Saudi Arabia’s King Salman says Kingdom is committed to serving Muslims

The participants of the conference called for a comprehensive plan to address sectarianism and extremism. (SPA)
Updated 12 December 2018

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman says Kingdom is committed to serving Muslims

  • Prince Khaled Al-Faisal gave a speech during the opening of the World Conference on Islamic Unity
  • Prince Khaled welcomed the participants at the conference and has delivered to them the greeting of the king

MAKKAH: Rejecting all forms of hatred and extremism, Muslim scholars from 127 countries have proposed to initiate an intercultural partnership to effectively fight Islamophobia.

More than 1,299 religious scholars and intellectuals took part in a conference titled “International Conference on Islamic unity — the perils of labeling and exclusion” held in Makkah on Wednesday.

Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal inaugurated the event organized by the Muslim World League (MWL). 

The participants of the conference called for a comprehensive plan to address sectarianism and extremism.

They also stressed the need for creating effective channels of communication between followers of different Islamic schools of thought to remove misunderstandings and increase cooperation.

They unanimously rejected sectarian views and extremist ideas and urged scholars and preachers to play their role in uniting Muslims.

The Makkah governor delivered a speech on behalf of King Salman underlining the need to remove misconceptions about Islam and Muslims through dialogue. He also urged Muslims to set aside their petty differences and to work together to achieve a great and prosperous future.

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, who is also head of the MWL Supreme Council, highlighted the teachings of Islam that categorically reject all forms of discrimination. 

The grand mufti urged the Muslims to forge unity among their ranks and do away with rivalries, petty differences and say no to divisions and factionalism. 

Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah, president of the Emirates Fatwa Council, stressed that unity is a great Islamic concept that includes all spheres of human existence and covers all individual, collective and international relations. Islam is a religion of unity, he added

Sheikh Bayyah said the difference of opinion should not be construed as enmity. 

He deplored the spirit of exclusion and rejecting and mistrusting others. He said a moderate approach is necessary to counter extremism and hatred. 

MWL Secretary-General Sheikh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa said the problems we are witnessing in today’s world emanate from a lack of open dialogue and futile rivalries between sects and denominations.

The secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, hailed Saudi Arabia’s successful experience against extremism, violence and terrorism. He said the steps Saudi Arabia has taken to counter this negative trend have transformed it into a reliable reference for everything related to Islam. 

He praised the efforts, bold steps and resolute policies carried out by the Kingdom to eradicate extremist ideas from society. 


‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

Updated 09 July 2020

‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

  • "There’s some magic in the water of the desert," says Korhonen

JEDDAH: As she reaches the end of her second mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, US Consul General Rachna Korhonen will soon be heading home, taking memories to last a lifetime.
Known for her love for culture and the Arabic language and for her vast knowledge of the region, Korhonen became well known as a constant supporter of Saudi women and youth in the region, participating in numerous cultural and social events in the Eastern Province and across the Kingdom.
After two more weeks in the Kingdom, Korhonen will return to the US capital to serve as the executive director of the Bureau of Near East Affairs (NEA) and the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs (SCA) at the US State Department which supports the posts in the region, including Saudi Arabia, thus continuing her connection with the Kingdom.
With 14 years of experience as a US diplomat, she served 3 years in Riyadh in 2010, and then came back to serve as the consul general in Dhahran in August 2017. “I would say Riyadh was the start of my relationship with Saudi Arabia, and Dhahran and the Eastern Province is the culmination of the relationship,” said Korhonen told Arab News on a video call. She almost feels herself Sharqawia, a resident of the Eastern Province, Sharqia.
“Ana Sharqawia (‘I am a Sharqawia). The measure of any place is the people, it’s not about the place, it’s really about the people.”
As consul general, her role was to build relations and promote the interests of her home in the country where she was posted. Korhonen went the extra mile, she joined in the region’s celebrations and understood its traditions and culture.


Recalling her time in the Eastern Province, she said: “I’ve been getting to know Sharqawis, the people who live and work here, who have made this their home in the years since Aramco started or were born in Al-Ahsa. I think anyone who comes to the Eastern Province falls in love,” she said.
“The biggest reason I’ve gotten to enjoy myself here is (because) it has quite a bit of America here. I think it’s difficult to realize how much America exists in Saudi Arabia until you come to the Eastern Province,” she added.
As the drilling for oil began in 1935 with the help of the California Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC), which later became Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil capital has been home to thousands of Americans over the past 85 years, who have had a major influence on the region.
“Aramco is definitely a reminder of home, and you put that in with the people, the hospitality, the normal way of being Saudi which is to welcome your guests no matter who they are. You put those things together, you get the best of the United States and you get the best of Saudi Arabia.”
A native of New Jersey and big baseball fan, her love for the game didn’t stop her from supporting the Al-Ettifaq Football Club in Dammam, attending matches and singing their anthem.
Her trips to Al-Ahsa, a place she calls the most beautiful place in the Kingdom, allowed her to discover the region’s vast experiences.
Her appreciation of Al-Ahsa goes deep. Both the scenery and the hospitality of the people make it her favorite city — she even took Ambassador John Abizaid on a trip there in February.
“As you drive towards Al-Ahsa, you can see the sand changing color, from a bright yellow to a reddish color,” she said. “You start seeing the desert turning green, which is amazing to me. I’m a mountain and forest type of person and I can tell you that I now like the desert too, it’s beautiful.”
The uniqueness of Al-Ahsa called out to Korhonen and she recalls her first visit to the region in 2017. “The history, the people, the food, the culture, is very different from any place I’ve been to in Saudi Arabia, Hasawis (people of Al-Ahsa) are lovely. I think there’s some magic in the water of the desert,” she said.
Korhonen developed an interest in regional cultural events, visiting local markets picking out sheep for Eid, learning about the Saudi love for falconry and participating in the traditional celebratory dance of Al-Arda. She even has a Diwaniya, a parlor where guests are received, at her home.

When she returned to the Kingdom in 2017, Korhonen noticed the transformation of the Kingdom, noting that Vision 2030 has been the instigator for this noticeable change.
“The changes have been tremendous, I think Vision2030 is really going to really bring Saudi Arabia onto the world stage. I think some parts are already there. In the energy sector, Saudi Arabia has always been a leader,” she said. “I’m betting you right now that you’re going to see Saudi women, you’re going to see Saudi men, you’re going to see Saudi kids, Saudi art, culture and music, the traditional Saudi things, all starting to show up on the world stage.”
As the Kingdom heads towards diversifying its economy, Korhonen anticipates that the world will begin seeing more Saudi entrepreneurs with innovative ventures, as education is key. She noted that with the continuous flow of Saudi students on scholarships in the US, their return to the Kingdom will help bring forth a new business-like mindset with partnerships between the two countries that will help the Kingdom’s economy to flourish.
“It’s coming,” she noted. “I’ve seen some of the (US) businesses here, but I haven’t seen enough yet and I’d like to see more of that in the next 2-5 years, because Vision 2030 will be a success if we can get entrepreneurs to start businesses and hire more Saudis,” she added. “That to me is the key and that is what you should be bringing back from the US.”
As the end of her mission draws near, it's safe to say that we'll be seeing Korhonen back in the Kingdom in the near future.
“I’ll honestly come back because of the people, because of the friendships I’ve made here.”