Opinion

Evil will not win: US-Saudi relationship in times of terror

Evil will not win: US-Saudi relationship in times of terror

Author

Reaction to the heinous act of a Saudi national training with the United States military, which claimed the lives of three individuals at a naval base in Florida on Friday, has understandably been one of shock and disbelief.

It has been said, perhaps correctly, that the shooting was an act of terrorism. In any event, as already stated by the leadership and people of Saudi Arabia, it is evident that the feelings harbored by the shooter in no way reflected those felt by the overwhelming majority of Saudis towards the US.

President Donald Trump conveyed via Twitter the condolences of King Salman of Saudi Arabia to the American people, noting that “the King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people.”

This mutual feeling of love and understanding between the two peoples is obvious as the two countries mourn together the tragic loss of life resulting from yet another suspected act of violent extremism.

The US and Saudi Arabia’s historic relationship has been unique in creating a bond between the peoples through cultural, security and economic exchanges, which in turn has taken the relationship to an altogether new level today.

Cooperation in these as well as various other sectors has brought the two societies closer, resulting in greater understanding, stability and prosperity.

The exchanges have continued to intensify under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and in accordance with the objectives of the Vision 2030 plan to modernize the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It is important for both the US and Saudi Arabia to maintain the momentum of security cooperation aimed at foiling and stopping terrorist plots and countering the ideology of Al-Qaeda and like-minded organizations.

Reem Daffa

 

One area that has seen important initiatives being taken is counterterrorism and violent extremism, resulting in cooperation that has advanced the national security interests of both the US and Saudi Arabia.

The two countries rely on each other for intelligence sharing and other activities aimed at preventing potential terrorists from organizing and executing plots that threaten civilian lives and infrastructure.

While these efforts have been successful in preventing radicalization and terrorist acts, the ideology that fuels extremism unfortunately continues to exist both in the real and virtual worlds. This poses a challenge to authorities that seek to deny ideological inspiration and support for violent extremism.

The initial assessment of US intelligence and counterterrorism officials is that the Florida incident was a case of self-radicalization although the shooter did not appear to have any ties to transnational terrorist groups.

It must be acknowledged, however, that the ideology  thought to have inspired the attack is one that has a painful place in the heart of every American and, indeed, every civilized nation — the ideology being that of Al-Qaeda.

The shooter is reported to have drawn inspiration from Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaeda who was killed by US Navy SEALS in 2011 for his role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of 2,977 people in the US.

This stark fact has not been forgotten either by the American people or the people of Saudi Arabia.

Both countries share a heavy burden for that dark day and for an ideology that fills humanity with revulsion. Today the Saudi people are trusted partners of Americans in the fight to eliminate Al-Qaeda as well as its ideology.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to promote a moderate form of Islam that regards as abhorrent the ideologically motivated acts of those who distort and insult the values of Islam by perpetrating violence of the kind that occurred in Pensacola on Friday.

As stated by Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, “such a horrific crime has no place among Muslims and cannot be justified under any legitimate interpretation of Islam. … The American People are worthy only of respect and appreciation, and the perpetrator is not representative of any religion or nationality, only his own sick beliefs.”

His statement reflects the depth of the US-Saudi relationship, two countries for whom respect and appreciation are most important values in their shared pursuit of peace, stability and prosperity.

At this moment, it is important for both the US and Saudi Arabia to maintain the momentum of security cooperation aimed at foiling and stopping terrorist plots and countering the ideology of Al-Qaeda and like-minded organizations.

Equally, it is vital to continue the cultural, economic and social exchanges that perhaps contribute just as much as security cooperation does, to the mutually beneficial process of eradication of extremism.

Reem Daffa is vice president and executive director of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC). Twitter: @ReemDaffa

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

Saudis unite in condemnation of US Navy base attack

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan speaks to press following a shooting on the Florida base. (Josh Brasted / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
Updated 08 December 2019

Saudis unite in condemnation of US Navy base attack

  • The attack, in which a Saudi gunman killed three Americans, is viewed as an act that does not represent Saudi people
  • The OIC has said the attacker did not represent the tolerant Islamic values that distinguish the Saudi people

From the king and top-level Saudi government officials to everyday Saudi citizens, all are united in condemning the attack on a US Navy base in Pensacola, Florida, calling it as “un-Islamic” and barbaric.

The shooting of three Americans by a Saudi gunman was an individual attack that does not represent the Kingdom’s people, it has been widely  stressed. 

For decades, many Saudis have lived in the US for work or attended universities across many states, becoming their own ambassadors. 

Nedda Akhonbay, a communications professional working in Jeddah, expressed her sadness when she heard the news.

“My condolences go out to the families of the victims as I hope they find peace in their lives after facing such a tragedy. As a Saudi-American and having spent many formative years in the US and made friends who became like family, I thought this attack was very close to home and I hope both people work together to get past it.”

“As a student who lived in the States, I never faced any problems for being a Muslim,” said Alaa Sendi, an American-Saudi lecturer working in Jeddah University.

Having obtained a PhD in electrical engineering, Dr. Nazih Al-Othmani lived between the states of Michigan and Pennsylvania for ten years in the late 1990s and was in the US during the 9/11 attacks. He recalled how Americans understood that such atrocious attacks never represented a community, and this one was no exception.

