print
memri
February 9, 2009 No.
465

Dr. Ahmad Al-Ruba'i: A Legacy of Reform

Introduction

On March 5, 2008, one of the most prominent voices of reform in the Arab world, well known in the Middle East but sadly almost unknown in the West, passed away.

Following a two-year battle with brain cancer, Dr. Ahmad Al-Ruba'i, 59, was buried in the Sulaibikhat cemetery in Kuwait City. He is survived by his wife and four children.[1]

Al-Rubai's Funeral, Kuwait Times, March 7, 2008

Dr. Al-Ruba'i was mourned by many in the Middle East media as, inter alia, "a poet," "a great thinker and man," "a tough fighter for enlightenment," "a fighter against fundamentalist Islam," "a brave man who stood up to the threat of sectarian terror," and "a brilliant thinker of bold determination."

As Dr. Mohammad Abdullah Al-Mustawa, sociology professor at Al-Ain University in the UAE, wrote: "Al-Ruba'i died, but his project lives on."[2]

A Liberal Politician

Dr. Al-Ruba'i was a three-time member of the Kuwaiti parliament: first in 1985 as a leader of the opposition, again in 1992, and lastly from 1999 to 2003.

In the years leading up to the attacks of September 11, 2001, Dr. Al-Ruba'i was a vocal opponent of the growing voice and strength of extremism in the Middle East. When Kuwaiti Islamists tried to implement shari'a in 1995-1996, during Dr. Al-Ruba'i tenure as Education Minister, he led the fight against them. In response, the Islamists in parliament unsuccessfully sought to impeach him.

An Influential Academic

Dr. Al-Ruba'i was also active in academia. He was a professor at Kuwait University, teaching Islamic philosophy, and is remembered for instilling "openness and dialogue" to his students.[3]

In 1976, he earned his bachelor's degree from the Department of Philosophy at Kuwait University. He then went on to complete his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1984, which prepared him for a position of leadership dealing with educational issues in his homeland.

During his term as Education Minister, Dr. Al-Ruba'i pushed for women's rights in education. In one interview about his position in government, he stated how he was heckled by Islamist representatives in the Kuwaiti Parliament: "They united against me because of my position on the veil for female students in medical laboratories. I wanted to outlaw it in labs, and, instead, allow the students to wear medical masks. They were also opposed to my efforts to limit the teaching of religious education in high school... Their campaign did not abate until a law was issued forbidding mixed classes in universities...."[4]

A Voice of Progress in the Middle East Media

In addition to his career in politics and academia, Dr. Al-Ruba'i used his media savvy to amplify his message for reform, utilizing the Arab media as a vehicle. Dr. Al-Ruba'i wrote regularly for leading Middle East press outlets, including Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), and Al-Qabas (Kuwait).

He also appeared frequently on Arab satellite television channels, including Al-Rai TV (Kuwait), ANB TV (Lebanon) and Al-Arabiya TV (Dubai/Saudi Arabia). Many of these appearances included heated debates against Islamist extremists.

Al-Arabiya TV director-general Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, who is also former editor of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote of the passing of his friend: "...He used to fight for his ideas with ideas, and responded to violence with words. In his popular daily opinion column in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat he won over friends who loved him dearly, as well as his enemies who were aggravated by his sharp criticism. Ruba'i... believed that what he wrote reached the people and had an impact on them..."[5]

Upon learning of the death of his friend Dr. Al-Ruba'i, Mashari Al-Zaydi wrote, in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on March 15, an article titled "Death." He quoted Dr. Al-Ruba'i as telling him of his "regret" for not having left behind an autobiography as a legacy.

From the MEMRI Reform Project Archives

Dr. Al-Ruba'i's articles and interviews include his support of the war on terror and his criticism of Arab incitement and the embrace of "the culture of death." He is also remembered for his pro-West views, and, as one writer explained, "he remained loyal to all those who stood by the Kuwaitis" during the Gulf War,[6] and frequently spoke out against the Arabs' embrace of conspiracy theories.

Dr. Al-Ruba'i was also one of the earliest voices from the Arab world to speak out against the atrocities in Darfur.

