The Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia Essay, Research Paper
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a nation that rests on the strength of its faith. To understand Saudi Arabia it is necessary to understand Islam as the driving force in Saudi life. These ideals are best displayed in the nation?s official emblem, the date palm, symbolizing vitality and growth, and the two crossed swords, representing justice and strength rooted in faith.
The importance of the Al-Saud family dates back to the late 18th century when they first met a man named Sheik Muhammed Bin Abdul Wahhab. Wahhab led a call for Muslims to return to the roots of their faith and was persecuted as a result. He found a supporter in Muhammad Bin Saud, of the town of Diriyah. The partnership between the two men allowed the Al-Saud family to prosper until the Ottoman Empire, alarmed at the power the family had amassed, captured Diriyah and ended the Saudi power in 1818. The Sauds regained power in 1824 when they captured Riyadh, only to lose it to the Al-Rashid family in 1891 when they were forced into exile in Kuwait.
In 1902, Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman Al-Saud recaptured Riyadh and went on to unite the tribes on September 23, 1932 when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was proclaimed. Under the rule of Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia was a founding member of the United Nations and the King paved the way for modernization in the nation.
Upon the death of Abdul Aziz, King Saud came to power in 1953. Saud was the first Saudi ruler to make a trip to the United states and also sponsored an international Islamic conference, headed by World Muslim League.
In 1964, King Faisal, arguably the country?s strongest ruler, came to power. He instituted the first of the 5-year plans, designed to stimulate economic growth, and was a driving force behind the establishment of the Organization for the Islamic Conference in 1971. This group is designed to promote stability, unity and cooperation among Islamic countries. Faisal openly supported Egypt in its Sinai Campaign on 1973. In 1975, Time magazine named King Faisal its ?Man of the Year?, for his governing ability.
In 1975, King Khalid came to power after the death of Faisal. A rather unimportant ruler, his main accomplishment was that of forming the Gulf Cooperation Council to promote stability among the neighbors of Saudi Arabia
Occupying four-fifths of the Arabian Peninsula, the Kingdom is home to over 17 million people in just about 865,000 square miles. With only approximately 21 people per square mile, the nation?s inhabitants are also fairly spread out. Saudi Arabia is home to the world?s largest sand desert – the Empty Quarter – in the east, and has no permanent rivers which flow directly into oceans. Except for the fertile and mountainous Asir province in the southwest, the country has almost no arable land and even where there is such arable land, irrigation is necessary to water the crops. The capital city of Riyadh is located almost directly in the center of the country, where temperatures frequently soar above 100 degrees and little or no rainfall is received. On the whole, Saudi Arabia is a barren and harsh nation but obviously not inhospitable. Due to the harsh climate, the citizens are largely concentrated In the west with the exception of Riyadh.
Oil is very important to Saudi?s relations with oil-needing nations. As a result of controlling over a fourth of the world?s known oil, the kingdom sets oil prices as it pleases. Basically, this puts oil-dependent nations in the palm of Saudi Arabia?s hand. This gives Saudi Arabia a great bargaining tool for aid and support, for dependent nations want to stay on the country?s good side to keep oil prices favorable.
As Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud wields virtually supreme power in the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia. Second in command is Crown Prince Abdullah, First Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of National Guard. Third is Prince Sultan, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Aviation. Currently, Crown Prince Abdullah stands to inherit the throne upon the death of Fahd.
The government is divided into 21 ministries much like the departments of the United States. There are no known opposing political parties in Saudi Arabia for none is allowed by law. The most recent is the Committee for Defense of Legitimate Rights, led by Mohammed Al-Massari, now operates in exile out of London via the internet. It seeks equal rights for all citizens and non-citizens of Saudi Arabia. Another very prominent dissident group, the Committee Against Corruption in Saudi Arabia (C.A.C.S.A.) aims ?to point to the corruption, human rights abuses, and lack of freedom of expression under the rule of the Sudeiri Seven.? The Sudeiri Seven are the seven closest relatives to Fahd, including his own son, whom the C.A.C.S.A. has gone so far as to call ?a pimp?
