The Role of Religion
Religion plays an important part in both nations but in contrasting ways. Singapore is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation that has an enviable record of racial and religious harmony over the five decades since independence. One interesting illustration that is highly symbolic of the Singaporean approach towards multiple religious coexistence is the commissioned military officer corps, which is blessed by leaders of no less than seven different religions.
Saudi Arabia is the guardian of the two holiest places in Islam: Mecca and Medina. The nation hosts millions of pilgrims annually with remarkable levels of efficiency and hospitality. This unique position in Islam, along with the influence consequential to it being one of the world's largest oil producers, bestows on Saudi Arabia a commensurate level of global influence and a stature unmatched in West Asia and in the Arab and Islamic world. An important role of leading universities such as KAU in Saudi Arabia must be to educate the future leaders of such an important nation. This educational process requires KAU to inculcate in all its students a broad education with an international and global outlook, a worldview. Graduates possessing this kind of outlook and who have benefitted from wideranging internationally oriented education would be suitably prepared to provide leadership in an enlightened administration in support of the nation's leadership. KAU graduates need practical hands-on experience and need to make active contributions in professions relevant to the needs of Saudi society and its economic structure. In order to fulfil such requirements, KAU is therefore required to educate the nation's youth in a wide range of specializations and for a wide variety of professions. Although particular curricula depend on the expected fields of endeavour of future graduates, it is a well-accepted view among the world's best universities that a broad preparation in the humanities and sciences encompassing a wide range of professions would be of benefit to both the graduates and the nation.
King Faisal Convention Center at King Abdulaziz University (photo by Guaning Su)
Internationalization of the education model in KAU involves creation of opportunities for KAU students to be exposed to international ethnic and religious diversity and international, interdisciplinary and interfaith dialogue. Judicious exploitation of such opportunities will enable KAU graduates to adapt and tailor best international practices to create a uniquely Saudi outlook that takes into account the globalized world's complexities. As the graduates advance in their careers they will be able to assist in the formulation of appropriate effective responses of a modern Islamic country to the pressures and impact of globalization. Successful reconciliation between traditional Islamic values and the impact of rapid economic development and modern technology can in turn serve to accentuate Saudi Arabia's leading position among the world's Muslim nations.