Throughout my career, I’ve had multiple jobs at many prestigious places: From the Saudi Embassy in London to the British Consulate in Jeddah. I started my career abroad, and after 17 years of experience, I came back to my country with a passion for working on the current mega projects in the Kingdom.
After this long journey, to this day, I still vividly remember my first job at the Saudi Embassy in London. I remember a party at the embassy organized by an Islamic university of art, back when Prince Turki Al-Faisal was the ambassador. It was a special night, but I never imagined that I would meet the future king of England.
The mere presence of King Charles III, then the Prince of Wales, shows how deep-rooted and long-standing his appreciation of Islam is. All the statements he made in later years would ring true to me with the man I met that night.
The advent of King Charles III’s reign is an interesting development for the Arab and Muslim world. We, quite understandably, now ponder the differences he will make as the king of England and head of the Commonwealth.
King Charles III has shown on many occasions, through statements and visits, his respect toward Islam as a religion, and his admiration of its culture and art. In 2013, he publicly stated that he was learning Arabic to understand the Holy Qur’an. This is why it is particularly interesting to see someone in his position make these remarks. It does not strike me as part of the general movement in the West to be more tolerant toward everything, but it rather seems like a sincere interest and deep understanding of the core of Islam.
Perhaps you can understand what I mean by that through his own words, in a speech he gave at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, in which he deemed it odd the misunderstandings between Islam and the West when there are so many commonalities. He even made the insightful remark that it is illogical for Western culture to think of Islam as alien to it, when in fact there is a significant influence of Islam, first in Spain and later in the Balkans.
For years Muslims have been labeled as villains in the eyes of the West, so it is quite remarkable for someone from the monarchy to make these comments. Not only does he show appreciation for the religion, but even blames his own history and culture. He calls the misunderstanding of Islam in the West as a failure, and speaks of the debt his “own culture and civilization owe to the Islamic world.”
These comments, while highly positive, are simply words. And the feelings behind them, while seemingly sincere, are simply feelings.
As Muslims, we do not seek validation of our religion and beliefs from the West or any part of the world for that matter. This is not a celebration of us being seen as what we truly are; instead, it is simply an observation of something that is unprecedented in British history.
Still, be it a personal inclination from King Charles III, a publicity stunt, or simply a part of the tolerance movement, these comments, while interesting, are simply words. We cannot base hope of change or concrete decisions on statements he made as Prince of Wales.
• Effat Alsaraj is a multimedia storyteller, a media advisor and an inventor.