No Kingdom for Old Men

27 February 2017

On 1st of March until the 9th, Indonesia will play host to Saudi Arabia’s Head of State and Government, King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Dubbed a ‘historic’ visit by numerous mass media, King Salman’s visit has attracted a number of attention both from the media and also the public. From the fact that it’s scheduled to brought in seven wide-bodied aircrafts, carrying an entourage of about 1,500 people, to the most cumbersome equipment that is the King’s personal staircase. This is the first time in 47 years that the King of Saudi Arabia has visited Indonesia, the last one being King Faisal who visited the country back in 1970.

Amidst the domestic situation where Muslim hardliners have dominated the media in the past few months, many have taken to the internet calling for King Salman to restore the dignity of Islam, both for the moderates and the hardliners. Here lies the confusion, does the King of Saudi Arabia represents the living interpretation of Islam? It is true that the King of Saudi Arabia styled himself not with the traditional “His Majesty” signature, rather they prefer to be styled as “The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.” The two holy mosques being the al-Haram Mosque, and al-Nabawi Mosque in Mecca and Medina.

But styling oneself as the custodian of the two holiest mosques of Islam doesn’t make him the face of the religion itself. Neither has he declared himself the Defender of the Faith, which is not a tradition for Middle Eastern monarchies. Thus in short, King Salman bin Abdulaziz is just another head of state, similar in stature as with President Joko Widodo. Therefore the public should tone down the reaction upon the upcoming visit of King Salman, and the government should not shy away to raise important issues on his visit.

The visit by King Salman and his 1,500 entourage will mainly discuss several fields of cooperation that have been agreed upon before, which include: Arts & Culture, the Hajj, Modern Islam, Education, Transportation, Transnational Crimes, and also the Economy. It is quite disheartening to see that the issues of the 2015 crane accident in Mecca, and the stampede in Mina are not on the table. Whether it has been discussed before or are a part of the talks on Hajj is unknown. But it is the responsibility of the Saudi government to ensure that every single victim, both dead and injured, of both accidents be compensated. An action that Saudi Arabia has yet to fulfill.

Moreover Indonesia must also be brave to criticise how Saudi Arabia is handling regional crises, especially with the Yemeni Civil War. Saudi Arabia has been openly criticized of conducting indiscriminate bombings and using unauthorised weaponry, such as white phosphorous munitions. Moreover, the reluctance of Saudi Arabia in helping to alleviate the refugee problem stemming from Syria and Iraq from IS menace should also be put int....

Gilang Kembara

Gilang Kembara was born on March 1992, in Jakarta, Indonesia. He finished his undergraduate studies at the University of Birmingham, ...