The news of a new Saudi law that permits the naturalization of qualified professionals such as physicians and scientists has gone unnoticed. The new law has been enforced this week and citizenships will be given accordingly. In my view, it is a key reformative decision, a civilized application and an important step on the right path. The new law, however, does not lack opposition or, rather, apprehension, because there are those who fear competition or believe that citizenship is a sacred national issue that cannot be acquired over time or through education or given to anyone unless in exceptional circumstances. This common understanding was not discussed for it to be refuted. It is the successful communities that utilize all national and international competent professionals, and citizenship itself is not a criterion of patriotism. Saudi Arabia enjoyed a successful experience when it was founded in the 1900s, when King Abdulaziz appointed non-Saudis as ambassadors, ministers and advisors and they offered great services to the young state at that early and crucial stage. Jamil Baroodi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent UN representative and the UN’s most famous diplomat, is one such example. Unlike the states that raised the slogan of Arabism, and did not grant citizenship or appoint non-citizens to [senior] posts, King Abdulaziz made the kingdom the best example of attracting and fostering Arabs.
Most developed countries that have potential and well-qualified people have always kept the door open to attract educated and distinguished migrants to infuse new capabilities into society. In an extraordinary visit by the US President to a naturalization center, he addressed a number of his “new citizens,” welcoming them and stressing their importance. He said that the White House, where he lives today, was built by a migrant Irish architect in 1790 and that it was a Russian immigrant who came to the United States in 1990 who designed the famous search engine, Google, and that between the two there were tens of millions of immigrants who contributed to the making of the superpower. American universities still attract distinguished people from India, China and the Middle East, while the minority of our Arab states remains unaware of the importance of competency in building and developing the state. Not only do we suffer from closing the door to migrants but also, even worse, we leave the door wide open for Arab intellect to move elsewhere to live, work and obtain citizenship abroad.
Therefore, the recent move to enforce the Saudi naturalization law and giving priority to people of scientific and professional distinction is a step on the right path towards development in a largely populated society that should not fear competition and that considerably needs those who would help it advance. Saudi Arabia is home to many qualified Arabs who, on account of their long stay, are actually Saudis and in spite of the decades that they have spent in the kingdom, they have not obtained citizenship. I believe priority should be given to them for their historical role and smooth integration into society. Fortunately, for many decades, Saudi Arabian society has coexisted with large Arab communities, and Saudi Arabia has become the largest melting pot of Arab nationalities. Passing the naturalization law simply recognizes this fact along with the importance of competence and mutual benefit.