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Analysis: Saudi king offers solutions

By
CLAUDE SALHANI, UPI International Editor

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- At 85 years, Saudi King Abdullah remains a man full of political ambitions. Having only recently succeeded his long-ailing brother, Fahd, as king, Abdullah now is running for the job of leader of the Arab and Islamic world.

Vowing to fight the endemic problem of terrorism that now plagues parts of the Islamic world, and which also shook the kingdom two years ago when homegrown terrorists unleashed a campaign of violence across the country, the Saudi king decided action was a far better policy than inaction.

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In fact, Abdullah adopted the project of another king, also named Abdullah. King Abdullah of Jordan launched an initiative earlier this year to unify the various Muslims schools of thought and to ban fatwas, or religious edicts, from being issues by just about anyone for political reasons.

With the aim of curbing radicalism in Islam and addressing a slew of social, economic and political ills affecting the Islamic world, the Saudi king convened an extraordinary session of the Organization of the Islamic Conference for a two-day working session in Mecca, Dec. 7-8.

"The recent manifestation of extremism, violence, and terrorism that are plaguing Muslims and non-Muslims alike has alarmed Saudi Arabia and made it clear that an endemic problem currently exists in the Islamic world," said the king in a "highly confidential" policy document made available to United Press International.

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"King Abdullah realizes that at no other time in history has the Islamic world been so leaderless," Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security adviser, told UPI.

At the close of a two-day summit held in Mecca a "Conference Policy Document" was released in which the Saudi king outlined several action points to address the issues affecting the Islamic world.

-- Islamic solidarity and joint Islamic action: One of the summit's goals will be the creation of an Islamic Relief Fund for Natural Disasters. This comes about as a result of the rest of the world's mostly lethargic response to the devastating earthquake that struck Pakistan a few months ago.

-- The creation of an Islamic Poverty Fund: Believing that richer Islamic countries -- such as Saudi Arabia -- should come to the rescue of poorer Muslim nations the king hopes the fund will take from the rich to assist the poor.

-- Conflict Prevention and Confidence Building Measures: The Saudi king believes the OIC should take the lead in building institutions and support efforts to foster dialogue for better relations between Islamic countries.

-- New measures for strong support of political and human rights for Muslim minorities in non-IOC countries: The king wants to protect Muslims living as minorities in several countries. Abdullah wants the OIC to pressure governments to allow Muslims in those countries to live without fear of retribution.

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-- Initiatives to aggressively confront extremist threats and to foster open dialogue among other religions and civilizations: "Killing and terrorizing innocent people and the destruction of property are not condoned by Islam," said Shaikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Ashaikh, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia and chairman of the Council of Senior Ulema.

Abdullah proposes "a zero-tolerance" policy toward the purveyors of hate, and in its place, urges an open and respectful dialogue among the faiths and civilizations if the world.

-- The eradication of all forms of terrorism: Global terrorism represents one of the greatest threats to both the Muslim and non-Muslim nations alike. Building on the kingdom's success in its war on terror, the king would like to see the sharing of intelligence and expertise across the Islamic world to fight radical politicized Islam. King Abdullah believes that by working together the "scourge" of terrorism can be eradicated.

-- And finally the king wants stronger counter Islamophobia measures in non-Muslim countries: Many Muslims have been the target of ethnic hate since the horrific terrorist attacks in New York and the Pentagon. The king has set as a priority implementation of policies to address this concern,

The Saudi king believes "a vast majority of Muslim countries today face political, economic and social underdevelopment that has evolved into a major crisis." The king is concerned by the "diminishing position of Muslims in the international arena." He made reference to the incapacity of Arabs and Muslims to prevent the invasion of Iraq war and their inability to influence peace in the aftermath of the invasion.

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Calling for unity among Muslims, Abdullah lashed out at al-Qaida terrorists for "unleashing evil and corruption on Earth" and urged Islamic leaders meeting in Mecca to fight terrorism jointly.

Abdullah said "this is a time when the Muslim world is facing unprecedented challenges." And he would like to be the one to tackle these problems.

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(Comments may be sent to Claude@upi.com.)

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