However, in his last few years Dr. Al-Ruba'i saved his strongest criticism for Iran and its negative influence on Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and the region at large.

Many articles and TV interviews by Dr. Al-Ruba'i have been translated by MEMRI, and can be found on the webpage of MEMRI's Reform Project http://www.memri.org/reform.html.

The following is a collection of MEMRI translations of articles by Dr. Al-Ruba'i, and of interviews he gave over the past decade. It is the largest collections of translations of his writings and interviews in English. Some of them include previously unreleased articles from the Arab media now made available for the first time.

· Against Arab Conspiracy Theories (MEMRI TV Clip No. 255)

The following are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Ahmad Al-Ruba'I that aired on Al-'Arabiya TV on September 11, 2004.[7] To view this clip, visit http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/255.

"The Arab Mind Is Great When It Builds a Boeing Airplane – Not When It Blows It Up"

Al-Ruba'i: "When you speak out against conspiracy theories, you face a widespread movement. Our goal, as intellectuals, is to confront this widespread movement even if it makes people angry. If we consider ourselves to be intellectuals, our goal is not to go with the flow.

"I've been teaching philosophy in the university for 20 years, and I've managed to persuade my students on many issues. But when I say anything against conspiracies – No! I feel it requires a special effort to persuade them to abandon this nightmare that has overcome the Arab mind.

"The Arab mind, which believes in conspiracies, attributes enormous power to the enemy – 'Israel is in every home, every street, every place' – and this is an excuse for our defeats. We don't blame our rulers for our defeats – our rulers who humiliated our armies, and destroyed and robbed our countries. We blame the Israelis. This is easy, but it is nothing new."

"In the Arab and Islamic tradition, when the debate grew between the Mu'tazila, the Ashariyyah, and others about whether there is free will, the rulers who persecuted the people summoned the clerics and said, 'Go to the mosques and tell the people that man has no free will.' This would justify all the crimes committed by the rulers, because they are the will of Allah. And so the story goes on. As previously said, this lowers our self-appreciation.

"First, to fly a civilian airplane and crash into a building is not a great deed. A great deed is to manufacture an airplane and build a trade center, as they are doing now in New York. The Arabs must replace the mentality that glorifies destruction with a mentality that glorifies construction. I'll say that the Arab mind is great when it builds a Boeing airplane, not when it blows it up, or when it builds a skyscraper. The truth is that the Arab mind is blinded by conspiracy theories."

· In Support of the U.S. in Iraq (MEMRI TV Clip No. 543)

The following are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Ahmad Al-Ruba’i on ANB TV on February 3, 2005.[8] To view this clip, visit http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/543.

"The One Who Destroyed Iraq Was An Iraqi... Yet Some Portray Things As Though the Iraqi Problem Started With the Americans – [But] Iraq's Problems Started With Us"

Al-Ruba'i: "Some people present the situation as though the Americans are the ones who sit down at the table, and dictate to us... leading us like sheep to the slaughter."

Interviewer: "But it was the U.S. that entered Iraq and occupied it..."

Al-Ruba'i: "The one who destroyed Iraq was an Iraqi. It was an Arab and Muslim Iraqi ruler who destroyed Iraq, exiled its people, forcing a third of the Iraqis to live abroad. People were thrown into jails and into detention and death camps. Yet some portray things as though the Iraqi problem started with the Americans. Iraq's problems started with us, with an Arab Muslim ruler who wreaked corruption upon the land.

"We, the Arabs...Watched What Was Going On In Darfur... None Of Us Devoted The Slightest Thought To [It]... But the Moment The Americans Arrive in Sudan – All Of A Sudden Sudan Became Important"

"Now they are getting involved in Sudan's affairs, not because the Americans want to get involved in Sudan's affairs, but because there is a real problem in Sudan. We, the Arabs, sat on the sidelines and watched what was going on in Darfur, while two million people died in the Sudanese civil war. None of us devoted the slightest thought to resolving the Sudanese problem. But the moment the Americans arrive in Sudan, all of a sudden Sudan became important. It is time we extricated ourselves from this dangerous vicious cycle."

