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Thu 20 Jul 2017 09:05 AM

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Prominent Saudi woman speaks out against Islamophobia

Lama Al Sulaiman urges world not to brand all Muslims as “corrupt illegals”

Prominent Saudi woman speaks out against Islamophobia

Muslims have a duty to engage and converse with the rest of the world and show people they are not all “corrupt illegals” like ISIL, a prominent Saudi businesswoman and former politician has said.

In an exclusive interview with Arabian Business, Lama Al Sulaiman, who is vice-chairwoman of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and board member and business developer at Rolaco Holdings, hit out at Western media for contributing to the spread of Islamophobia.

She urged the Muslim community to stand strong and prove to the world they are not all violent extremists.

“I’m sorry to say the media has fuelled misconceptions,” she said. “I am a big believer that the media has not been correct at interpreting a lot of what is happening around the world.

“There is Islamphobia today and it’s clear this may have been increased by the media.”

She added: “As a Muslim woman, I realise I have a responsibility to converse about Islam when I travel, so people can understand who we are and not brand us like a few illegals with corrupt mentalities and ideologies who are going to infect the rest of the Muslim world with their thoughts.”

Asked whether she was concerned by US president Donald Trump’s apparent anti-Muslim rhetoric earlier this year, she said: “Trump has opened a Pandora’s box of opinions and this is good.

“These opinions must have been here but maybe because of adherence to protocols people kept them in and they are only now coming to the surface. I think this is good. This is what we were lacking. We need to dialogue more.”

Trained biochemist Al Sulaiman was elected as a Jeddah municipal councillor in December 2015 in the kingdom’s first elections open to women, but stood down three months later over inequality in the workplace.

She is a firm advocate of Saudi’s social and economic modernisation as proposed in Vision 2030, and told Arabian Business that development of all countries requires cultural as well as economic advancement.

“Globalisation is not just about free trade,” she said. “It’s about interaction of cultures. We talk about this, but in reality we’re not doing it; we still don’t know how to have multicultural people living together.”

To read the full interview with Lama Al Sulaiman, click here.