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.
Our leadership has clearly ushered in a new era of greater religious tolerance and coexistence
Faisal J. Abbas
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.
This Christmas, we would like to wish for Iranian and Afghan women to be liberated from outdated, discriminatory and inhumane practices
Faisal J. Abbas
The Arab News Christmas Edition will now become an annual ritual. It comes as a follow-up to some previous editorial decisions which fall in line with the environment of reform in the Kingdom. For instance, in 2019, we were the first to wish Shana Tova to the followers of the Jewish faith, and accepted all the criticism that came from all the antisemites who roam the digital landscape.
Our gesture to our Jewish readers comes in line with our belief that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that revolves around Occupied Territories as defined by the UN, and is not — and should not — be allowed to continue to be portrayed as a religious rift. This is why — against all criticism — we are proud to have Rabbi Marc Schneier; World Jewish Congress President Roland S. Lauder; and renowned academic Yossi Mekelberg among our esteemed list of columnists.
Over the past years, the Arab News Research and Studies Unit also launched a special series called “Minority Report,” which regularly sheds light on the minorities in the region. So far, the series has covered the Druze, the Jews of Lebanon and the Copts, among others. In 2018, we also launched “Preachers of Hate,” our encyclopedia page shaming so-called religious scholars who incite hatred. This has included all religions and began with Saudi preachers who for long were not held accountable for the extremist poisons they preached and spread.
At the time, we launched the series with the slogan “There should be no tolerance for intolerance,” and just as that was our wish back then, so it remains our wish for today and the future.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
• Faisal J. Abbas is Editor-in-Chief of Arab News.