· "Intelligent Nations" and the "Culture of Life" vs. "Backward Nations" and the "Culture of Death and Hatred"

In an April 15, 2007 article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Al-Ruba'i wrote: "A terrible scene was aired on international television showing a Chinese stadium being demolished in a controlled explosion by the Chinese government, to make way for a new stadium with new specifications. The demolition of the great stadium took place in a matter of seconds, after which the structure was reduced to rubbles.

"As one watches such a scene, the first thing that comes to mind is the simple comparison between the time, effort, labor and money put into the construction of the stadium and the few moments in which it was razed to the ground! The scene sums up the relation between building and demolition. How long does it take to build a bridge, a building, a factory, or a human being? How easy demolition is, as it only requires the evil desire to demolish!

"One brainwashed person can blow himself up in the middle of an overcrowded marketplace, and within a few seconds, scores of children are orphaned, women widowed, and buildings and shops reduced to rubble. A few days ago, terrorists bombed the Sarafiya Bridge of Baghdad, one of the finest and oldest Arab bridges.

"In just a few seconds, the fine, ancient work of architecture and the memories of lovers who met on the bridge turned to ruins. The scene was tragic. Once again a question is raised about how easy it is to destroy."

"And the same scene is repeated in Algeria and Morocco! We all remember the scene of the airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center in New York in September 2001. There were some who rejoiced because they had managed to destroy the building with a civilian airplane, however others grieved as they realized that the challenge was not to destroy the building or cause an airplane to crash but rather, the real challenge would be to build a similar structure and to make a similar airplane!

"There is nothing easier than destruction and ruin, and nothing more difficult than building and achievement. The nations that advance are the ones that accomplish and build, and the nations that regress are those which demolish and destroy!

"Intelligent nations honor the culture of life and the enjoyment of life, whilst backward nations promote the culture of death and hatred and falsely raise the slogan of death in the name of God as they kill the innocent, destroy life, and play the role of the devil with distinction."[9]

· "International Terror Is Democratic... Without Asking Whether the Casualties Are Muslim, Christian, or Supporters or Opponents of America" (Special Dispatch No. 784)

In reaction to ongoing terrorist activity during the summer of 2004, Dr. Al-Ruba'i wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on August 31, 2004:[10] "The abduction of the French journalists is a lesson for those who think they can be neutral in the war on terror, or for those who think that it is possible to arrive at a truce with international terror by means of spineless political positions towards terrorism. France thought that the terror in Iraq would not reach it because it opposed the war and tried to set itself apart from the American position. As a result, international terror treats [France] like every other [country].

"International terror is democratic. It strikes everyone without asking whether the casualties are Muslim or Christian, or supporters or opponents of America. International terror does not differentiate among the civilians of Fallujah, Riyadh, San'aa, Algeria, New York, and Nairobi. There is no differentiation between American and French. The only aim of international terror is to kill."

· Criticism of Islamist Leaders (MEMRI TV Clip No. 425)

The following are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Ahmad Al-Ruba'i on LBC TV in 2004. To view this clip, visit http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/425.

"Their Children Study at the Best Universities in the U.S. and the West – And They Send the Sons of the Poor and Wretched to Falluja"

Al-Ruba'i: "...Like what, unfortunately, happened to us in the so-called Afghan jihad, which ended in disaster with the return of the Afghan Arabs to their own countries, which they began to destroy in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, and some of the other Arab countries, it now seems that some people are repeating this bitter experience and seducing these young people with false Islamic legal rulings.

"Those same people make these rulings public on the Arab TV stations and live in comfort and luxury. Their children study at the best universities in the U.S. and the West – and they send the sons of the poor and wretched to Falluja and other places."[11]

· Criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood Ideology and Its Influence on Al-Qaeda (Special Dispatch No. 941)

In an article titled "A Bit of Shame," published July 25, 2005 in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Al-Ruba'i wrote:[12] "If we were to go according to the logic of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement, then we shouldn't condemn the Sharm Al-Sheikh crime, nor [should we condemn] other terrorist crimes!