The King practices nepotism and cronyism when appointing government officials, no matter how incompetent his family and friends may be. The only citizen representation is in the form of weekly meetings, called majlis. At the majlis, citizens may voice their opinions about issues that affect their lives. Petitions are sent to the 60-man Consultative Council where advice on the issues are given directly to the King who may choose to deal with the issue or ignore it. The King?s absolute veto power is what has made the council largely ineffective since its inception in 1993.
The government has 5,000 religious police to enforce the closing of businesses for prayer, making sure other religions are not practiced, and arresting citizens, mostly women, for ?immodest? dress. A woman may be arrested, for instance, if her face is not covered in public, a human rights violation in America but considered normal, even by women , in Saudi Arabia. The government also has complete control over all means of broadcast in the country, and may taint the news to make itself look good in the eyes of the public. The only source of potentially legitimate news is the outlawed British Broadcasting Company.
The structure of the government allows the house of Saud to go virtually unchecked in day to day actions, making it a prime target for corruption. Reports abound of stories of Saudi greed and bribery, many false, but some are believable. According to the government, all policies are determined by Islam and the Holy Qu?ran. However, some would argue that their goal is to keep the Saudi control over oil and its surrounding, smaller nations dependent on Saudi Arabia.
Over 80% of Saudi Arabian citizens are of Saudi descent, with another 10% comprised of Yemenis and 10% of other groups. There is suprisingly little disunity amongst the ethnic groups, due largely to the unifying factor of Islam.
?There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet.? That is the prayer known by Muslims around the world. Islam is the constant in all of a Saudi citizen?s life and everything he does is for the glory of God. No other religion is allowed to be practiced in public and 98.8% of the citizens are Muslims. Of those, 90% are of the Wahhabi Sunni sect and the other 10% are Shia Muslims, concentrated mainly in the east. The rift between these two Muslim sects extends as far back as the late 600?s when some Muslims refused to recognize Muawiyah as the next caliph, or leader, and instead followed Ali and his descendants. For hundreds of years the split was mainly religious, until the minority Shia began attacking the Westernization of Saudi Arabia with the backing of Iranian leader Khomeni in the late 1970?s. The Shia were encouraged to revolt; however nothing much came of it when the Sauds promised to make reforms and traditionalize.
Islam is one of the great monotheistic religions and also one of the most basic. With no clergy, the only leader is an imam, or prayer leader, picked solely on his knowledge of Islamic scripture. Women, of course, are not allowed to become imams and they rarely attend mosques, but instead pray at home. Islam is very patriarchal and the children must be raised in Islam if the father is a Muslim. The Muslim is called to perform the 5 pillars of Islam: affirmation of faith, almsgiving, daily prayer, fasting during Ramadan (the holy month of Islam), and , if possible, make a pilgrimage to the holy Mecca Mosque. As Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques of Mecca and Medina, King Fahd is the guardian of the two holiest sites in Islam.
With no written constitution, Saudi Arabia is governed according to Islamic law and still imposes very non-western punishment, such as loss of a hand if caught stealing. Not having a separation of church and state poses its problems for the government. Each year a large portion of the Kingdom?s income is spent for upkeep and construction of religious facilities and for the care of the nearly the 2 million annual religious pilgrimages. This money could be spent on other needs of the kingdom if it were a secular state.
The educational system of Saudi Arabia is one of its strongest assets, rivaling schools in the west. With 83 colleges, 7 universities, and over 80,000 primary schools, every Saudi citizen enjoys free education through university level. The government has also set up 3 schools abroad to educate Saudi citizens living abroad, and the nation also educates up to 4,500 disabled citizens at no cost each year.
