By Johara Al Mogbel
There tends to be a repetitive monologue in the press when it talks about our country abroad. As a general rule of thumb, Saudi Arabia is either depicted as an evil money hungry oppressor, or an overbearing money hungry ignorant oil barony. Sometimes, if the media needs a scapegoat, we’re depicted as both just for fun.
The truly dejecting aspect of the entire issue isn’t the stereotype we’ve endured for years now. The award for that goes to the fact that Saudis themselves, after reading countless accounts derogating them and their homeland brought about by political and cultural differences with western countries, have begun to believe what’s being said about them.
Add the inherent Islamic practice of not touting the charity you give -which the government follows to an extent- to the lovely mix and you end up with the Kingdom’s most well hidden secret: the extent of its giving.
From governmental sectors to private citizens, the generosity that Arabs are historically known for is embedded deep in the culture, regardless of individual inclinations. From helping conjoined twins to sending supplies to disaster-stricken areas, there isn’t a limit on what’s being given; there aren’t any talks of loans to be paid back.
Saudi Arabia basically gives out like a benevolent grandfather with his offspring, or a post-ghosts Scrooge. We accessed the foreign aid list that started in March 2014, thinking we’d add it to this article, and it was long enough that we abandoned any thought of doing that.
The government is also a big advocate of social responsibility in the country, and has made it an important priority to enforce and encourage a sense of goodwill in corporations and the private sector.
Education is largely encouraged. There’s an open exchange and scholarship program that allows Muslim students from abroad to study Islamic Studies in most of the state colleges, as well as a special allowance for Syrian refugees to be accepted in any public educational institute that was decreed two years ago.
The King Abdullah’s Relief Campaign for Pakistani People distributed thousands of school bags among children studying with Read Foundation.
This uncovered side to the Kingdom shows through the willingness to help other nations in need, without prerequisites or much fanfare. It also displays what it means to have a constitution steeped in Islam, the belief that you must give, and that when you give your right hand should not know what your left hand has given.
Fact: Saudi Arabia has one of the largest humanitarian budgets in the world.
- SR 65 million donated to Solidarity Campaign for Syrian Children.
- $5 million in aid to an Indian university.
- $270 million Saudi-funded road in Jordan.
- The Saudi Embassy to Lebanon paid the rent for 1,000 displaced Syrian families in Lebanon to the tune of approximately $1.8 million.
- On July 1, King Abdullah, may he rest in peace, ordered that $500 million was to be given to Iraqis in humanitarian assistance.
- 10 million polio vaccinations to Pakistan.
- 60 tons of dates to the World Food Organization for 30,000 families in the Philippines.
- 5,000 houses are being constructed in different flood-stricken areas in Pakistan.
Chin up, Saudis! There’s so much more to our country than meets the eye. You just have to know where to look.