"The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has its own justifications for violence. In a statement by the movement, in which it 'condemned' the Sharm Al-Sheikh crime, it laid out its justification for the crime. The statement said: 'The colonialist policies that the world's strong countries pursue, as well as the aggression against the peoples – they are what engender the culture of violence.' The Muslim Brotherhood's problem is that it has no shame. The beginnings of all of the religious terrorism that we are witnessing today were in the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology of takfir [accusing other Muslims of apostasy]."

"If The Imperialist Countries' Policy Is What Engendered Violence, As The Brotherhood's Statement Says... [Why Aren't Vietnamese] Blowing Up Buildings In San Francisco? [Why Aren't Japanese] Blowing Up Boston?"

"Sayyid Qutb's[13] book Milestones was the inspiration and the guide for all of the takfir movements that came afterwards. The founders of the violent groups were raised on the Muslim Brotherhood, and those who worked with bin Laden and Al-Qa'ida went out under the mantle of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"If the imperialist countries' policy is what engendered violence, as the Brotherhood's statement says, then what is keeping a few citizens in Vietnam – which American planes utterly destroyed with millions of tons of bombs – from blowing up buildings in San Francisco? What is keeping a few citizens in Japan – which America attacked with an atom bomb – from blowing up Boston? Also, what do foreign tourists and innocent Egyptian citizens have to do with the policies of 'the imperialist countries'? Should peaceful and defenseless citizens be killed in Sharm Al-Sheikh, Baghdad, Riyadh, and San'a in order to take revenge on imperialist countries?

"In addition, who is it that is starting a dialogue [with America]... if not the Muslim Brotherhood, which is trying to convince the 'imperialist countries', and America first and foremost, that it represents moderate Islam and that those countries need to conduct a dialogue with it?

"The Muslim Brotherhood's statement is an example of total shamelessness. It is a continuation of the Brotherhood's self-contradictory and deceitful language which it has long been employing in the name of Islam."

· Criticism of Iran's Negative Role in the Middle East (Special Dispatch No. 1448)

In a January 15, 2007 op-ed in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Al-Ruba'i called on Iran to stop issuing threats and to renew its dialogue with the international community, lest it be defeated by the U.S.[14] In another article, dated January 29 and titled "Iran: A Crisis of Modesty," he called Iran "the real motivator of war crimes and chaos" in the region.[15] The following are the articles, in the original English.[16]

January 15, 2007: "[Iran Is Deluding Itself That It] Is a Huge Military [Force] With Decisive Striking Power"

"In America, they lie for tactical reasons, saying again and again that military action against Iran is unlikely. However, in Iran, out of ignorance, they reiterate that American military action against their country is impossible because the U.S. is 'unable' to [undertake such action]!

"We say – and we hope our analysis is wrong – that a possible military strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities is [already] in the final stages [of preparation]. Unless a political miracle occurs that revives the halted dialogue between Iran and the international community, Iran and its neighboring countries should not be surprised by a scenario that includes American military action.

"There are a number of common illusions in the Arab and Muslim mind in general, illusions that on several occasions in the past have been tested and proven untenable. It was proven that the Arabs confuse their hopes with reality...

"There is an illusion that Iran is a huge military state with decisive striking power. This would be true in a confrontation between Iran and one of its neighbors. But the fact is that in any confrontation between America and Iran, Iran would be a tiny helpless state. It would suffer what the Arabs suffered in 1967, and what Iraq suffered when Saddam stubbornly rejected all peaceful solutions."

"America will be able to impose its conditions. This has nothing to do with love or hatred. Geographically and historically, Iran is closer to [the Arab countries] than America, and the cultural and historical relations we have with Iran outweigh our ties with America.

"[But] reality shows that the balance of power is flagrantly tilted in favor of the United States and the Western alliance, particularly the European one!"

"The Iranian Leadership [Must Consider] the Interests of Its People... [and] Realize That Big Words Do Not Change Political Facts"

"Another illusion is that America is 'stuck in the Iraqi mud.' I wish that the Arab world did not believe this statement. Iraq is not another Vietnam, and America is able to wage more than one war [simultaneously] owing to its vast political and technological capabilities.

"Tehran needs to reconsider its political discourse. The clamor of hollow threats has not been successful even once in [the course of] modern history. No one ever accomplished anything without using his reason, knowing his capabilities, and acting accordingly, based on the rule 'God favors those who know their own self worth.'

"Israel has a nuclear arsenal, but no Israeli official dares to mention Israel's possession of nuclear weapons; they deny even the very existence of these weapons. In Tehran, they are still in the early stages of [uranium] enrichment; yet we hear a language of threats, menace, and stubbornness.

"If only the Iranian leadership would think of the interests of its people and seek to understand today's complicated international political equations. [It needs to] realize that big words do not change political facts and that seeking practical alternatives and solutions with the international community is more feasible and useful than the antiquated words [and the belief that] a louder voice means a stronger argument!"

January 29, 2007 "The Current Iranian Leadership Suffers From... The Belief That Iran is a Superpower"

"The current Iranian leadership suffers from a chronic ailment – the belief that Iran is a superpower, and that successful military exercises mean that Iran is capable of winning a real war against opponents with more capabilities, efficiency and technological advancement!

"The problem with the current Iranian leadership is that it neither wants to learn from history nor heed to the significance of geography.

"An example of this can be taken out of the pages of Iran's history books, when the late Shah of Iran thought that his awkward policy towards the Gulf states, particularly his insistence that Bahrain was part of Iran, [and] thus [that] allocating unoccupied seats representing Bahrain in the Iranian parliament, and threatening of the smaller Gulf States could improve his position. This resulted in the Shah losing the support of his neighbors, after losing that of his people, and the rest of the story is known to all.

"Another example is when the Islamic Revolution took place in Iran. Instead of attempting to solve the unemployment and poverty problems of its people, the new revolutionaries decided instead to 'export the revolution,' and in the process ended up stirring negative sentiments amongst its neighbors.

"After all, a revolution is not a commodity to import, but rather the creation of a new regime that sets an example to others. What the revolutionaries did in Tehran was a disaster rather than an example.

"This resulted in individuals like Saddam Hussein taking it upon himself to be the defender against the so-called 'Persian Magi', the results of which were tragic for all."

Iran is "The Real Motivator of War and Chaos" and is "Nauseatingly Active" in Acts of Violence in Other Nations

"Now the Iranian administration is repeating itself, but in a more provocative manner. For Iran is actively involved in Lebanon, a fact that they do not deny. They are the real motivators of war and chaos through the 'clean money' [Iran's funding of Hizbullah] that they appropriated from their poor.

"They are also involved in both Iraqi and Palestinian affairs. They are involved in acts of violence in Yemen and are nauseatingly active in Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, and other nations – while at home their unemployment and poverty problems worsen and their oil revenues are channeled into the development of nuclear weapons technology and the building of its military arsenal. The Iranian people do not deserve this juvenile policy, and the region does not deserve these frivolous policies.

"The Gulf peoples, on both the Iranian and Arabian sides need peace, stability and the exchange of commodities rather than the exchange of missiles, prisoners and injured people that they've [carried out] for many years. Iran needs a stop at reason and logic. The clamor of hollow words will not solve Iran's problems, and the illusions of the possible success of these policies must come to an end, for the sake of the interest of the region and the interest of the Iranian people who have paid dearly for these adventures and wars for so many years. Some modesty is required, as well as the realization of Iran's real capabilities. 'God favors those who know their self worth'; this is what we need to keep in mind always!"

· Criticism of Hamas

In a June 18, 2007 in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Al-Ruba'i criticized Iranian and Syrian support of Hamas, and said that the current horrors in Gaza reminded him of scenes from the 1948 war: "We should not be surprised if Khaled Mash'al soon holds a press conference in Damascus or Tehran to announce the liberation of the West Bank. [After all,] the man has extensive connections in the region, and the Hamas movement enjoys economic and logistic concessions in the region.

"Don't be surprised if he declares a 'divine victory' in all the [occupied] territories, unites the two Palestinian states, and is elected as the new Palestinian president. [Then], he will perhaps transfer some of the Iranian nuclear facilities to Ramallah and emulate the Biblical Samson, [who said] 'Let me die with the Philistines.'

