Rendieren boven Riyadh

Ook in Saoedi-Arabië is het tegenwoordig Kerstmis.

””As more foreign expatriates choose to make Saudi Arabia their home, the government’s efforts to move the country toward an “open and moderate Islam” has created an atmosphere that is welcoming to other faiths and traditions.””

””The transformation has also allowed local retailers and e-commerce platforms to sell a broader range of products to those keen to join in with the festivities.””


Faisal J. Abbas, Merry Christmas from Arab News

As millions around the world celebrate the birth of Christ, we — at Arab News — take this opportunity to wish all our Christian readers, both in Saudi Arabia and abroad, a Merry Christmas.

We also take this opportunity to start a new tradition. Indeed, subscribers to our print edition inside the Kingdom will enjoy the first-ever Arab News Christmas Edition in print. At the same time, our online followers can enjoy via our digital platforms our quality journalism and read all about the festive season and how to celebrate it in Saudi cities and across the Middle East.

While of course this is not a new tradition in most countries around the world, it is a first in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, not forgetting the ancient proverb: “Better late than never.”

In fact, this symbolic edition — as simple an idea as it is — could not have happened if it were not for the remarkable reforms the Kingdom has been experiencing under our enlightened leadership, which has clearly ushered in a new era of greater religious tolerance and coexistence.

Indeed, such an initiative is dwarfed by major milestones achieved only in the past six years, such as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meeting with religious figures from all Abrahamic faiths and inviting them to the Kingdom. This includes, but is not limited to, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Coptic Pope.

The crown prince vowed in a public statement during the first edition of the Future Investment Initiative in 2017 to return the Kingdom to “moderate Islam,” and said that there would be no more time wasted in dealing with extremist ideas.

Since then, the Kingdom has seen many other groundbreaking social and regulatory changes, such as removing guardianship laws and all forms of discrimination against women. This included imposing a dress code and the infamous driving ban which was abolished in 2017. Also, just recently we celebrated doubling women’s participation in the Saudi workforce to over 35 percent.

Again, critics might say this is not good enough. But one only has to compare where the Kingdom was just six years ago, and where it is today. Of course, cynics would say they expect the editor of a Saudi newspaper to say this, so if you will not take my word for it, how about that of White House Envoy for Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt?

“I’m overwhelmed by the changes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undertaking. You have got a long road, but you are certainly working down that road,” Lipstadt told Arab News in an interview marking her visit to Riyadh last June.

Critics also need to compare all of the above with what is happening in nearby Iran, where the barbaric mullahs are killing innocent women whose only crime is to demand to enjoy what Saudi women enjoy now as basic rights.

The same applies, sadly, to Afghan women who have just recently been banned from receiving university education by the terrible Taliban regime.

So, this Christmas, we would like to wish for Iranian and Afghan women to be liberated from such outdated, discriminatory and inhumane practices.

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