Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The mystic connection!

A lad came galloping on a mare
on a June day, so warm and fair
With a triangle on his pastel neck
made by a mix of three-some fleck
Like evening breeze from a thousand jasmines
more tiddley than a thousand wines
Constantinople is a lucky old city
Someone likes its white little kitty
Fish of Bosphorus jump in joy
at the spryness of this boy
Can chirping birds of Turkey ever fathom?
that Selcuk means more than a Kingdom

Sameer

Friday, August 26, 2005

Pull-out and Pile-up


Israel's recent pull-out from the Gaza strip must not result in the consolidation of its settlements in the West Bank.

After nearly 38 years, Israel reluctantly moved out of Gaza this August. The Jewish settlers, who were made to inhabit the Gaza strip -- and West bank plus parts of Jerusalem -- under a well-thought out policy for close to four decades were finally asked to pack up and leave. There were tears and sighs. International media units flew into Gaza to capture history in the making-- the anguish and drama unfolding, live. CNN, BBC World and a host of media crews carried live feeds from the bleached shores of the Holy land. In February 2005, the Israeli government had voted to implement Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip beginning August 15, 2005.

The plan required the dismantling of all Israeli settlements there, and the removal of all Israeli settlers and military bases from the Strip, a process that is to be completed by October, 2005. Isreal went ahead with its plan on August 15, 2005. Days before the D-day, Benjamin Netanyahu, Sharon's finance minister -- and ex-prime minister -- considered a hawk and Sharon's doppelganger resigned from the cabinet, opposing the disengagement plan. Following withdrawal, Israel will retain offshore maritime control and a small strip of land -- Philadelphi Corridor -- alongside the Egypt-Gaza Strip border, although Israel's defense minister has said that Israel will eventually leave this corridor as well.

The settlers played tough ding-dong battles with the Israeli troops before being safely ferried away to their make-shift homes. The relative ease with which the abusive ultra-orthodox Jews were evacuated was a marked shift from the dismantling of Palestinian homes in Raffa some years back. The poor palestinians were not even given a minutes time to lay hands on their bare essentials by the Isreali monster bull-dozers. Back in Gaza, the settlers threw acid and stones on the police. Insults and profanities were heaped on Sharon's men. God was invoked. "Jews don't expel Jews"...the placards read. Right so, Jews expel Arabs only. Stupid! The foul-mouthed settlers can't be blamed for their fate. The settler movement has been Sharon gang's ultimate dream. It is hard to envisage a Sharon ordering his flock out, unless the shrewd war-horse has other plans up his scheming head. Isreal captured Gaza in the 1967 Six-Day War. Till 1967 Gaza was under Egyptian control. Israel blitzed, during 6 days in early June 1967 with Arabs, and seized all of the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.

At that moment the whole of historical Palestine came under the military control of Israel. Israel's policy of building colonial settlements on the West Bank and in Gaza meant confiscation of Palestinian lands, annexation of Jerusalem, the annexation of the Golan Heights, and the settling of over 100,000 Jews within annexed Jerusalem. Israel confiscated precious water resources of the West Bank for its settlements, while prohibiting Palestinians from seeking desperately needed new water sources. The repression required to successfully occupy the Palestinian people in their indigenous country was nothing short of a comprehensive and systematic effort to destroy the Palestinian people.

Isreal has historically been a bully. Patronaged by US and Great Britian and emboldened by years of a militarist attitute. Only this time, things look good. The only problem is that Isreali's intentions have always been suspect. Not that they cannot do any thing good but sincerity has never been Israel's high-point. The population of Jewish settlements in the West Bank has grown this year by more than the 9,000 settlers evacuated under the plan to cede some occupied land, an Israeli government said recently. Thousands of Israelis have streamed into larger West Bank settlements since the start of the year, increasing the number of Jews living on occupied land to 246,000.

After factoring in Israel's evacuation of 21 settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank this week, the overall number now living in the occupied West Bank has grown by about 10,000 Jews. West-bank is predominantly Palestinian (86%). Israel's insistence on expanding settlements represents a declaration of war against the Palestinians because it aims to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state by reinforcing and prolonging occupation," Palestinian cabinet minister Ghassan al-Khatib said recently. "The Gaza step will not be worthy unless the international community compels Israel to match it with a stop to settlement expansion in the West Bank," he told Reuters today.