"The sight of Palestinian mothers leaving [the Gaza Strip] with their children [via] the Erez crossing... is the same sight as that of Palestinian mothers and their children leaving the Nahr Al-Bared camp [in northern Lebanon], and is the same sight as that of the Palestinian mothers and their children who were obliged to leave their villages and homes after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948."[17]

· A Call for Economic Progress in the Arab World (MEMRI TV Clip No. 1171)

Following are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Al-Ruba'i aired on Al-Rai TV on March 27, 2006. To view this clip, visit http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/1171

"Some Arab Countries Are Fictitious Countries That Are Very Badly Run"

Al-Ruba'i: "Some Arab countries are fictitious countries that are very badly run. Their natural resources are exploited in a very unjust manner, money is wasted on armies that do not fight, people are persecuted, and liberties are non-existent, yet when it comes to pan-Arab issues, the leader is the number one hero of the Arab nation: He's the one defending the Palestinian cause and always shouting slogans... This takes me back to Arab and Islamic history. The tyrannical rulers would summon the Islamic jurisprudents, and say to them: 'Spread among the people that Man has no free will, that everything is predetermined.' Today, we have the concept of modern conspiracy. In most Arab countries, everybody is a victim of a foreign conspiracy. [...]"

Interviewer: "[Some proclaim:] 'No Iraqi would kill another Iraqi,' 'We love one another, we are great.' They begin to review thousands of years of Iraqi history, and say: 'But there are some who have entered Iraq in order to destroy it.' How would you respond to such a person?"

Ahmad Al-Ruba'i: "Abu Tareq, this is the prevalent talk everywhere, I'm sad to say. 'Is it conceivable that Muslims did the killing on 9/11?' Yes, they did. They killed 3,000 people. But it wasn't Islam – they were criminals. 'No, it must have been an American conspiracy...' As the plane was flying, there was an American who...' With regard to the occupation of Kuwait, they say: "The American ambassador told Saddam to enter Kuwait.' So America brought Saddam into Kuwait and then took him out, why? 'In order to gain control of the region.' But America has been in control of the region and its oil for a long time. The concept of conspiracy has spread in a very organized and efficient way, and many Arabs, even intellectuals, believe they are victims of conspiracy. [...]"

"I Believe That the Solution... Is That We Stop Dealing With Politics, And Establish Economic [Cooperation] Among The Arabs"

Interviewer: "Ahmad, what is the solution to this crisis?"

Ahmad Al-Ruba'i: "I believe that the solution, without oversimplifying things, is that we stop dealing with politics, and establish economic [cooperation] among the Arabs. We have been destroyed by the politicization of everything, and it is high time we agree on an economic program for revival. People have no food, no jobs, and no capabilities.

"Two neighboring countries, Kuwait and Iraq, have had closed borders for 13 years, but this has not been detrimental to either market – to ours or to the Iraqi one. What kind of nation is this, if it does not have common interests? What kind of nation is this – If a ruler can wake up at any moment, decide to invade his neighbors and then invades them, and nobody gets hurt? In Europe, no country would dare invade its neighbors, because 3,000 trucks loaded with merchandise cross the border every day. This would harm the farmers and the industries, because people's interests are intertwined. [...]

"As I've said before, we need a summit to discuss how to wipe out illiteracy. Illiteracy grows every day, yet we talk about liberating Palestine? All the Arab leaders who talk about liberating Palestine should liberate their citizens from oppression and prosecution."[18]

· Economic Reform in the Gulf: The Dubai Complex and the GCC's Priorities

Cloning Dubai: The Dubai Complex

Dr. Al-Ruba'i wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on April 25, 2007:[19] "There is a complex in the Gulf that is fast spreading known as 'the Dubai complex.' Across various forums, intellectuals from the Gulf are not only speaking in admiration of Dubai; they are even demanding cloning the experience and making it universal in all the Gulf capitals. Some of these capitals have actually been operating under the pressure of the aforementioned complex, which has been seen to manifest as huge commercial complexes and skyscrapers – whether the planning is carefully studied or left to chance.

"Dubai is a special phenomenon, and its present-day development is linked to a combination of historical and geographical circumstances. It is a phenomenon born through the vision of the late founder, Rashid bin Saeed [al Maktoum], who through his perseverance and scrupulous business sense was able to attract enormous amounts of reserve capital while practicing an economic openness so that Dubai became a phenomenon like those of Hong Kong, Singapore and others that rose out of special circumstances that are uniquely available to them.

"It is not required of Gulf capitals to become clones of Dubai – firstly because developmental experiences cannot be replicated, and secondly, because every country has a set of different circumstances.

"Why Can't Doha Become the Educational and Medical Capital Of the Region?... Why Can't Riyadh Be the Gulf's Industrial Capital?"

"It is not necessary to build high-rises throughout the Gulf capitals in the same way they stand in Dubai: Why don't we focus on integration and specialization in a manner that can support Dubai's commercial and architectural experiences? Why can't we construct other successful experiences in various Gulf countries? Why can't Doha become the educational and medical capital of the region? There are diligent efforts being made to attract reputable international universities to Doha, in addition to the establishment of various branches of renowned and specialized international hospitals. What could prevent Doha from becoming an educational and medical center, both sectors are large-scale and potentially successful investments that the region needs in addition to its natural gas industry? Why don't we support Bahrain so that it may be transformed into a commercial and investment center, seeing as the circumstances are appropriate for international companies and banks to transfer their business into the small island? Why can't Riyadh be the Gulf's industrial capital; Saudi has a large workforce and essential resources – perhaps Saudi Basic Industries Corporation's (SABIC) experience and the new industrial cities indicate potential that can be further developed and multiplied? And what would prevent Muscat from becoming a tourism capital, resort and a hub for low-pollution industries?

"The Sultanate [of Oman] has vast and unexplored touristic capabilities that have yet to be appropriated and utilized. The private sector in Kuwait has managed to transcend the small market problem, and communication companies, in addition to service- and insurance- companies and banks have all adapted to the regional conditions. This is an experience from which other Gulf countries can benefit.

"Gulf countries have enormous capabilities that must be tapped into – the only concern is if this trend wherein stock market investment and real estate speculations continues to flourish at the expense of investments in education, services, and manufacturing, among other things!"

"Twenty Five Years After the Inception of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Decision Makers Continue to Tell Their People, 'Turn Off the Light and Eat the Dates'"

In a December 24, 2006 article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat titled "The GCC and its Priorities," Al-Ruba'i wrote: "According to a popular saying, a man was once eating dates with his son when the latter found a worm in his food. He screamed to his father, 'The date has a worm in it!' The father answered firmly, 'Turn off the light and eat the date.'

"Twenty five years after the inception of the Gulf Cooperation Council, decision makers continue to tell their people, 'Turn the light off and eat the dates.' This is an easy slogan; why preoccupy ourselves with examining mistakes? Isn't it easier to simply disregard these errors and problems and deny they ever existed?

"The Abu Dhabi summit, held in a luxurious palace, a quarter of a century after the GCC was established, was distinctively a summit of 'See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.' Silence reigned to the extent that, when I spoke to a high-ranking official and asked him, 'Satellite channels are reporting vast disagreements between leaders,' he answered, with a sad tone, 'If only, at least that would indicate action. The first closed session took place and no one discussed internal Gulf problems. In the next session, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen were debated and the biggest absentee was Gulf issues.'

"Our people are used to comparisons: comparing the bad with what is worse. I spoke to a Gulf official, on one occasion, and criticized the performance of the Council and the sluggish pace of decision-making. I told him all leaders repeated in their addresses that what has been achieved so far was below expectations, so why did the state of affairs remain the same year on year? Astonishingly, he replied that the GCC was the most successful pan-Arab organization. 'What has become of the Egyptian Syrian Union? Or the tripartite union between Iraq, Egypt and Syria? What of the Maghreb Union? Or the Damascus declaration? All these bodies are no longer functioning, except for the GCC. Praise be to God we are still alive.'

