|By Alaa Alghamdi|I feel very proud of our King that, several weeks ago, he took a stand in favour of equality and against racism, even when it meant alienating a family member. King Salman promptly forbade his kin to appear in televised media, as he considered him a poor spokesperson for the royal family and for our country.
King Salman made a judicious decision. Perhaps he, like me, found Prince Mamdooh’s comments repellant; certainly, he was thinking of the public image of the royal family and our country. This in itself shows him to be not only a moral leader, but an effective guardian of the future development of our culture.
Racism is a global problem. Few would deny that; we can all come up with copious examples that span continents. In the US city of Baltimore, riots have almost closed down the city centre. The issue? Police brutality targeted disproportionately against African Americans. Almost 150 years after the abolition of slavery in that country, African Americans still struggle for equality – but not more so, I would argue, than ethnic and racial minorities in countries in Europe, in Africa, and, of course, here in the Middle East.
The global community today with its movement of both people and borders demands that we value equality and human rights over antiquated prejudices and grudges. Yet those very concepts, so pristine and incontrovertible in print, are contentious in practice. Norms and attitudes are never built in a single generation; they are laid down over much time, and woven into practices, culture and tradition. And that is why, to cite just one example, German president Angela Merkl declared a few years ago that multiculturalism had been a ‘failure’ in Germany.
She was only stating a fact as she perceived it, not a recommendation. Yet I strongly feel we don’t have the liberty of declaring multiculturalism a failure, and leaving it at that. Cultures will continue to blend, in every country in the world, and it is to our own very great detriment if we can’t find ways of living together civilly.
But it will take more than laws to make that happen. It takes an examination of our values, assumptions, and preconceptions, and a willingness to correct them when they are found to be not in tune with what we aspire. We must hold ourselves and our family members to the standard that we wish to see in the world – and that is exactly what King Salman was doing. His action sends a powerful message, and I applaud him for it.
(Dr. Alaa Alghamdi is a Saudi-based academician, who contributes regularly to the Arabian Post.)