By Arab News
By Abdullah Al-ALami
I received an e-mail from a 21-year-old Saudi female university student from Alkhobar currently studying politics in the US.
She said she has a dream, simply put, to plan a short trip for students in her anthropology class to Saudi Arabia.
Leena Nasser is planning a three-week visit next May, such that students and faculty at Bates College would be able to focus on one specific subject and explore it through research and study of the country.
Why is she doing it? Leena explained that this is to give the students first-hand experience in delving deeply into studying different cultures and creating links between their studies and different parts of the world. What a vision!
A group of fifteen students will accompany Leena to come to Saudi Arabia to meet the people and study the “real” Saudi culture. First, they will spend one week at their college preparing and familiarizing themselves with Saudi history and society, after which they would fly into Saudi Arabia and spend three weeks visiting the Eastern Province, Riyadh, and Jeddah.
We all know that US-Saudi relationship is based on common interests that are fundamental and critical to both countries. Having said this, Leena’s objective is for foreign students to get to know and understand Saudi people, as opposed to simply studying the cliché and stereotypical side of KSA. Potentially, this initiative could achieve long-term goals and open up great opportunities for dialogue and collaboration. I hope that Leena would also try to bridge the distance between the cultures and eliminate the misconception and preconceived notions among them. I hope that she would not allow it that cultures remain distant or that the potential for misunderstanding and misreading becomes greater. As I indicated in my open letter to President Barack Obama a couple of years ago, Saudi-American relations are currently strained and facing serious challenges. The bilateral relations have passed through a difficult phase since the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Through my meetings with various US ambassadors, members of the honorable Senate and House of Representatives as well as the US media, I have had the opportunity to explain the consequences of the negative US media campaign on Saudi-American relations.
Leena’s Anthropology course will cover a variety of topics, such as Saudi culture, modern history, economic change and development, education, health care, women issues, expatriates, social services, the environment and more. Furthermore, Leena is searching for people interested in diverse backgrounds (sociology, history, art, women, economics, as long as they have the passion and motivation to be part of this wonderful communication channel).
It is a fact that Saudi Arabia and the United States of America have been encountering obstacles and challenges in the path of a successful relationship since it first began. In his book “The Origins of Saudi-American Relations,” Dr. Fahad Al-Nafjan expertly illustrates the basis of the “special relationship” between Saudi Arabia and the United States.
I am a firm believer that it is not only through the respective representatives of the two governments, but also through the people of the two countries that we can continue to strengthen this “special” relationship. These interactive visits are surely excellent examples of initiatives conducive to that effect.
There is no better opportunity to facilitate improving the relationship between Saudi Arabia and all nations than through the creation of a healthy and continuous dialogue between them.
Well done Ms. Leena, you are an example of which we are very proud.