The World Court brands all settlements illegal. Israel disputes this. Some 116 settlements are scattered among the 2.4 million Palestinians of the West Bank, captured by Israel along with the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. An additional 200,000 Jews live in Arab East Jerusalem, also captured in 1967. Palestinians, numbering 240,000 in East Jerusalem, want it for the capital of a future state. Israel annexed it in a move not recognised internationally.

The only fear is that Israel must not be allowed to walk away from a highly-publicised exit in Gaza only to legitimise and barricade its illegitimate occupation eslewhere.

Sameer Bhat

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sweet looks

I haven't scribbled much on my webpage -- weblog, as some may like it -- for a couple of days. It was perhaps a little mix of my own inertness and work pressure that kept me from posting. In the meantime, there has been some refreshing change around my work place. A few new faces appeared in my office -- aspiring hacks -- and were quickly selected to take over the flame of journalism, forward. Fresh, out-of-college faces! Two guys and two gals. The lads are nice and gals beautiful; this particular bunch has spilled some refershing newness in an otherwise slack office. As good luck would have it, three of them are in the same hall level as I am, so I constantly get to see them smile at me, as I step in and out of my corner. Juniority necessitates some degree of reverence towards -- one-year senior-- chaps, as they say. I never believed in the maxim, until last week. Now I revel in the sudden respect.

My pick is a gal, who reminds me of Sharmila Tagore's daughter. Sizzlingly beautiful. She is in the new group. I don't know her name yet and I am not particularly dazzled by her. I love beautiful gals and intellegent humans and that is I surmise, only natural. Their laughter and verve has made the stale hall a vibrant bower and even the air conditioning plant is cooler. The whole summer, I thought the split-ac would not cool our cabins. The group puffs away like country-side chimneys, appealing and billowing away. They giggle like class-10 kids but the crisp uproar can only pass off as a welcome break. Covering energy -- petroleum and gas and what not -- and writing features as a business writer requires such ducky interludes.

My pals tell me that I have a dream innings at my present job. I have a great -- and somewhat easy -- regimen. I like my work. I know my contacts, I churn stories at will. I like my Boss. I have an amiable relation with him. We discuss gals. Not at a great length, though. I like to keep my space. We did talk about new babe on the block. Boss thinks she is good, I told him she rocks. Great bloke. I enjoy my talks with Vij, my fav in office. My days are good. I work, talk, read and jot. That is a lot in ten-hours. I keep myself occupied. Yeah, I chat in between also.

I am not in love with the trio or is it four-some. I just like the energy the young exude and yeah I like the subtle admirable pace of the new dove. I can't be hanged for that, I am sure!

Sameer Bhat

Monday, August 22, 2005


Mind joining me for a stroll in the countryside
Pic Sam

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Hadi, Tariq with pals relishing barbeque, Manhattan NY

Hadi, blue shirt, tries his hand at Basketball, Manhattan NY, Recent Pic

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Amhed Deedat is no more



World teacher and Islamic scholar Ahmed Deedat passed away yesterday at Lotusville South Africa, age 87. Deedad earned reputation as a thinker, preacher and orator par excellence propounding the noble values of Islam. Born in Gujarat, India, Mr Ahmed moved to SA with his family at a very young age. A brilliant student Deedad was initially influenced by the missionary work carried out by cristian groups in India, before embarking upon an eventful life that saw him setting up the first Islamic Seminary in Southern Africa to train propagators of true Islam at Assalaam educational Institute - Braemar.

He has published more than 20 books and distributed millions of copies of free literature the world over. Many of Sheikh Deedat’s publications have been translated into the many different languages of the world : Russian, Urdu, Arabic, Bengali, Bangladeshi, French, Amharic, Chinese, Japanese, Mayalam, Indonesian,, Zulu , Afrikaans, Dutch, Norwegian amongst others. He delivered countless lectures all over the world, crossing all the continents and successfully engaging some of the biggest names in Christian evangelists in public debates. The frugal-mannered Deedat would mesmerise his audiences with his intellectual prowess.

