Tuesday, February 08, 2005

House of Saud

I watched the documentary film on PBS which was excellent, balanced views of Saudi Arabia. It is called 'House of Saud'.

It covered everything from history, its royal family, its rapid growth with modernization and its conflicts with Islam. Basically, we have to recognize that Saudi Arabia is only 73 years old. When the nation was unified under the House of Saud, it does not have any technology. It does not have a car, air-conditioner, computer, warship, television or even a radio. They learned that Iraq and Kuwait has "great natural resources" and they believed that they do have it.

Sure enough, oil comes in the picture.

Can you imagine the nation that goes from nothing to have everything else, especially in a country that ruled by Islamic deeds? Very difficult thing to do. One Prince confessed that he sat by a new refrigerator for 16 hours, waiting to see an ice cube developing -- he smiled and said, "16 hours because I opened the door too frequently."

Little by little, it overwhelmed the masses to a point where some people preached the return to fundamentalism, to a point where the Saud members were denying that a problem was brewing between Islam and modernization.

It is called a growing pain which is very normal for any country. People in Saudi Arabia are starting to question on women's rights, their civil rights et al. That takes times to evolve -- after all, they changed a lot in 73 years, believe it or not.

They also questioned the educational system, the religious system and so on in order to improve itself. They also addressed about the fundamentalism. One Muslim cleric said that they are working on changing the system where hate is not encouraged against the Jews and X-ians but he also pointed out that the American textbooks are biased against the Muslims. That is true. We need to change that, too. WE cannot tell them to change while we cannot do the same for ourselves.

At first, the House of Saud denied that their people could be the active participants of Islamic fundamentalism to wreck the global cooperation. But now, they are taking it upfront with the problems.

At least, they are trying to reform over many things. After all, they changed a lot in 73 years. The United States changed in a gradual process over the period of 229 years, the Saudi Arabia did not have the luxury of that slow change. It has to change to keep up with the world. Give 'em time and space, they will change. But do not provoke them -- the Sauds will feel overwhelmed, threatened and alienated from the world. We must be supportive of them like Franklin Delano Roosevelt did to King Aziz.

One Prince, I believe it was the Minister of Interior Affairs, indicated that the corruptions are very common in Saudi Arabia but it is better than many countries. He has a point -- look at his country, less than $400 billion were used to transform from the third world country into one of the most powerful Arab countries in less than 50 years. The Prince said that about $50 billion out of $400 were corrupted and guess what he said next, "So what!" He is right.

Speaking of Roosevelt, when he met the first ruler of the House of Saud on a warship, the ruler of the House of Saud was mesmerized with Roosevelt's wheelchair to a point where Roosevelt donated his wheelchair to the ruler. That says a lot about the House of Saud's enthusiasm to learn and embrace the steps of modernization. Don't push it, don't force it, don't antagonize it.

Good job, PBS!


No comments: