hand. It is also the sacred land for the Muslims, and the Qibla (direction) they face in praying. It was from it that enlightenment and tolerance radiated out. It was said about it: “We made you peoples and tribes so that ye should get acquainted” (Koranic verse). We are proud of our religion and heritage, as you are proud of your religion and heritage. I do not think that we or you would accept that a minor group of ours or yours should hijack that heritage, mutilate it, and plunge us and you in the tumultuous waves of a sea of hostilities. If this is our disposition and your disposition, we must renounce all extremism, explicitly and publicly, whether it is attributed to us Muslims or attributed to you or to somebody who follows either one of us, and whichever one of us it draws its existence from.

Your Excellency the President, the policy to which we commit ourselves is abiding by covenants and pledges we have concluded, and respecting the alliances we have joined, for this is the message of our religion, and it is what the founding fathers of our state (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabic) have taught us. King Abdulaziz, Allah has mercy on his soul, says in one of his addresses: “The respected foreign nations have rights on us and we have rights on them. We owe them to fulfill to them all the covenants we have with them, for `The Covenant is respected` (Koranic verse).” As for the peoples who strive to break the shackles of misery and poverty, we have been extending our hands to them and still do, and we help them surmount their difficulties, whatever their religion, color, or ethnic background. We do not enter into rivalry with others, and we do not expect reward or thanks for what we are doing because we do it out of the faith that springs from the values of our religion and civilization.

Your Excellency the President, our message (Islam) makes it imperative for us to say only what is good and do only what is good, as manifest in our declared, firm policy. We always extend our hand to those who want to extend their hands to us. We cooperate with all those who want stability and who follow the path of reform and prosperity. But at the same time we are not going to be prey to evil forces that are antagonistic to peace and that reject common coexistence.

Your Excellency the President, the human hand that is capable of removing all manifestations of backwardness and poverty in the world with the resources and values at its possession is also capable of obliterating all manifestations of life if it is gripped by a blind ideology that controls weapons of mass destruction. The peoples of our region dream that their area will be free of weapons of mass destruction, and free of the reasons for violence and counter-violence. We hope, Your Excellency the President, that this will come true in the era of Your Excellency. At the same time, we fear that the forces of hatred that exist in all nations and creeds would move to assassinate hope in our heart and their hearts, charging the future with a violence that awaits our children and their children. We have in our region a foreboding jungle of suspicion and fears that needs somebody to uproot its giant trees and level its terrain, so that we can tread toward security, peace, justice, and stability. I am sure this hope and dream is not an easy matter; that it might not be accomplished during one term or two terms of your presidency. But we have to launch it, and we have to start working together to reach it. Let us draw with you, with our neighbors, and with those who have a passion for peace and stability in the world, the future of our region–nay the future of the whole world–according to a new vision the slogan of which would be your slogan, “yes we can”–a vision in which peace is accomplished and the strong are just and the weak safe. We say welcome to the President, Barack Obama, in the land of Islam and Salam (peace).

Abdul-Malik Ahmad Al Al-Sheikh

Abdul-Malik Ahmad Al Al-Sheikh is a distinguished Saudi writer and essayist.

More Posts