Nation and the dialogues about patriotism

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Major General Saeed Jawdat was one of those who fought under King Faisal’s command after it succeeded in restoring southern Saudi areas. Back then, Saudi forces reached the city of Hodeidah. They left three months later following King Abdulaziz’s directions and returned to Saudi borders. Jawdat participated in many unification wars later.

I selected Jawdat’s biography to cite because it sums up a lot. Jawdat was a Turkish garrison officer. When he was defeated before King Abdulaziz’s forces, he was brought before the king who ordered unchaining him and the rest of the war prisoners.

Jawdat was given the choice to return to Turkey or to join the king’s forces so he chose to join the great leader Abdulaziz. Many of Jawdat’s friends joined him while others returned home.

Jawdat thus joined the ranks of the new Saudi forces and the founder king later trusted him and assigned him to one of the highest-ranking and important jobs as a commander of the royal guard.

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King Abdulaziz was an exceptional figure. He was neither narrow-minded nor intolerant. His vision was ahead of his time and more advanced than regional leaders’ plans in terms of establishing an ambitious state. He included everyone he fought and defeated in his state institutions.

King Abdulaziz founded a modern state that fits everyone as he included tribal leaders and social dignitaries in his government and councils and he also included Egyptians, Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Libyans and others. He granted them the Saudi nationality, and some of them fought behind him while others served in his modern state.

Saudi Arabia was a poor country that had not discovered oil yet but these men left their countries to stay in Saudi Arabia because they believed in the king and in his project.

It’s not true that naturalization is a heresy and that the state was established based on some people and not others or to serve a category and not another

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Narrow vision

This story narrates what people who have a narrow vision and humble ambitions and who see a small country with limited resources cannot understand. They’ve recently been overwhelmed with fear that foreigners will be naturalized - although this is not true neither for those who deserve to be naturalized according to the law or based on anything else.

Fear that foreigners will take over and that the society will melt is a general concern that’s common in many countries where there are calls to eliminate others under patriotic excuses, such as in Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, Britain, the US and others.

This racism is not limited to the Saudis and is actually a result of competition and high rates of unemployment. Voicing this racism has become easy via easy and liberal social media networks. A dispute between isolated and open-minded people and between worried, confident, ambitious and unambitious people thus erupted.

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Both categories have good intentions and want the best for themselves and for their children but they may be led by ill-intentioned people. We’ve just escaped the chains of a group that calls itself “religious awakening.” This group succeeded in promoting the idea of eliminating those who disagree with it during the past two decades after it monopolized Islam.

And now some parties who want to eliminate others in their community have emerged. There are solid facts no matter what some may wish. The state is for everyone and not just for a category of people. This is the case no matter how loud they are or how deep-rooted they become.

The state’s laws and constitution are the proper reference, and those who were granted Saudi citizenship have the same rights as their fellow Saudi citizens.

Other instances

Saeed Jawdat was a Kurdish-Iraqi member of Turkey’s forces, and King Abdulaziz naturalized him. He also naturalized Abdullah Al-Damluji, an Iraqi who fought with Turkish troops. Damluji was also given the choice to stay in Saudi Arabia or return home and he chose to work with King Abdulaziz and he became a Saudi citizen.

There are also Yusuf Yasin and Rashid Pharaon from Syria, Hafiz Wahba from Egypt, Khaled Al-Qarqani from Libya and many others. When King Saud assumed the throne, he kept them in their posts. It was common to see figures like Rashid Pharaon in King Faisal’s meetings and councils.

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Therefore, it’s not true that naturalization is a heresy and that the state was established based on some people and not others or to serve a category and not another.

Saudi Arabia has been a project for a modern and advanced state for around 90 years. Its residents included people from China, Russia, India and Britain. This is a significant characteristic that makes us proud. Categorizing people and dividing them only serve those who wish to plant ideas that weaken the society and fragment it.

No one wants to put foreigners before citizens. Citizenship is a priority for almost every state and it must not mix up concepts, like naturalization and employment, and confuse them. We have a huge country, great opportunities and an ambitious leadership that cannot be summed up in debates from the past centuries.

This article is also available in Arabic.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.