There are a lot of different organizations and foundations dealing with the problems of the Arab world. The New Arab Foundation is one of them. We present you the interview with Sami Jamil Jadallah, Founder & Executive Director of the New Arab Foundation.
You are the founder and executive director of the “New Arab Foundation”. Could you tell us what the main purpose of this foundation is? What does this foundation do?
The idea was in mind many years ago, when a client of mine, a Saudi doing graduate work in the UK and I was helping him with his research asked me what he can do to set up a foundation that can be a forum for intellectuals, business leaders to exchange views and put forward ideas and plans on how to address the many social, political and economic issues facing the Arab world. This was way before the internet. The costs proposed at the time from his associates at the university was around $ one million to start and most of it goes to administration and salaries. I had the chance to veto the idea but it stayed with me.
I was approaching my end of service as the founder and managing director of the late Crown Prince, HRH Prince Sultan Bin Abdul-Aziz Foundation in Morocco and the very idea never left my mind. I ended 23 years of service to the late Crown Prince (Allah Yerhamu) on a bad note when his heirs mainly Prince Khalid Bin Sultan decided to cheat me and the remaining 35 staff out of our end of service compensation when they decided to close down the foundation after collecting $80 in sales of its assets.
I am in Moroccan court now for 3 years without having any opportunity to present my evidence. The case is sealed in their favor from day one.
In any case, and with good experience in setting up such NGO’s (I set up the United Palestinian Appeals back in 78-served as founder and board member for 15 years) and I looked at some models I want to follow and the New America Foundation was the model that I selected. Well-funded and independent addressing issues of concern and the future. Thus the idea of the New Arab Foundation. However as of late New Arabs became synopsis with Arab Neoliberals and we are seriously considering name change to avoid such an association.
The idea was to set up the New Arab Foundation as an independent “think tank” but without generous funding from the Gulf that became impossible task. So we shifted our focus toward being “incubator” of new ideas and initiatives, one that we can go out, develop and market, fund and sell.
As such one of our first initiative is the Arab Peace Corps-Salam Nation inspired by the late President Kennedy American Peace Corps, together with the Fulbright Scholarship perhaps the two most important and powerful foreign policy initiatives in the last 100 years. Over 500,000 scholars and volunteers having more profound and lasting impact on the world and on the US more than the tens of millions of bombs dropped by the US on countries around the globe.
Question: Why an Arab Peace Corps-Salam Nation:
Unfortunately, Arab countries mainly Gulf countries have spent over $100 billion promoting and advocating Jihadist ideology that seen tens of thousands of “volunteers” going to Afghanistan to fight the invading Infidels as part of the Cold War and this support never stopped even till now with tens of billions pouring in to fund Jihadists in Syria, in Yemen in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya. Tens of thousands recruited to die and destroy but never to live and build. Every day we see and hear scores of dead Muslims dying from cars and suicide bombings and cities and town destroyed. Now these rich Gulf countries discovered they created a monster that became threat to their own very existence.
In the Arab Peace Corps-Salam Nation our motto “we give youth reasons to live for, not causes to die for”. While generous funding continues to flow in support of these “Jihadist” little funding is going toward funding development programs. The recent Arab-Muslim-American summit in Riyadh pledged hundreds of billions toward purchasing of arms and weapons and supporting jobs for American workers, not a single dollar was pledged toward social and economic development let alone transforming Arab and Muslim society for a society where death is the ultimate to a society where life is the future.
For us we see this as the biggest challenge, how to win the hearts and minds of young people, lost all hopes of decent honorable life where death is the ultimate goal to youth where life is not a challenge but something to look for. We hope we can do it by getting the support from at least One Million donors at $27/ a year and we can have 5,000 volunteers on the ground rebuilding what hundreds of billions of Gulf money and tens of thousands of Jihadists have destroyed.
It is important to note that rich Gulf countries spend hundreds of billions on spreading “religious ideologies” that end up attracting the poor, the disfranchised the angry to kill and get killed but did not invest these billions in social. Economic and cultural transformation of Muslim societies to meet the challenges of the future. The “madrasas” did not graduate engineers, or bakers or tailors or masons, they graduated killers and murderers out to destroy anything and everything.
– Question: The challenge ahead:
Given the turbulent and the many ongoing conflicts within the Arab World, and given the suspicions and mistrust among Arab nations of each other’s and of citizens of others, we decided to begin with having local volunteers (Saudi serving in KSA, Yemenis serving in Yemen, Egyptians serving in Egypt) thus avoiding the need for now to have to go through a two-year process of getting permissions from an Algerians to volunteer in Morocco or a Jordanians or Palestinians volunteering in Egypt. You must imagine the difficulties of getting visitor’s visas let alone “volunteering and working visas” every one would think these volunteers are spies and undercover agent not only for the US but for the countries of their origin. Thus we are proceeding with the implementation of Salam Nation ( Oummat Salam) as a local voluntary program. Until such time we go through the tedious and expensive process of qualifying in each of the Arab countries. Here I like to point out that from the very outset, I wanted to make sure that everyone knows the Arab World is more than Arabs… it is on the front page of our website, making sure visitors knows we as an organization recognize and give equal importance to all the components of what makes the “Arab World” such a dynamic rich region with its ethnic and religious diversity… thus we are shifting more toward MENA region than sticking with the Arab world.
