Da Arab News del 02/08/2005
Originale su http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7&section=0&article=67852&d=...

The World Loses a Leader, Our Kingdom Loses a Father

di Khaled Almaeena

The passing away of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd not only removes from the Arab and Muslim political scene a towering figure; it also takes from the world one of its kindest and most humane leaders.

Assuming the throne on June 13, 1982, after the demise of his brother, King Khaled, King Fahd had to face several challenges right from the start. He had a long history of political experience, first as minister of education and later as minister of the interior, crown prince and as an international statesman.

The Iran-Iraq War was in full swing; the Russian occupation of Afghanistan was in its third year. The turmoil in Lebanon raged and an uncertainty permeated the Arab world. Moreover, the problems of the world could not — and would not — be ignored. These challenges would have tested any man’s resolve.

However, King Fahd got to the tasks at hand and steered the country toward a bright future in a world of ever-increasing complexity while continuously demonstrating the kindness and concern that would be expected of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques of the religion of peace.

King Fahd’s greatest challenge came in 1990 when Saddam Hussein’s war machine rolled over Kuwait. The king reviewed all options — he had no illusions about the Iraqi dictator’s intentions. He welcomed an international coalition of nations willing to defend the sovereignty of the peace-loving nations of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia against the marauding greed of a despot more interested in amassing more arms than caring for the people under his rule.

Those nations took up stations in Saudi Arabia, their sons defending the Kingdom’s borders while preparing to oust Saddam’s invaders from Kuwait. This was a statesman’s decision and as important as the might of any superpower in stopping Saddam’s onslaught. There were opposing voices, and after weighing all the concerns carefully, he tried to make the wisest decision that could be made.

King Fahd’s decision proved to be right. Saddam’s forces were routed and limped back to Iraq in March 1991, leaving the Kuwaitis to rebuild their pillaged nation and ensuring that the region’s oil supply reliably fuel the engine of global economic development as opposed to becoming a bullying weapon of terror in the hands of a power-hungry dictator.

There was no major international catastrophe, and we all heaved a sigh of relief that peace and stability returned to the Gulf. It seems somehow appropriate that the king of the largest of the Gulf countries would work so hard to bridge the gulfs between the many peoples of the Arabian Peninsula, and King Fahd always played a pivotal role in Arab affairs.

King Fahd worked hard to resolve the Lebanese conflict. The Taif accords were a result of the king’s willingness to intervene personally to bring people together. The Kingdom arranged for the meeting of differing Lebanese factions at the mountain resort of Taif and helped them iron out their grievances, which broke the stalemate that perpetuated Lebanon’s bloody civil war.

It pained King Fahd to see the resulting anguish and suffering of war, and he used his powers as one would hope a wise ruler would to help all the factions realize that the benefits of peaceful coexistence were greater than any gain possible through violent divisiveness. The factions began talking, and soon the guns were silenced. Out of that calm came hope for all the people of Lebanon to have better lives and get back to living in the manner that the Prophet (peace be upon him) envisioned so long ago.

King Fahd also was a man with a vision of peace throughout the Middle East. His Eight-Point Plan was an unambiguous proposal to guarantee peace and security for all parties to the Palestine question.

A man of the world, he realized long ago the importance of improving the education of Saudi children so they could compete with the youth of any of the world’s other great nations. He foresaw the trend of globalization while others confused it with Westernization and allowed cultural chauvinism to diminish the importance of modernization to ensure the economic well-being of the Kingdom for generations to come.

Even as crown prince, he played a key role in the development of the country, personally overseeing some of the Kingdom’s gigantic projects. He inspired many of his own family members and those who worked with him. He always was a hard worker, but never did he work so hard as he did on the expansion of the Two Holy Mosques. He saw to it that the expansions would cater to the ever-increasing number of pilgrims visiting from around the globe.

At his behest, pilgrims were afforded all amenities, ranging from free food and water to housing and medical treatment. The free distribution of the copies of the Holy Qur’an to people in dozens of languages was another of his concerns. He believed that all Saudis living in the land of the Prophet had a special duty to see to the comfort and needs of the pilgrims.

He was humane. I have never heard of anyone who did not speak kindly of him. Both to his people and to those in foreign lands he was a caring man.

Under him Saudi Arabia was in the forefront of nations unconditionally helping the poor, sick and hungry along with those stricken by disaster — the prime consideration always being the alleviation of people’s misery regardless of creed or color. Whether it was flood in an Asian country, drought in Africa, an earthquake elsewhere, Saudi aid flowed in with no strings attached.

During my many meetings with him, I could always see his desire for his country and people to prosper. He saw a world with all the nations flourishing because he knew that deprivation and injustice are the roots of turmoil.

Saudi Arabia under his rule maintained oil prices to encourage global growth. By maintaining excess capacity, it became the world’s swing producer, which brought stability and security to the world’s consumers who otherwise would have been subjected to massive price fluctuations because of industrial occurrences and political events.

King Fahd was a caring man and a father figure to many. Polite, gentle and kind, he was loved by his people and respected throughout the Arab world. He was not a vindictive person. I’ve heard many who knew him say that he never harbored a grudge against anyone.

When he was smitten by illness, he kept a brave and smiling face. On occasions when he made public appearances, despite any pain or discomfort he would keep smiling and comport himself with the pride and dignity one would expect from a wise and caring beneficent ruler.

Now he is gone.

That is the way of the world. Yes, King Fahd is gone, but he will live in our minds and hearts. For in many ways, he enriched us and enhanced the quality of life of his people. He will be remembered by many in many ways as a royal, crown prince, king, international statesman, philanthropist, but to his people he will be remembered as a kind and caring man.

Every time a young Saudi man or woman receives a hard-earned degree from a college or university, King Fahd will be remembered. Every time an orphan is given care and comfort in the night, King Fahd will be remembered.

And in the years to come, when parents tell their children about the Saudi Arabia of the past and how it became the Saudi Arabia of the future, King Fahd will be remembered.

May God rest his soul in peace.

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