When Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja was appointed Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon during a period that was considered the most difficult in the history of the country, people took pity on him for having to shoulder such a responsibility and for having to walk the minefields. Yet this diplomat – who is soft but tough – managed to bridge the gap between him and all parties thus foiling attempts by some people in the political field and in the media to break these bridges. At the end of his term in office, he left Beirut with appreciation and respect for his morality in the way he dealt with others, whether he agreed or disagreed with them.
When Khoja was appointed Saudi Minister of Culture and Information succeeding Iyad Madani, people took pity on him once again for having to shoulder the responsibility of a ministry in which it is not easy to satisfy viewers with regards to the media, and to strike a balance between the different orientations of intellectuals with regards to culture. The criticism leveled at the ministry reminds me of one of the Joha stories. One day, Joha was going somewhere with his son and rode his donkey whilst his son walked, and people disapproved of this so he switched places with his son. However the people disapproved once again. He then decided that he and his son would both walk alongside the donkey and people disapproved [saying he was stupid to walk when he had a donkey!]. Then Joha shouted “whoever has been saved from people’s tongues is blessed by God!”
However, anybody observing Minister Abdulaziz Khoja’s performance since he assumed leadership of this ministry would have noticed that he has some kind of magical touch that made him acceptable among different parties. Intellectuals found that he is creative and shares their cultural concerns and their hopes and dreams. Fans of visual and oral media from all walks of life have found diversity in these two mediums that satisfies them and attracts interest. The minister’s diplomacy has assisted him in two fields, media and culture, with a broad vision that can gauge the distance between patience and the goal.
Last week, the minister met with hundreds of intellectuals on the sidelines of the Riyadh International Book Fair. As he answered some questions, the minister skillfully shifted between official and poet, intellectual and artist. He was successful in calling on everybody to share responsibility, considering that culture is firstly the responsibility of intellectuals.
In conclusion I feel that despite moving from Lebanon into the media, Khoja remained in a hot climate as the temperature of the media is always high and might increase from scorching heat to fire if culture is poured onto it.