We have witnessed the rise of religious extremism for the past 2 years, unfortunately some politicians and journalists in the West equate religious extremism with the whole Arab world. What would you say to them?
Of course let us not deny the fact that it was the Arabs mainly Muslim world especially Saudi Arabia and the rich Gulf states that were behind this ideological, powerful and extremist movement beginning with the support of Mujahedeen’s. I published an article
Which address the very issue of the rise of Islamic terrorism. Prince Turki Al-Faisal as head of the Saudi intelligence at the time discovered that KSA has serious domestic problem on its hands. Religious and fundamentalists political extremism. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan did not come too soon, and KSA led the Arab and Muslim worlds in recruiting and funding “Mujahedeen’s” from around the Arab world and found a place for them and of course ALL Arab countries were very happy to cooperate from Morocco to Egypt to Sudan to Jordan to KSA to get rid of its own religious and fundamentalists ideologues send them to war with the hope they will never come back. But they did come back and KSA along with other Arab countries found they have a monster on their hands, In Egypt returnees began to attack tourist’s areas killing hundreds of German and Japanese tourists, same in Morocco and other countries.
Then another golden opportunity came ” The Arab Spring” and how these Arab countries found themselves aborting and undermining the peaceful revolution and they began once again to recruit “mujahedeen” for Syria and for Iraq (against the Shiites) and in Libya, and no different from Yemen.
Yes, the Arab Spring was about criminal dictatorship that looted and destroyed so many countries wasting money and resources on endless arms purchases, prisons rather than schools, promoting and feeding corruption through incompetent corrupt bureaucracy that humiliate citizens (or subjects).
And yes, why do we deny that we do have a problem? Religious extremism is among us from Morocco to Indonesia and the Philippines. Why do we have to hide the fact that once again, tens of billions spent by rich Gulf countries to transform societies (tolerant, open societies) to a form of conservative Islam that within the last 40 years transformed many open tolerant societies to close, intolerant societies transforming not only way of life but culture even dress in societies like Morocco and Algeria to Jordan and Palestine to Syria and Iraq and to Indonesia and Malaysia even the Philippines not to mention Europe as well. funding mosques and social services with an ideological core indoctrination into a fundamentalist) Wahhabi) life style and ideology. Why do we need to ignore this and blame Western hate for us? I have lived in this country for 55 years and have witnessed how our mosques became less and less open, intolerant, disfranchising with no tolerance for any other opinions or practices. I also here wrote an essay on this
and I am organizing a national conference on 9/11 at George Mason University around “What kind of Islam We Want in America”. Yes because I believe that the Islam and the ideology coming from Al-Azhar or Mecca or Qum does not serve us well as Muslims in America and we must find our own way.
As is known, there are serious problems in issues related to education, gender equality and the fair distribution of national wealth in a number of countries in the Arab world. All these reasons sometimes contribute to social discontent that can result in various kinds of protests. What do you think can be done to resolve these issues?
Without total and fundamental “transformation” of societies on the social, economic, political, governance, educational level the Arab and Muslim world will continue to be at great risk of self-destruction. This is where we do need to put a blue print forward starting with education to social and cultural reform to governance. We must do it, all of us and let us stop blaming America, the Zionists and colonialism for all of our failings. We are the only people that continue to put blames on others.
What is needed is a total transformation of society no less dramatic than what happened to Japan and Germany after the war. There is no way out.
In your opinion, what did the “Arab Spring” bring to the Arab world?
The Arab Spring showed that Arabs are not afraid anymore and they broke the glass ceilings of fear and they will do it again and we have not seen the end of the Arab Spring. We have seen only the first phase of it. The Arab Spring failed because it was ill organized without the kind of leadership other countries had, and it was fully and totally undermined by the Deep State, by the military and army that were never the people’s army but the regime paid for by hard earned people’s money only to serve the rulers. Rich Arab countries for sure undermined and even killed the Arab Spring, whether in Libya, or Syria or Egypt or Yemen even in Tunisia. In some countries they militarized the uprising, in other countries they simply purchased the deep state. However, keep the faith. The Arab Spring is now being defamed by the Deep State, and unfortunately by liberals and would be nationalists who in the end support criminal regimes rather than finding ways to prepare for the Next Phase of the Arab Spring.