Early in his career, he created major storms in the mainstream South African media with his unique, innovative styles of promoting the Palestinian cause. By inviting competitive essays on pictures depicting Israeli opression, Deedat not only exposed the pseudo-liberal SA media's phony commitment to freedom of speech; he was also severely maligned by Zionist pressure groups.

So fearless was his stand in defending the truth that Sheikh Deedat was refused entry into France and Nigeria on the pretext that ‘ he would cause a civil unrest’.

Deedad's Da'wah activities doubtless resulted in legions of people embracing Islam both in this country and internationally. His legendary skills propelled him to an international audience in all corners of the world. Former SA President Nelson Mandela famously called up Deedat once, congratulating him for his international icon status in the Muslim World. Despite being a vehement critic of the Arab regimes Deedad was awarded the prestigious King Faisal Award in 1986 for his sterling services to Islam in the field of Propagation.

Sheikh Ahmed Deedat 1918-2005 (Scholar,Teacher, Activist and a great human being) R.I.P

So you find fault with me, the Christian I don't blame him, I am the most dangerous guy for him, he knows that, he may say I am bashing him or swearing at him, if he breaks my jaw, he is entitled to. But you have no right to point the finger at me, the Muslim, you have no right, you read the Qur'an in Arabic, you understand. Allah is telling you: "O people of the book do not go to extremes in your religion."
Ahmed Deedat

Sameer Bhat

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The new chauvinism

I've been reading up a lot on global affairs lately. Ofcourse the dominant genre is terrorism, which consumes 75% of the newsprint -- from US conservative press to the British liberal media -- and 40% of my productive time. Much of what gets written in the western papers is quality albeit I can't bring myself to agree with all of what they rant about. Friedman in NY times can bully you any day, for instance. I prefer Bob Herbert. Occassionaly there are brilliant essays and column pieces which I really relish.

Here's a super-piece by George Monbiot. Author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain; as well as the investigative travel books Poisoned Arrows, Amazon Watershed and No Man’s Land. Monbiot is one of my favourite hacks. His essay 'The new chauvinism' takes a hard-look at the identity crisis that UK and much of the CIVILISED world is facing at present.

I'm not ashamed of my nationality, but I have no idea why I should love this country more than any other
George Monbiot

Guardian

Out of the bombings a national consensus has emerged: what we need in Britain is a renewed sense of patriotism. The rightwing papers have been making their usual noises about old maids and warm beer, but in the past 10 days they've been joined by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, Tristram Hunt in the New Statesman, the New Statesman itself and just about everyone who has opened his mouth on the subject of terrorism and national identity. Emboldened by this consensus, the Sun now insists that anyone who isn't loyal to this country should leave it. The way things are going, it can't be long before I'm deported. The argument runs as follows: patriotic people don't turn on each other. If there are codes of citizenship and a belief in Britain's virtues, acts of domestic terrorism are unlikely to happen. As Jonathan Freedland writes, the United States, in which "loyalty is instilled constantly", has never "had a brush with home-grown Islamist terrorism".

This may be true (though there have been plenty of attacks by non-Muslim terrorists in the US). But while patriotism might make citizens less inclined to attack each other, it makes the state more inclined to attack other countries, for it knows it is likely to command the support of its people. If patriotism were not such a powerful force in the US, could Bush have invaded Iraq?

To argue that national allegiance reduces human suffering, you must assert that acts of domestic terrorism cause more grievous harm than all the territorial and colonial wars, ethnic cleansing and holocausts pursued in the name of the national interest. To believe this, you need to be not just a patriot but a chauvinist.

Freedland and Hunt and the leader writers of the New Statesman, of course, are nothing of the kind. Hunt argues that Britishness should be about "values rather than institutions": Britain has "a superb record of political liberalism and intellectual inquiry, giving us a public sphere open to ideas, religions and philosophy from across the world". This is true, but these values are not peculiar to Britain, and it is hard to see why we have to become patriots in order to invoke them. Britain also has an appalling record of imperialism and pig-headed jingoism, and when you wave the flag, no one can be sure which record you are celebrating. If you want to defend liberalism, then defend it, but why conflate your love for certain values with love for a certain country?

And what, exactly, would a liberal patriotism look like? When confronted with a conflict between the interests of your country and those of another, patriotism, by definition, demands that you choose those of your own. Internationalism, by contrast, means choosing the option that delivers most good or least harm to people, regardless of where they live. It tells us that someone living in Kinshasa is of no less worth than someone living in Kensington, and that a policy which favours the interests of 100 British people at the expense of 101 Congolese is one we should not pursue. Patriotism, if it means anything, tells us we should favour the interests of the 100 British people. How do you reconcile this choice with liberalism? How, for that matter, do you distinguish it from racism?

This is the point at which every right-thinking person in Britain scrambles for his Orwell. Did not the sage assert that "patriotism has nothing to do with conservatism", and complain that "England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality"? He did. But he wrote this during the second world war. There was no question that we had a duty to fight Hitler and, in so doing, to take sides. And the sides were organised along national lines. If you failed to support Britain, you were assisting the enemy. But today the people trying to kill us are British citizens. They are divided from most of those who live here by ideology, not nationality. To the extent that the invasion of Iraq motivated the terrorists, and patriotism made Britain's participation in the invasion possible, it was patriotism that got us into this mess.

The allegiance that most enthusiasts ask us to demonstrate is a selective one. The rightwing press, owned by the great-grandson of a Nazi sympathiser, a pair of tax exiles and an Australian with American citizenship, is fiercely nationalistic when defending our institutions from Europe, but seeks to surrender the lot of us to the US. It loves the Cotswolds and hates Wales. It loves gaunt, aristocratic women and second homes, and hates oiks, Gypsies, council estates and caravan parks.

Two weeks ago, the Telegraph published a list of "10 core values of the British identity" whose adoption, it argued, would help to prevent another terrorist attack. These were not values we might choose to embrace, but "non-negotiable components of our identity". Among them were "the sovereignty of the crown in parliament" ("the Lords, the Commons and the monarch constitute the supreme authority in the land"), "private property", "the family", "history" ("British children inherit ... a stupendous series of national achievements") and "the English-speaking world" ("the atrocities of September 11 2001 were not simply an attack on a foreign nation; they were an attack on the Anglosphere"). These non-negotiable demands are not so different to those of the terrorists. Instead of an eternal caliphate, an eternal monarchy. Instead of an Islamic vision of history, an Etonian one. Instead of the Ummah, the Anglosphere.

If there is one thing that could make me hate this country, it is the Telegraph and its "non-negotiable components". If there is one thing that could make me hate America, it was the sight of the crowds at the Republican convention standing up and shouting "USA, USA", while Zell Miller informed them that "nothing makes this marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators". As usual, we are being asked to do the job of the terrorists, by making this country ugly on their behalf.

I don't hate Britain, and I am not ashamed of my nationality, but I have no idea why I should love this country more than any other. There are some things I like about it and some things I don't, and the same goes for everywhere else I've visited. To become a patriot is to lie to yourself, to tell yourself that whatever good you might perceive abroad, your own country is, on balance, better than the others. It is impossible to reconcile this with either the evidence of your own eyes or a belief in the equality of humankind. Patriotism of the kind Orwell demanded in 1940 is necessary only to confront the patriotism of other people: the second world war, which demanded that the British close ranks, could not have happened if Hitler hadn't exploited the national allegiance of the Germans. The world will be a happier and safer place when we stop putting our own countries first.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

French Revolution

Date line French Revolution:
1789

May 5: The Estates General opens at Versailles
June 17: The Third Estate declares itself the National Assembly
June 20: The Tennis Court Oath
July 14: Fall of the Bastille
Late July: The Great Fear spreads in the countryside
August 4: The nobles surrender their feudal rights in a meeting of the National Constituent Assembly
August 27: Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
October 5-6: Parisian women march to Versailles and force Louis XVI and his family to return to Paris

1790

July 12: Civil Constitution of the Clergy adopted
July 14: The king accepts a new constitution

1791
June 20-24: Louis XVI and his family attempt to flee France and are stopped at Varennes
August 27: The Declaration of Pillnitz
October 1: The Legislative Assembly meets

1792
April 20: France declares war on Austria
August 10: The Tuileries palace is stormed, and Louis XVI takes refuge with the Legislative Assembly
September 2-7: The September Massacres
September 20: France wins the battle of Valmy
September 21: The monarchy is abolished

1793
January 21: Louis XVI is executed
February 1: France declares war on Great Britain
March: Counterrevolution breaks out in the Vendee
April: The Committee of Public Safety is formed
June 22: The Constitution of 1793 is adopted. It is not put into effect.
August 23: Levee en masse proclaimed
September 17: Maximum prices set on food and other commodities
October 16: Queen Marie Antoinette is executed
November 10: The Cult of Reason is proclaimed. The revolutionary calendar is adopted

1794
March 24: Execution of the Hebertist leaders of the sans-culottes
April 6: Execution of Danton
May 7: Cult of the Supreme Being proclaimed
June 8: Robespierre leads the celebration of the Festival of the Supreme Being.
June 10: The Law Of 22 Prairial is adopted
July 27: The Ninth of Thermidor and the fall of Robespierre
July 28: Robespierre is executed

1795
August 22: The Constitution of the Year Ill is adopted, establishing the Directory

Watch this space for my write-up on French Revolution!!!

Hadi relaxing on a jutty. A fav of his!
Pic Sam

Suhail and Salah, bespectacled bros!
Pic Sam

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The identity vacuum

A splendid comment by Jonathan Freedland on 'The identity vacuum' that lingers London Post-Bombing. A reaslistic assertion that cuts into the morass of terror and loyailty.

Britain should follow the US approach to citizenship, which emphasises not only diversity but the ties that bind

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday August 3, 2005
The Guardian

This has been the summer of fear, the season in which our worst nightmares have come true. Take those devoted to bringing racial harmony to this country. Every argument they spent years beating back has suddenly gained new life.

It was long a racist trope that Muslims, even those born here, could not be trusted, that they represented a potentially lethal fifth column. On July 7 that viewpoint was handed lurid "proof": four British-born Muslims ready to kill as many British civilians as they could.

The racists had long argued that immigrants were a menace. As if to vindicate every scaremongering anti-refugee headline of the last 10 years, along came the suspected cell behind the July 21 strikes. It included at least two men who, as children, had fled Africa and found safe haven in Britain. British tabloids had once had to make up "Asylum seekers ate my donkey"; now they write "The asylum seekers who want us dead" - and this time it seems to be true.

This setback for the cause of racial harmony is not abstract. Just listen to the phone-ins, as people admit they are scanning carriages and buses looking for dark, Muslim faces. Suspicion and racial tension that many Britons hoped they had banished 25 years ago are back.

It means those dry, often tedious debates about Britishness suddenly have a new urgency. For how is it possible that Britons could seek the deaths of their fellow citizens? Maybe it's a strange question to ask. After all, it's surely baffling that anyone would want to kill civilians anywhere, of whatever nationality. But because we still imagine a tacit solidarity, an unseen web binding those who live on the same streets and ride the same buses, it shocks all the more to contemplate a man delighting in the death of his neighbours. The July 21 case is even harder to fathom. If Britain had saved your life as a child, would not a pang of obligation hold you back from killing that country's civilians, no matter how great your rage?

The problem was visible on Monday's Newsnight when two members of a fringe Islamist group declared those behind July 7 "praiseworthy" - and did so with British accents. Did they have any loyalty to Britain? Of course not, they answered; only to their fellow Muslims. They may be on the fringe but not, apparently, alone. A YouGov survey for the Daily Telegraph last month found that a clear majority of British Muslims felt loyal to Britain - but 18%, nearly one in five, did not.

This is not, despite Home Office minister Hazel Blears's Muslim-dialogue roadshow yesterday, a question chiefly for Muslims. This is a question for British society as a whole. For July stands as proof that our model of integration, the way we absorb difference, has somehow failed.

Not completely: some of Britain's ethnic minorities testify to an integration which may still be bumpy but which is gradually working out. Not exclusively: the Madrid bombers were Moroccans who had lived among Spaniards for years, yet were ready to murder them. Nevertheless, it can't be avoided: something has gone wrong.

The best explanation might be the one provided by Aatish Taseer, who recently interviewed a series of second-generation Pakistanis in the north of England for Prospect magazine. He found people who took little pride in their Pakistani background, but who struggled to make any connection with their Britishness. When they grew up, "Britons themselves were having a hard time believing in Britishness", he writes. "If you denigrate your own culture you face the risk of newer arrivals looking for one elsewhere." In this case, says Taseer, an Islamic identity, a sense of kinship not with Britain or Pakistan but with the global brotherhood of Muslims, the Ummah.

Is he right? The experience of one country suggests he might be. The United States has not - yet - had a brush with home-grown Islamist terrorism; 9/11 was the work of Egyptian and Saudi outsiders. Why might that be? Islamist radicals certainly find it harder to enter the US. It's also true that American Muslims tend not to live in the segregated urban enclaves that exist in Britain. It might even be relevant that, in contrast with Britain and France, the US has no former colonial populations - no equivalent of French Algerians or British Pakistanis.

But surely the chief reason is the way America approaches newcomers. It does not allow a vacuum where national identity should be, but fills the void with Americanness. Loyalty is instilled constantly - not only at one-off ceremonies - whether it be saluting the flag at school or singing the national anthem at a ballgame.
"What, you don't do all that in Britain?" asks Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations when I put the contrast to him yesterday. His members have "a definite sense of being American", he told me, and clear loyalty. Yes, they feel "concern" over events in Iraq or the Middle East, but not "anger or rage" - and it's voiced by lobbying a congressman or writing a letter to the editor. Of course, there is an identification with Muslims around the world, but that sits alongside loyalty to America. Which exerts the greater hold? "It's like asking me who I love more, my mother or my father?" The answer is, he loves them both.

It seems there are two ways to fill the identity vacuum. The French model of citizenship, which asks people to shed their differences to become French. Or the American, which allows people to keep their differences - and become American. Hooper points out that while the French government banned the wearing of Muslim headscarves in school, the US justice department recently backed an Oklahoma girl's fight for the right to wear one in class.

Britons' instincts would probably lean towards the American approach. Britain, like the US, is built on difference. Our crypto-federal structure, welding Scots, English and Welsh, allows for that; successive waves of immigrants have added to the mix.

But here's the difference. America works because it emphasises not only diversity but the ties that bind, too. It encourages a hyphenated identity - think Italian-American - but insists on both sides of the hyphen. In Britain, liberals especially have striven so hard to accept that people are Scottish or Jewish or Asian, they may have forgotten that they are also British. For bothness to work, you have to have both.

In other words, we let the Britishness part of the equation lapse. We were frightened of it, fearing that it reeked of compulsion or white-only exclusivity. But Britishness, like Americanness, need not be like that. It should, by its nature, be open to all. And yet it does entail some common glue: rule of law and tolerance, for a start.
This, then, is the challenge. To forge a Britishness which welcomes difference - but which is not so loose, so nebulous, that it leaves a hole where national identity should be.

We need that sense of kinship if we are to see each other as members of a shared society - not representatives of a faceless enemy.

Salah, natty and academic!
Pic Sam

Hadi, in a recent picture. Casual and free-spirited as ever!
Pic Sam

Monday, August 01, 2005

Abdullah is the new Saudi King



The man immediately declared successor to the late King Faud, Crown Prince Abdullah, had over recent years already become the public face of Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Abdullah became effective head of state in the mid-1990s, when ill health forced King Fahd to withdraw from public life.

He has involved himself energetically in domestic and international issues, and as a spokesman for his country he enjoys wide respect at home and abroad. Prince Abdullah was born in Riyadh in 1923, the son of King Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud and Fahada bint Asi al-Shuraym of the Rashid clan.

He received a traditional Islamic education in Riyadh and grew up steeped in the traditions and customs of the ruling family. His first public office was as mayor of the holy city of Mecca. In 1963, he became deputy defence minister and commander of the National Guard - drawn from the most loyal of the tribes in Saudi Arabia and regarded as the kingdom's most reliable armed force.

He has remained commander of the guard ever since. Prince Abdullah was nominated Crown Prince in 1982.

Untainted

As a senior member of the innermost circle of Saudi princes, Abdullah is one of the most influential men in the kingdom - respected for his honesty and untainted by corruption. He is also keen to keep a balance between the simple traditions of Saudi life and the need for modernisation and reform.

Crown Prince Abdullah recognises the need for close political and economic ties with the West, but he would like to see this relationship kept in check and balanced by closer links between Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

Arab disputes

The crown prince has on several occasions tried to mediate in inter-Arab disputes. In 1984, he expressed support for the Syrian position in Lebanon and demanded a withdrawal of American marines from the area.

He has also been a strong critic of American support for Israel and the continuing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. In March 2002 he attracted international attention when he suggested that the Arabs would be prepared to normalize relations with Israel if the latter withdrew to the 1967 boundaries.

Crown Prince Abdullah's fears about Saudi Arabia's identification with the West was evident in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Staunchly Western-oriented members of the royal family advocated the immediate stationing of American forces in Saudi Arabia.

But the heir to throne was reluctant for the kingdom to invite the American troops into Saudi Arabia - where the holy Islamic city of Mecca is situated.

Charisma

Crown Prince Abdullah is an imposing figure who has acquired the charisma of an international statesman without adopting the flamboyance of some of his contemporaries. He normally talks quietly and speaks with a stutter. But he is not a man to hold his tongue when he feels strongly about an issue.

At an Arab summit in Egypt before the US-led invasion of Iraq television cameras caught him angrily berating the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, for derogatory remarks made by the latter. Within Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Abdullah is the driving force behind the nascent reform movement.

His steps in this direction have been carefully measured, showing that he is sensitive to the wishes of those who oppose change as well as those advocating it. Few Saudi leaders are better placed, in terms of public respect, to succeed in the difficult task ahead than the Saudi heir to throne.

Profiles: Courtesy worldwideweb

King Fahd is dead


Fahd bin Abdul Aziz

King Fahd bin Abdelaziz Al SaudKing Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud (Arabic: فهد بن عبد العزيز السعود) (born in Riyadh, probably in 1923; died on August 1, 2005) was until his death the king and prime minister of Saudi Arabia and leader of the House of Saud. Fahd suffered a major stroke in 1995 and since has been unable to perform his official duties; his half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, serves as de facto regent of the kingdom.

In May 2005 the Saudi government announced King Fahd had been hospitalized, with other sources claiming he is in a serious condition. The Washington Times even reported that he is dead. Saudi official sources told Reuters that the monarch, 82, had been running a fever and "had water in his lungs" which required hospitalisation. Medical sources said the king had a lung infection and that a CAT scan would be performed while he stayed in hospital for one or two days. However he remained in hospital and died on August 1. Fahd was diabetic and obese.

Fahd was the 11th son of King Abdul-Aziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud, the first monarch and founder of modern Saudi Arabia. At the time of his birth, Fahd's father was completing the consolidation of the House of Saud's power on the Arabian Peninsula and the founding of Saudi Arabia. At the age of nine in 1932, Fahd watched as his father officially founded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by signing the Treaty of Jeddah.

Fahd's education took place at the Princes' School in Riyadh, a school established by Ibn Saud specifically for the education of members of the House of Saud. While studying at the Princes' School Fahd studied under tutors including Sheikh Abdul-Ghani Khayat. Following his education at the Princes' School, Fahd moved on to the Religious Knowledge Institute in Mecca, where he studied Wahhabi or puritanical Islam.

In 1945 Fahd travelled on his first state visit to New York, to attend the opening session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. On this trip Fahd served under his brother, King Faisal who was at the time Saudi Arabia's foreign minister.

In 1953, at the age of 30, Fahd was appointed Education Minister by his father. Also in 1953, Fahd led his first official state visit, attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of the House of Saud.

Later Fahd would lead the Saudi delegation to the League of Arab States in 1959, signifying his growing relevance and importance in the House of Saud — and his being groomed for more significant power.
Finally, in 1962, Fahd was given a post of prodigious responsibility: that of Interior Minister. Five years later Fahd would be appointed Second Deputy Prime Minister, a significant post in the House of Saud.

On March 25, 1975, King Faisal was assassinated by his nephew and King Khalid assumed power. Fahd, as next in the line of succession, became Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister. Especially in the later years of King Khalid's reign, Fahd was viewed as the de facto prime minister.

When King Khalid passed away on June 13, 1982 Fahd succeeded to the throne. After his stroke King Fahd was mostly inactive, though he still attended meetings and received selected visitors. In November 2003 he pledged to "strike with an iron fist" at terrorists after deadly bombings.

However, it is Crown Prince Abdullah who takes official trips; Oflate whenever King Fahd travelled abroad it was for vacations. He was sometimes absent from Saudi Arabia for months at a time.

Quick facts
  • He was appointed prime minister in 1986. When his oldest son and International Olympic Committee member Prince Faisal bin Fahd, died in 1999, the King was in Spain and did not return for the funeral.
  • King Fahd was the oldest of the "Sudairi Seven", the seven sons of King Abdul Aziz "ibn Saud" by -the most favoured among Abdel Aziz’s many wives- Hussah bint Ahmad Al Sudairi who have been close to one another all their lives.
  • Among his full brothers, Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz (born 1927) has been Minister of Defense since 1962 and Second Deputy Prime Minister since 1982, and is considered likely to be the next Crown Prince. Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, who succeeded King Fahd as Interior Minister in 1975, and Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the Governor of Riyadh, are also considered potential future Kings among the Seven. They function as a close-knit group and try to meet at least once a week.
  • King Fahd controlled the largest oil reserves in the world with an estimated personal fortune of £32 billion, seven palaces in Saudi Arabia, a chateau on the French Riviera, a private Boeing 747 and two liner-sized yachts.
  • King Fahd’s father King Abdulaziz, is understood to have had around 145 wives during his lifetime and around 37 children.
  • King Fahd was married several times, but the exact number is only known to very few people.

In 1969, Fahd was said to have lost $1,000,000 in a single dusk-to-dawn marathon of Scotch-fuelled gambling at the tables of a Monte Carlo nightclub. He was summoned back to Riyadh by his brother, the then King Faisal Abdul Aziz ibn Saud. Faisal was a complete contrast to his playboy brother: modest, religious and dedicated to public service. According to court gossip, Faisal was at a public dinner when Fahd arrived. He refused to acknowledge his wayward brother's presence and Fahd had to stand at the table, just beside the King's chair, waiting for a full hour in silence while everyone at the dinner watched.

'Larger than life'


Fahd was said never to have forgiven Faisal for this humiliation. There were rumours at the time - which still circulate in Arabic language chat rooms - that Fahd had something to do with Faisal's assassination by a disturbed young man in 1975. Like most court gossip, that remains an un-proven allegation and it was certainly not acted upon by the royal family's inner circle.

Fahd did not get the throne immediately but he was made Crown Prince. After a short period ruling as king, in 1986 he changed his title to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, a reference to Islam's two most sacred places, which both lie in Saudi Arabia, in Mecca and Medina. The break with his playboy past could not have been more complete.

Fahd had been an activist Crown Prince, and before that both interior minister and education minister.
His party-going former life had at least left him with the ability to talk to anyone, and that helped him as king.

In 1990, Iraq invaded neighbouring Kuwait. King Fahd made the sensitive decision to invite Western forces onto Saudi soil to protect the kingdom. He told his people, "These forces are participating in joint exercises with Saudi Arabia. Their presence will be temporary."

After the war, though, US forces did not leave. A bomb explosion at their desert headquarters in 1996 killed 19 and appeared to signal the depth of popular resentment.

But many Saudis, and Muslims further afield, believed that the stationing of non-Muslim soldiers in the birthplace of Islam went directly against an explicit ruling of the Prophet Muhammad.

That impression intensified after the attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001. Fifteen of the hijackers were thought to have been Saudi nationals. And the Saudi-born Osama Bin Laden had often pledged to drive the "infidels" out of Saudi Arabia.

At times, popular movements opposed to the royal family within the country have raised their colours, a dangerous activity in what remains a highly-repressive country. The huge cost of the Gulf War meant that the king had to take some even more stringent economic austerity measures.

King Fahd found himself faced with a whole series of interlocking crises - economic, political and military - which the ailing leader seemed ill-equipped to keep under control.

Sameer Bhat