Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

How we should interpret the Saudi King’s speech | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A few days ago in Riyadh, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz told the Saudis “I am nothing without you”. He went on to say “Without you I am nothing, without the Saudi people I am nothing. I am one of you and for you. I seek Allah’s help first and then yours”. So how should we interpret the King’s speech?

I think the first point we should take note of when reading the King of Saudi Arabia’s words is that we must remember we have never heard an Arab leader, king or president, speaking such language, especially in the past few decades, as all others have talked down to their citizens. When the King says to his people “I am nothing without you”, this is completely opposite to Muammar Gaddafi who asked the Libyans “who are you?” It is totally contrary to Bashar al-Assad, who described the Syrians as germs, and the former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who once told an American newspaper that ruling Yemen is like “dancing on snakes”. Likewise, what King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz said is also in contrast to Hosni Mubarak, who responded to the Egyptians’ grievances over many issues by saying: “let them amuse themselves”. King Abdullah is the opposite of all those, for he knows that the power of any state lies in the bond between the citizen and the ruler, and this only comes when the citizen has confidence in his country and its ruling regime. This is the crux of the matter.

King Abdullah told the Saudis in his latest speech that their country’s “position globally is excellent, and its economy is robust. But I wish for more, and what I tell you is that you help me and thus you’ll help yourself”. This essentially is the highest authority in power telling the citizen that there is still much to be done. He is telling all the citizens, whether they are content or unsatisfied, that what is coming will be better, and that there is much to be done in order to ensure this. This means that hope is not lost for reform, of all types, but also means that the King himself is intent upon this, and thus trust exists between the ruler and the citizen.

This is in contrast to the Arab states where we have seen, and continue to see, revolutions taking place, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria. The monarchies, including Saudi Arabia, have not lost hope like these states did. The people do not revolt unless they have lost all hope, and the citizens of the Arab monarchies have not done so. The level of trust is still sizeable, or else how could the Saudi King tell his people that although things are good there is still much to be done, and that without them he is nothing? Hence, the citizen-ruler bond in the Arab monarchies appears to be greater [than in other Arab states], with the state taking greater consideration of its citizens and their demands, and hence the monarchies do not suffer from a crisis of legitimacy. Most importantly of all – and this is what we should take from the Saudi King’s speech to his citizens – is that the monarchies, including Saudi Arabia, do not disregard the dignity of their citizens. They do not humiliate or patronize them, they do not feed them false slogans, and they don’t ensure their loyalty through repression and murder.