The family life of an Arabic is similar to that of a 19th century American household. The women are rarely expected or allowed to do much more than raise children, cook, and care for their husbands. Very few women work outside of their homes and females occupy a lower rung on the social ladder. The lowest rung of the social ladder, however, is occupied by the foreign workers. Over 4 million foreigners seasonally reside in Saudi Arabia to do jobs that Saudi citizens will not do, for less money, and in subpar working conditions. Many times these workers are treated as slaves.
Although it is a self-proclaimed ?economic system based on free and private enterprise? , the reality is that it is a governmentally controlled economy. With a GNP of $173 billion and per capita income of about $9,000.00, Saudi Arabia has a relatively stable and strong economy. The country?s major exports are oil and petroleum products, wheat, and dates, to customers such as the U.S., Japan, Singapore, France and Korea. Major imports include machinery and equipment, chemicals, and food products, from such countries as the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Germany and France.
The economic policy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia consists of a series of five year plans implemented by the government and designed to address specific areas of concern. The country is in its sixth such plan at this time, with a focus on improving educational and vocational training. Previous plans have tackled such issues as diversification of the economy away from oil-dependence and achieving self-sufficiency in food production
The government has identified technical and administrative training as an essential sector of education to support the country?s economic and social development. Now, graduates of training programs in health care, agriculture, teaching and other areas are steadily filling positions at industrial, agricultural and social institutions throughout Saudi Arabia. The Ministry of Education operates vocational and secondary schools for vocational training and technical education and other government agencies run institutes or training centers in their particular specialties. Saudi Arabia has fine institutions for teaching machine tooling, metal working, electromechanics and auto mechanics. Hundreds of young Saudis each year take advantage of the opportunity to learn skills that are in high demand, from electronics to maintenance of industrial machinery.
To address the country?s shortage of administrative personnel, the Institute for Public Administration was esablished in 1961. Currently, over 13,000 students are enrolled in courses in administration, law, accounting, computer science, maintenance, personnel management, secretarial skills and management planning.
The principal objectives of Saudi foreign policy are ?to maintain security and defend its paramount position on the Arabian Peninsula, defend Arab interests, promote solidarity among Arab and non-Arab Islamic countries, and preserve good relations between major oil producers and major oil consumers.? In short, Saudi Arabia wants to make sure it is the largest and most important nation in the Middle East, both economically and geographically. However, the kingdom is not on the best of terms with its neighbors. It currently does not recognize the Israeli state as a sovereign nation but in 1994 it lifted the boycott on doing business with Israel and Israeli supporters. Not only does the kingdom not support Israel but now also has cut off aid to the PLO for its support of Iraq. Relations have become strained recently with Iraqi sympathizers such as Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, and Sudan since the end of the Gulf War. The kingdom has long running border disputes with, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and even Kuwait. The kingdom has relied on help from U.S. and U.N. troops to defeat the Iraqis in the Gulf War.
Saudi Arabia, however, has friends in high places with support from the United States, despite its support of Israel, Britain, France, and Germany as well as other nations. It is a founding member of the United Nations, the most prominent member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Nations, a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation council, as well as a member of the World Bank and many others.
As a member of the Muslim Bloc, Saudi Arabia is the center point of all Islamic nations. Though largely without allies in the bloc, Saudi?s presence is felt through its actions as a mediator in situations such as Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. It also acts to stabilize the oil market and prevent great swings in oil prices like that of the 1980?s. Presently, Saudi Arabia?s greatest concerns at the United Nations are control of oil prices, resolving the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian feud, and protecting itself from potentially aggressive nations such as Iraq.
Working with the principles of Islam, Saudi Arabia is slowly emerging as an economic and political force. However, one must wonder whether or not the 1990?s will catch up with the Al-Saud. With claims of government corruption and inadequacy abounding as well as a host of human rights violations the kingdom may also be crumbling right before our eyes. Only the 21st century will tell us whether or not the House of Saud will withstand the test of time.