Indonesia welcomes Saudi promotion of moderate Islam: Consul general

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Indonesian Consul General Dr. Mohamad Hery Saripudin, center, is honored with a plaque by Arab News Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas, left, and Arab News Western Region head Mohammed Al-Sulami at the Arab News annual iftar in Jeddah on Sunday. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 13 May 2019

Indonesia welcomes Saudi promotion of moderate Islam: Consul general

  • Green card residency program a step in right direction, says Mohamad Saripudin

JEDDAH: Indonesian Consul General Dr. Mohamad Hery Saripudin said his country welcomes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s call for the promotion of moderate Islam.
Speaking as a guest of honor at the Arab News annual iftar at Assila Hotel in Jeddah on Sunday, Saripudin said the crown prince’s vision of moderate Islam aligns well with Indonesia’s concept of Islam Wasatiyyah.
“We believe in Islam Wasatiyyah — the middle way of Islam — in implementing moderation in the practice of the Islamic faith, and as a response to check the spread of extremism,” Saripudin said, adding that Indonesians have a special attachment to Saudi Arabia.
“Indonesia sends the largest number of Muslims on Hajj. This year 231,000 Indonesians will perform Hajj, and in terms of Umrah pilgrims, last year we were second only to Pakistan, with Indonesia sending approximately 1.2 million Umrah pilgrims,” he said.
“That translates to roughly 100,000 Indonesians visiting Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah every month, and this is over and above the 221,000 pilgrims who performed Hajj last year,” he added. “Hajj and Umrah certainly have played important roles in building relations between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.”
The important element of a good relationship are these people-to-people ties, Saripudin said. “The Indonesian pilgrims play an important role in strengthening ties. Our pilgrims spend almost 70 days on average interacting with the local Saudi population, and this helps bring our two peoples together,” he added.

Indonesian Consul General Dr. Mohamad Hery Saripudin speaks at the Arab News annual iftar party in Jeddah on Sunday. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“The Indonesians ensure that they take souvenirs from Saudi Arabia, which they then distribute to their families, relatives and acquaintances back home. This binds them all with Saudi Arabia. Both the spiritual and the tangible connections strengthen relations.”
He said ties between the two countries are rooted in history. “Long before the historic visit of King Salman to Jakarta in March 2017, Saudi Arabia was among the first countries of the world to recognize the independence of Indonesia,” Saripudin added.
“We welcome the clearance by the Shoura Council of the green card (residency) system. We’ve had many, many queries from our businesspeople and Indonesian expatriates about the new incentives being offered by Saudi Arabia, which will improve the business climate. The new green card system is a very significant step in the right direction,” he said.
The huge numbers of Indonesian citizens and people of Indonesian descent in the Kingdom have adapted well to Saudi culture, and have thus become a powerful bridge in strengthening bilateral relations, he added.
“We invite Arab News to help us trace the footprints of the Saudi-Indonesian diaspora in both countries,” Saripudin said, praising the newspaper’s role in bringing different communities and countries together.
“I make it a point to read Arab News every morning before starting my day. If I don’t read it, it’s like having soup without salt. Arab News helps my sanity,” he added.
“It’s an honor to be here at the Arab News iftar as a guest of honor. The media is an essential part in promoting good ties between our two countries, and it has the ability to highlight the good and the bad in both.”
Arab News has been “very supportive of us (Indonesians), and has played a positive role in promoting good Saudi-Indonesian ties,” Saripudin said.
He thanked the newspaper’s Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas, and promised greater cooperation with Arab News.
He highlighted the familiarization trips that the Indonesian government sponsors in order to familiarize Saudi journalists with Indonesia.
Speaking at the event, Abbas said: “Our iftar comes at a very important time for the Kingdom, when his royal highness the crown prince has announced that we want to go back to moderate Islam. This is important not just for Saudi Arabia but for the entire Muslim world.”
There is no better example of tolerant Islam than Indonesia, the editor in chief added. Introducing Saripudin, Abbas said: “Indonesia was selected as the guest of honor at the 2019 Janadriyah cultural festival, so it’s with great pleasure that I introduce to you our guest speaker for tonight’s iftar.”
Abbas said Arab News was founded 44 years ago. “We’ve recently gone through a transformation to make it more digital and more global,” he added.
“We’re also proud of our initiative to hire more Saudis and more women, and we’re proud that women now form 35 percent of our global workforce.”
Despite all these changes, “we were, and always will be, an international Arab newspaper based in Saudi Arabia,” Abbas said.
This means “we’re equally privileged to have some of the best Saudi, Arab and international talent working with us,” he added.
Abbas and Arab News Western Region head Mohammed Al-Sulami presented to Saripudin a plaque that has the newspaper’s first edition — dated April 20, 1975 — embossed in metal.
Earlier, Deputy Editor in Chief Tarek Mishkhas delivered welcoming remarks, followed by a video presentation of the newspaper’s latest achievements.
Arab News staffer Aisha Fareed was honored by Abbas, who announced her promotion to be head of the Jeddah local desk.
A number of diplomats, dignitaries and journalists attended the iftar.

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.

The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.