The Saudis and their Arab brothers recently bid farewell to a King who was a great symbol of moderation within a region in which extremism and instability are rampant. The moderation and the strength of the late royal highness stemmed from his power as a statesman on both the regional and international levels and from the example set by the founder of the Kingdom, King Abdel Aziz who unified a country the size of Western Europe amidst the international conflict of empires. The sons of King Abdel-Aziz had a set ideal before them to which they could aspire and that is the sublime level of historical statehood defined by its founder. One would not be exaggerating in any way by saying that after the union of Saudi Arabia under King Abdel Aziz, King Fahd”s projects were among the most important features of the kingdom”s history.
His late royal highness was a moderate conservative as demonstrated in his policies, the state and the society. He was a believer in enlightenment rather than revolution. During his reign, Saudi Arabia was transformed from a third world country to a modern society as demonstrated by the roads and infrastructure that one would expect to find in the U.S.A rather than in Riyadh or Khobar. Also, this modernity was evident in the excellence of the English-speaking Saudis on return from their studies in the U.S.A. This was all thanks firstly to the blessings of God, and to the virtues of the policies of an enlightened and moderate King.
It is well known that much of the credit for achieving stability in Lebanon after the destructive civil war can be attached to the King through the Ta”if accords. The late king was a peacemaker and not an antagonist of sectarian differences. One of the sons of the Saudi Royal family described the King as a man of tolerance and moderation who sought to avoid immorality. This was demonstrated through his decisive action concerning the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. I will not forget the image of him riding in an open-roofed car to observe the armed forces. During that crisis, the King managed through his policies to return Kuwait to its people. Furthermore, he was not vengeful as he refused to let his armies into Iraq but rather returned freedom and re-installed stability to Kuwait and departed.
In the Middle East initiative of 1982, the King clearly demonstrated that he was a man of peace, albeit with clear terms and conditions that were backed by the strength of his country. Despite having grown accustomed to the criticisms of rulers by the many Arabs, when visiting Saudi Arabia, one can only hear praises for their King. It would be misleading however, to consider King Fahd as an individual phenomenon as he has descended from a family, whose strength lies in the governance of the country. The culture of the family is devoted to the process of managing the state, maintaining stability and ensuring development. As mentioned above, the ambition of the Al-Saud family was set by the historical leadership of the founder who was both a moderate ruler and a moderate Muslim, who built the vast Kingdom and accepted that its power stopped at the borders. Moreover, the Al-Saud family was always conscious of crossing the lines that may impede on domestic or international stability. The political prisons of Saudi Arabia, of which there are only a few, contain only violent and extremist elements. The fact remains clear that the Al-Saud dynasty has never sought to destroy villages for merely opposing politically to them. They have always been keen to govern in a way that pleases God and ensures social stability. Such qualities were also manifested in the late King Fahd.
So too are such virtuous qualities present in the Kings successor, King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz. He is the brother of King Fahd who has participated in decision making for many years. Over the past few years, he became very close to the late King. King Abdullah remains a man who neither maneuvers nor pretends in cases of disagreement. In 2000, his position, in conflict to that of the U.S.A, concerning Palestine demonstrated this. The new King, just like the previous king, derives his strength from a strong Kingdom, a cohesive society and culture of moderation. The challenges faced by the Kingdom are not simple whether on a domestic, international, Arab or Islamic level. I believe that the spirit of King Fahd and his moderation remains the most efficient guide for the new King and his brothers to maintain the stability of the major regional power. May God have mercy on the late king and support the new king as the stability of Saudi means the stability of all Arabs. Saudi Arabia is the center of gravity of both Islam and Arab nationalism that plays a role in both peace and war, and I dread to imagine the region without it. Just as King Fahd was a symbol of moderation, the moderation of the country both regionally and internationally will continue to guide the region away from extremism.
Finally, I would like to express my deepest condolences for the family of the late king and we will not be able to feel truly their pain. However, I wish the Kingdom and its leadership to preserve and continue with the rationality that it has shown as a power for both Arabs and Muslims worldwide.