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King Abdullah: The Most Popular Leader - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz topped a poll that was conducted by the US Pew Research Center of the most popular leaders in the Islamic world. This is the least the Saudi monarch deserves for his credibility and his positions that strive towards good whether inside or outside of the country. But what is the significance of the poll, especially as the American research center [that conducted it] is highly credible; in fact it is one of the most important US centers in this field, and the poll covered 25 Islamic countries, including eight Arab states?

In order for us to understand the significance of the poll, we must list some of the most important positions and decisions taken by the Saudi monarch before and after his accession to power in his country. King Abdullah is the man who proposed the peace initiative that transformed into the Arab [Peace] Initiative without accepting, even for a moment, relinquishing Arab rights, and he exerted a great deal of effort for the Palestinian Cause. He also launched the interfaith dialogue initiative after having launched national dialogue in his own country. He is the king who is concerned with [improving] education in his country as he allocated a large budget to reforming the education system in Saudi Arabia and he is the man who approved a large budget for sending thousands of young Saudi men and women abroad to study. He is the man who opened the door to Saudi women and he is the king who paid a great deal of attention to reforming the judiciary and allocated a large budget in this regard. He is the king who represented the Arabs at the G20 Summit and it was said back then that Saudi Arabia had been chosen in order to give the West money; the king announced a financial project to continue the development of his country, not a project to pay financial amounts to the West. Above all, he is the man who is leading his country’s fierce and successful war on terrorism that makes it an example to be followed in fighting the disease of terrorism. He is also the king who called for inter-Arab reconciliation.

The king has done, and is doing, so much but why list it all? This is for one very simple reason, as the Pew Research Center stated: “There is limited enthusiasm for most of the Muslim political figures tested on the survey, with the exception of Saudi King Abdullah, who is easily the most popular.”

Upon close examination of the study, we find that the accomplishments of the Saudi monarch that we listed are what the Muslim nations want – as expressed in the poll conducted by Pew – in terms of education, work, stability, and respect for women. Therefore, the importance of this poll is that it reflects the voice of the silent majority, as the popularity of terrorism and its leading figures has deteriorated vis-à-vis the popularity of King Abdullah for example in Pakistan and Indonesia that cannot be denied. At the same time the study shows us how Ahmadinejad is almost equal to Karzai [in terms of unpopularity] and how King Abdullah also enjoys large popularity in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon in the Arab world, whilst the popularity of Hezbollah and Hamas have dropped to the lowest levels.

The importance of the study is that it shows us that Arab and Islamic nations want someone who works with sincerity, not someone who talks about slogans and destruction. As a result, King Abdullah earned the title of most popular leader in the Islamic world.

This is how the study and its results should be interpreted.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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