Saudis 'Not Terrorist,' U.S. 'Not the Zionist Lobby'

According to this op-ed article authored by a Saudi journalist in Lebanon's Dar Al-Hayat, Saudi Arabia must mount a campaign of 'public diplomacy' directed at the United States to counteract the impression, created after events like the terrorist attacks on New York and Hurricane Katrina, that Saudis are U.S.-hating and support terrorists.

By Ahmad Adnan

November 30, 2005

Dar Al-Hayat - Original Article (English)    

Arab Reaction to Katrina: Left a Long-Lasting Negative Impression on Americans.

When the tsunami disaster struck, we were surprised by Abdul Aziz Al Fawzan's remark on the Majd TV station [Saudi Arabia] that "it" (i.e. the tsunami) was the result of God's anger toward the poor of the Maldives and other countries that are "full of weak Muslims."

When Katrina "struck" and claimed the lives of the poor and weak of New Orleans, preacher Nasser Al Umr called on people to rejoice because of what happened to those "blasphemers." [SEE VIDEO BELOW]

Worst came to worst when writer Maha Al Hujaylan indicated in her electronic article [blog?] when replying to a member of the Saudi Association for Human Rights that, "Some of our sons find it excessive for the nation to rejoice when a preordained disaster falls upon a blasphemous nation [the United States], a nation that spreads corruption on earth and sheds the blood of Muslims everywhere. They consider this inhumane and mourn the losses of this despotic nation, with its tyrannical rhetoric Í I wonder what they want."

The weirdest commentary on the "Katrina disaster" ˝ which isn't at all funny - was an Internet communiqu╚ published on one of those extremist Web sites, whose author said that Osama bin Laden admires "Katrina" the fighter, and suggested that had "she" still been single, his brethren should marry her.

Even though statements like the previous samples have been strongly condemned by Saudi elite who possess unequivocal influence, and although these condemnations have been heard in far-reaching media forums ˝ this will not suffice and will not erase the negative effects that these episodes have caused at the international level. Furthermore, such well-meaning official statements are utterly incapable of changing the cultural foundations that made such inhuman calls for retribution possible!

Prince Turki al-Faisal, New Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.

Saudi television can play a positive role in this respect, because to its past experiences over recent decades with fundraising campaigns to assist Afghanistan and Palestine; before in the name of the "resistance" and at other times in the name of "the people."

I hope that a legal entity takes up the task of collecting donations for the victims of Katrina, through TV, radio and other media outlets, being especially careful that the money is destined for a legally accountable entity. Thus, the money will be spent as allocated, without its recipients indulging in inadequate behavior, and without any accusations that the money went to finance "terrorism." 

The initiative could be called "popular" diplomacy, on a par with the "official" diplomacy conducted between countries. "Popular" because it can be likened to a durable, sincere dialog between nations. "Official," however, refers to the common interests between regimes. The former is often more effective and influential in the long run than the latter.

Unfortunately, firm official relations between Saudi Arabia and America and their history of commercial and cultural relations have not been accompanied by popular diplomacy. This is the reason that 15 eccentrics participated in the events of September 11, and were so easily able to ignite the fires of hate. This lack of popular diplomacy allowed the enemies of the [Saudi] Kingdom to have a strong following [in Saudi Arabia], because it made it possible for instigators of extremism to thrive here.

Bush and Katrina [Arab News, Saudi Arabia].

A simple public diplomacy initiative could allow Saudi Arabia to achieve a number of goals. For example, it will curtail any mixing of political factors, such as changes in the Palestinian issue or U.S. policies in the aftermath of 9/11, which is considered by many Saudis and Arabs to have been "evil" and "hostile," regardless what led to such actions.

The response of American officials as well as the American public to such initiatives will have a number of positive effects. It would be a way to reward U.S. efforts to enhance stability and security in the Gulf during the days of the Saddam regime, the liberation of Kuwait, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the eradication of communism, not to mention the droves of Saudi students and businessmen that have benefited from the United States.

After the way Arabs and Muslims and specifically Saudis have been portrayed in the West, it will also spur people [in the United States] to seek a more coherent perspective on the image of the "terrorist."

I hope the response of the Saudi people to the calls for "retribution" with respect to "Katrina" will come soon, in deeds and not in words. I wish the response to be formulated in a language that the world appreciates, and that helps us assess our behavior and theirs. 

As the Saudis are not terrorists, similarly, the U.S. is not the Zionist lobby.

* A Saudi Journalist


WindowsVideoMBC TV, Saudi Arabia: Saudi Professor Sheik Saleh Al-Sidlan: It Is Forbidden to Gloat at the Americans for Hurricane Katrina, Sept. 2, 00:05:07, MEMRI

"I remember when I was little, whenever a disaster befell the infidels, the common people would say: 'Allah be praised,' 'excellent.' ... That was in the past, but it still happens today."

Saudi Professor Sheik Saleh Al-Sidlan
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