"Can A Nation Aim To Remain Active Without Posing Questions On The Nature Of Life, Happiness, Achievements And Progress, Industrialization, Investment And The Information Revolution?"

"Of course, I also praised God we are still alive. However, it is sad that someone could be content by lavishing praise on His creator. The incapacitated are indeed alive, but can a nation aim to remain active without posing questions on the nature of life, happiness, achievements and progress, industrialization, investment and the information revolution? This is an essential question, given the disagreements between member states and unresolved issues and bilateral disputes.

"We all recall how the Kuwaiti prime minister, who headed his country's delegation to the consultation summit in Riyadh, a few months ago, demanded honesty. He admitted essential differences remained between GCC member states. Other leaders concurred and requested he visit Gulf capitals. His efforts soon reached a dead end.

"The media campaigns Gulf channels carry out, whose sole aim is sabotage, pose another considerable problem. There are some who claim these channels follow their individual judgment and not formal instructions. But these channels are staffed by foreigners and no one would dare to resort to oral weapons of mass destruction without prior consultation.

"The summit's ostentatious headlines included the demands of the Gulf common market, which will become a reality in 2007, the necessary steps preceding the creation of a monetary union and the adoption of a common currency by 2010, the common identity card (smart card), in addition to the plan to link water and electricity, increasing health coverage, developing education and encouraging military and security cooperation, the discussion of the latest negotiations with international bodies on free trade agreements, in addition to a debate on Labor Ministers' recommendation that the residency of foreign workers be restricted to six years. The reality, however, is very different.

"Issues such as the transportation of gas have yet to be resolved. The building of bridges is obstructed. Parties are accusing each other of interfering in internal affairs, and disagreements have exceptional levels. Amid all this, it appears that the citizens of GCC member states are badly informed about the Council's activities..."[20]

*Steven Stalinsky is the Executive Director of the Middle East Media Research Institute


Endnotes:

[1] Arab Times (Kuwait), March 5, 2008. Dr. Al-Ruba'i was born in 1949 to a "highly religious family" and attended three primary schools, among them the Religious Institute and Murghab Intermediate School and Shuwaikh secondary school.

[2] Gulfnews.com (UAE), March 15, 2008.

[3] Kuwait Times (Kuwait), March 7, 2008.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 24, 2005.

[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 7, 2008.

[6] Gulfnews.com (UAE), March 15, 2008.

[7] Al-Arabiya TV (Dubai), September 11, 2004.

[8] ANB TV, February 3, 2005.

[9] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 15, 2007.

[10] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 784, "Arab Columnists Criticize Double Standard in Reactions to Abduction of French Journalists," September 14, 2004, Arab Columnists Criticize Double Standard in Reactions to Abduction of French Journalists.

[11] LBC TV (Lebanon), November 21, 2004.

[12] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 941, " Former Kuwaiti Education Minister: All of Al-Qaida's Terrorism Started from the Ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood," July 26, 2005, Former Kuwaiti Education Minister: All of Al-Qaida's Terrorism Started from the Ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

[13] Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) was a Muslim Brotherhood ideologue who was executed on charges of conspiracy to assassinate Egyptian President Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser. He published his book Milestones [Ma'alim fi Al-Tariq ] in 1964 when he was between prison terms.

[14] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 15, 2007. The text has been lightly edited for clarity. http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=2&id=7666.

[15] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 29, 2007. http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=2&id=7827.

[16] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1448, "Former Kuwaiti Education Minister in London Arabic Daily Criticizes Iran's Negative Role in the Middle East, Says It Should Deal With its Unemployment and Poverty Issues Instead of Spending Oil Revenues on Nuclear Development and Military," February 1, 2007, Former Kuwaiti Education Minister in London Arabic Daily Criticizes Iran's Negative Role in the Middle East, Says It Should Deal With its Unemployment and Poverty Issues Instead of Spending Oil Revenues on Nuclear Development and Military.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Al-Rai TV (Kuwait), March 27, 2006.

[19] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 25, 2007, http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=2&id=8754.

[20] http://www.aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=3&id=3149.