Top UAE mogul to lead musicians at papal mass

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Paul Griffiths started playing the organ at 10 years old. (Supplied)
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Griffiths uses his vacation leaves to play the organ. (Supplied)
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Girffiths will accompany the choir on Feb. 5, along with a 10-member brass ensemble. (Supplied)
Updated 01 February 2019

Top UAE mogul to lead musicians at papal mass

  • CEO of Dubai Airports Paul Griffiths is the lead organist at the papal mass on Feb. 5
  • When things go crazy at the airports, Griffiths said he turns to music to relax

DUBAI: Better known for his role as the CEO of Dubai Airports, Paul Griffiths, will be playing the organ at the mass lead by Pope Francis on Tuesday, Feb. 5, before a congregation of 135,000 people at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium.
It will be the first time a Catholic Pope has visited the UAE and the wider Gulf and a first for the 61-year-old British expat.
“It’s my first time performing in a Catholic mass with such large resources, and such a huge choir,” Griffiths, who is an Anglican, told Arab News.
“It will be a most historic occasion for the UAE. It’s just the most fantastic opportunity to demonstrate peace and tolerance, and I think, in the world, we need a lot of that,” he said.
Asked if he would be able to meet the pope, he replied: “I’m not sure that that is actually possible, but if it did actually happen, it would be an astonishing opportunity.”
“But just the honor of playing the organ at a mass, which he is celebrating, that’s quite an astonishing situation.”
Griffiths joined Dubai Airports as CEO in October 2007 – a year later he led the launch of Terminal 3 – the world’s largest – at Dubai International Airport.
On June 27, 2010 he was at the forefront of the opening of the emirate’s second international airport – Dubai World Central.
But Griffiths is not just a veteran of the airport business, he started learning to play the organ when he was a child.
“I was 10 when my friend asked to me to join the church choir. At the time, I wasn’t really interested in music, but he persuaded me,” he said.
The moment he saw the church organ, he said he had a “real moment” of self-discovery.
“For about the next 10 years after I started, all I wanted to do was be a cathedral organist,” he added.
But Griffiths said his father was less enthusiastic about him pursuing music as a profession.
“He persuaded me that music was a good hobby, but a very bad profession,” he said, adding that instead he chose a career path that led him to the top of the aviation industry.
“Although I didn’t agree with my father at the time, in hindsight, it was the right decision.”
But he did not give up on music, and now Griffiths manages a schedule of concert and recital engagements, including performances that have placed him alongside major orchestras.
“I am a great believer that life is about living to the full. I try very hard to give all my time and effort to running all the airports, and in my spare time, the little that I have, I do a lot of organ practice and preparations,” he said.
Griffiths is so committed to his music that he said he uses much of his annual leave for his favorite pass-time.
“I’ve got lots of things coming up. I’m playing in the UK in May, and I’m doing two concerts in the US in June,” he revealed.
When things go crazy at the airports, Griffiths said he turns to music to relax.
“I can have a really tough and long day getting everything together, but when I come home, I sit at the organ and practice quite tough music, and within a couple of pages, all the troubles of the day are gone,” he said.
Griffiths is even married to a musician, Joana Marsh, who works full time as a classical composer, working with orchestras and choirs around the world. The passion for music runs in the family, as his son is also a musician, playing the French horn.
The pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi coincides with the Human Fraternity Conference – an interfaith event that will bring together religious leaders under one roof – it is also the UAE’s Year of tolerance.
Although Christian, Griffiths is not a Catholic – he is a member of the Anglican church – that blending of faiths on the same stage, he said, was “an important statement for mankind.”
“It doesn’t matter what faith or religion we are, the fact that we can come together to celebrate such a historic thing and all be together in the same place… it will remind us that despite our differences, we are all flesh and blood,” he added.

How Meir Kahane’s toxic legacy poisoned the Palestinian peace process

Updated 22 April 2019

How Meir Kahane’s toxic legacy poisoned the Palestinian peace process

  • Brooklyn-born rabbi who demanded forced emigration of Arabs and inspired Israel’s far right is latest subject of Arab News ‘Preachers of Hate’ series
  • As a member of the Israeli parliament, Kahane proposed laws to strip Arabs of citizenship and force their emigration

JEDDAH: As Israel’s most right-wing government in living memory prepares to take office, the outlook for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process has rarely been more dismal.

After his narrow election victory this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is clinging to office by assembling a coalition of Knesset members with no interest in peace. They range from far-right ultra Zionists to overt racists. Many, in particular the Otzma Yehudit, or “Jewish Power” party, are acolytes of Meir Kahane — a Brooklyn-born rabbi who co-founded the militant Jewish Defense League in 1968,  joined the West Bank settler movement and established an extremist Israeli political party.

It is because of this toxic legacy that Kahane is the subject today of Preachers of Hate — the Arab News series that exposes extremist clerics of all religions and nationalities, places their words and deeds in context, and explains their malign influence on those who follow them.

As a member of the Knesset, Kahane proposed laws to strip Arabs of citizenship and force their emigration. 

In the end he proved too extreme even for the Israeli far right; he was disqualified from running for office, and was eventually assassinated in New York in 1990.

Kahane’s hatred lives on, however, in Israel’s continuing rejection of the Palestinian people’s entitlement to basic human dignity, far less a meaningful peace process and an independent state.

As the leading academic and Arab News columnist Yossi Mekelberg writes today: “Few people have contaminated the discourse within Israel with sheer hatred and anti-Arab bigotry as much as Meir Kahane.”


Also Read: Meir Kahane: A torch to fuel anti-Arab hatred