I couldnt believe I received this news just hours after it was announced! You all must be thinking, "hours? these days we can get news seconds after an event happens!" The reality, my friends, is that news like this gets buried in back pages of newspapers, broadcast media rarely reports this news and people, quite frankly, just think it's a publicity ploy and view the announcement with cynicism.
I recall last year's $500 million landmark donation by the Saudis to the World Food Programme in response to their appeal for assistance to those most affected by the food crisis. WFP issued the appeal for around $700 million, and with the Saudi donation, their appeal was officially closed. How amazing is that. I dont think the US has ever thought of demonstrating their multilateralism like that. Instead, when the Southeast Asia tsunami happened, their initial donation was $35 million which resulted in a huge outcry from the public and the then Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs at the UN, Jan Egeland. In fact, Egeland went so far as to call the Americans "stingy". Go Europeans!
Anyway, I am excited to hear that the Saudis are opening up and truly making efforts to build bridges. In fact, King Abdullah expressed a similar sentiment when he inaugurated the newly established King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, one of the top 10 universities in the world according to financial endowment. That's quite an achievement for a university that just opened its doors!
The same article also mentions how the World Bank ranks Saudi Arabia 13th in terms of business friendliness in an annual review called "Doing Business". And not to forget - Saudi Arabia/King Abdullah has/have repeatedly opened their doors to interfaith and intercultural fora.
Seems like the Saudis are well on their way to shattering some stereotypes. We should pay close attention to those folks. Did anyone say Muslim renaissance?