“The tragic event that took place yesterday does not represent us, this attack is unacceptable regardless of any reason and no sane person can ever accept it,” he said. “I lived in the States for many years, I was also there on 9/11, and made many American friends throughout my time there. They stood by us, they helped us, protected us and our relationship was very civil and courteous. We need to stand together to combat this dangerous tendency that can be found in every community.”




The attack at the US naval station in Pensacola, Florida, was the second incident at an American military base in this week, following another shooting at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Wednesday. (AFP)

Many Saudis are angered over the actions of this one individual. Dr. Al-Othmani expressed his concerns about those who would take advantage of the situation and try to point a finger at Saudis.

“Though right-wingers will take advantage of the event and attack Saudi Arabia, I don’t believe many Americans will see it that way. Americans are aware enough to differentiate between the nationality of an individual and his actions,” he said.

Al-Othmani recommends that Saudi students communicate, cooperate and extend a hand of friendship to their respective communities.

In the decades of friendship and cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia, many Americans have come to work in the Kingdom and some have made it their home. 

Dr. Alia Mitchell, vice dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, is an American citizen who has been a Muslim for more than 30 years and has lived in the Kingdom for more than 20 years. She has chosen to live in the Kingdom as she sees the beauty of the religion interwoven into society, one that she believes is not represented by the shooter. 

“When something tragic that happens like this, it’s on the individual,” she said. “it doesn’t go back to the community or the society.

“I’m still sickened and mostly very, very saddened with this tragedy,” said Melanie H. “I’ve a son the same age as the shooter and can’t imagine what the pain and grief his actions would do to me as a parent. To learn that your son has caused so much hell… that he has taken others’ lives.”

She said: “I lived in Saudi Arabia for over 10 years and I have experienced Saudi’s hospitality, warmth — nothing like what I imagined or expected before arriving. It isn’t perfect but then what country or nation is?” 

“Now that the country has opened its doors to the world, people really shouldn’t judge the book by its cover especially when criminals like this shooter make such a false, misleading cover.” 

Melanie H continued: “Do not judge a people by an individual — that’s what we Americans are all about. No judging.”


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“This crime does not represent us as Saudis,” said Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh, minister of Islamic Affairs, on his personal Twitter account. “We reject such criminal acts and we sympathize with the injured and the families of the victims. It is a horrible crime and a dishonest act.

“We condemn crimes anywhere and anytime, and we stress our complete rejection of such horrible criminal acts which Islam forbids.”

Saudi scholar and Imam of Quba Mosque in Madinah Saleh Al-Maghamsi shared the same notion. He said: “This incident should be stripped away from religion and from the country to which whoever committed this criminal act is affiliated. The Shariah does not approve of this act for it violates the texts of the Holy Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet, which is based on the principle of no bloodshed. Logic also does not approve of this action.” 

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The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the aggressor did not represent the tolerant Islamic values that distinguish the Saudi people and all Muslims who believe in tolerance, moderation and coexistence.

The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia also condemned the shooting incident in Florida and called it a heinous crime. 

Describing it as a crime against humanity, the senior scholars stressed that such actions were against the true teachings of Islam. They said that the Saudi people will continue to uphold their noble values and contribute to the progress and prosperity of the world and humanity.


TheFace: Deema Al-Jaafari, Saudi entrepreneur

Updated 45 min 54 sec ago

TheFace: Deema Al-Jaafari, Saudi entrepreneur

  • I truly believe that if you set limits to your abilities you will never be able to exceed them
  • I founded Teak Woodwork in Alkhobar which has extended its services to cities including Jeddah and Riyadh

For nine years, I was the only child in my family. My father was a very independent, strong character and I learned a lot from him.

Having started from zero, he taught me to work hard, seek perfection and always believe that anything was possible if you set your mind to it. 

My mother was very easy going and encouraging. She really believed in me and was always supportive. There was a balance at home for me with these two different characters.

Some people might think that being an only child for quite some time, I was spoiled and dependent. But that was never the case and I have an amazing relationship with my little sister Maha; she is my best friend.

My father works in pharmaceuticals and is chairman of the board of directors at Al-Dawaa Medical Services.

My mother was a schoolteacher before entering the world of business, and my sister is a chemical engineer. Though we are a very diverse family, we all have an appreciation for art which is evident in our household. My mother is an artist and art collector too.

I do not have a role model; there are many people I look up to in the business world and in my social life. 

I studied software engineering and worked in that field for almost a year, but although I learnt a lot I wanted more from my career. Software engineering made me think and solve problems in a different way and it played a major role in how I operate in the field of business.

I worked at Al-Dawaa for almost two years and found that I was more attracted to business and marketing than the technical side of things. That is when I decided to take on the family business, Waleed Al-Jaafari Establishment.

I run PIECES, a retail store I founded in Alkhobar in 2012 and later opened a branch in Riyadh in 2014. Now, we are working to make it an online business too.

I noticed that there was a demand in the Kingdom for custom-made furniture, and although some stores offered the service there was little choice. So, I decided to provide high-quality furniture made in Saudi Arabia.

In 2015 I founded Teak Woodwork in Alkhobar which has extended its services to cities including Jeddah and Riyadh. My father has other branches dealing with different fields, but I opted to run the retail store and woodwork services. 

I truly believe that if you set limits to your abilities you will never be able to exceed them. Once you realize that there are no limits, all doors will open for you.