Is there any justification for the attack on Khales Jalbi?


Khales Jalbi is a Canadian Muslim national of Syrian origin. He studied medicine in Germany with a specialization in vascular surgery. Apart from being a physician, he is a thinker, writer and critic. He worked in the Kingdom for more than 30 years as a doctor being transferred to several regions of the country. He also used to write in many Saudi newspapers.

I knew him as a writer before I learned that he was a doctor. I was keen to read his articles whenever I had an opportunity to do so. In his writings, Jalbi tended to criticize some heritage sites, and called for a review of the texts associated with some of them. This provoked one sheikhs to blame him for treachery and apostasy. He also sought Jalbi’s deportation but that did not happen.

Jalbi responded to the sheikh’s plea in a gentle and polite way by supplicating Almighty Allah to forgive him and guide him to the right path. He emphasized that extremism is not good for the country or anyone else, adding that he was ready to kiss the head of the sheikh not as a compliment but out of keenness not to allow him to fall into an abyss out of excessive enthusiasm in the defense of Islam.

Jalbi no longer lives in the Kingdom. I do not know when he left for good. I also do not know whether he made a request not to renew his work contract or whether the firm where he worked terminated the contract. He moved to Morocco where he bought a house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. He spoke about this in a lecture that he delivered at a club. During the event, he praised Morocco and its people, saying that they were friendly, tolerant and loved foreigners. He also said that he was happy with Morocco’s moderate and rainy weather. Jalbi said in the lecture that he regretted the years that he had spent in the Gulf where people have only a surplus money. He cited Ibn Khaldun’s words to bring home the idea about the impact of weather on people’s conduct and behavior.

The words of Jalbi have angered many Saudi intellectuals and writers and they expressed this while speaking to Okaz newspaper. Khalid Al-Sulaiman, a writer, sharply criticized Jalbi: “I regret that you are so stupid. Believe me, we extremely regret opening our doors and hearts to people like you.”

Abdul Salam Al-Wail, a writer and academic, reacted: “The offensive remarks made by Jalbi showed that he lived among people to whom he did not have any love or respect. It is the good nature of a human being to show gratitude to the host community.”

The writer Wahid Al-Ghamdi said: “We circulated your articles and we were fascinated by the innovative ideas that were in them. What forced you to resort to this level of disloyalty? Khaled Al-Adhad, another writer, said that Jalbi was known to be a mercenary and arrogant without principles while he was in Buraidah.

Dr. Ahmad Abdullah Al-Taihani, a writer and academic, added that it is not surprising that Jalbi and other such people do not appreciate principles and values, and that what he now says about Morocco, he had said about Saudi Arabia when he landed in the Kingdom as a homeless man. Al-Taihani lambasted him, saying he was a mercenary and that he had drawn SR15,000 per month while writing for Al-Watan newspaper.

The poet Ibrahim Talie said Jalbi’s remarks about Saudi Arabia and its people were out of his anger over the termination of his work contract and it showed that such people are no longer capable of objective criticism when they lose the opportunity to make money.

Dr. Lamia Baashen said that Jalbi was not only offensive to Saudi Arabia but also offensive to himself with his disgraceful words. “He removed the mask of flattery from his ugly face,” she said and added: “We treated him with our dignity but the malignant soul only produces malice.”

Dr. Abdullah Al-Kaaid blasted Jalbi, saying that he had reached the stage of dementia because of old age. He said that some Arab loyalists have a syndrome of hostility and hatred for the Gulf and its people without any justification, but on the other hand we only wish them well and invite them to take part in our good initiatives.

These are the comments of some Saudi writers and columnists when they were contacted by Okaz newspaper for their reactions to Jalbi’s remarks. There were also articles and comments in other newspapers and there were many tweets attacking Jalbi and accusing him of denying and forgetting the good that he has experienced while living in the Kingdom.

However, I personally do not find any real justification for such an excessive attack upon him. I think that Jalbi has the right to express his regret over the years that he spent in the Kingdom. But at the same time, I do find fault with him when he generalizes about the people of the Gulf with his remarks that he lived with people who have only a surplus of money. These remarks are improper and unreasonable. Perhaps, Jalbi has more money than many of those who lived around him. Similarly, some of those who have a surplus of money may also have more intellect, knowledge and better manners.

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at