It may be unnecessary to point out that King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s interview with Barbara Walters last week, was eagerly anticipated by thousands of Saudis since it was His Royal Highness’s first interview since assuming the throne.
Outlining his policies for the future, King Abdullah addressed a Western audience as well as the young of Saudi Arabia, urging them to assume responsibility to ensure a prosperous Saudi Arabia, by correctly understanding Islam, being open to others, and pursuing their education.
King Abdullah also discussed the problems facing the young including unemployment and terrorism and took notice, not for the first time, of their demands. Recently, the Center for National Dialogue, which the King established, devoted one its sessions to discussing the problems of Saudi youth. Several young men and women, from around the country, took part in the discussion and gave and spoke courageously in front of a receptive audience.
Majid al Harbi, who watched the interview, commented to Asharq al Awsat, “King Abdullah’s talk was very comforting, open and simple. He recognized our problems and will undoubtedly work to solve them. I personally understand just how difficult the reforms King Abdullah intends to carry out will be. At the same time, I believe they will benefit Saudi Arabia and are aimed at young people whose can easily cope with change.”
In this respect, it is important to remember that the latest conference on national dialogue’s 30 recommendations have yet to be put in practice. They included the solving the unemployment crisis, encouraging dialogue amongst the young, as well as reinforcing their national pride and loyalty to their country in religious sermons, including the young in civil institutions and modernizing education.
Ibtihal Hassa, a participant in the workshops that preceded the 4 th National Dialogue was hopeful for the future. “I believe the future promise for Saudi women. King Abdullah alluded to the role they can play in society. His emphasis on the need to be patient indicates the authorities are aware of our needs. I am optimistic.”
Unquestionably, King Abdullah is a visionary leader. Undoubtedly as well, the young men and women of Saudi Arabia face a number of complicated problems requiring continuous attention. University curricula and education methods need to be revised. More opportunities need to be created for young men and women to communicate and work. The monopolization of student organizations by some and the enforcement of certain ideologies should end. No longer should schools harbor fundamentalist thought which might not produce terrorists but certainly
Asked about the terrorists’ motivation, King Abdullah replied, “madness and evil”. He is, of course, correct. They are also driven by the desire to halt reform and delay the adoption of global notions of freedom, justice, and equality which are absent from the terrorists’ dictionary.
The people of Saudi Arabia are excited about the future if a bit surprised of being under the spotlight. Soon, they will get used to this new reality which was imposed on them by fifteen terrorists who, we repeat for the millionth time, do not represent us.