This week, Newsweek published a list of the top 10 most respected leaders around the world, and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz was featured on the list as "The Reformer." The piece noted the many strides King Abdullah has made in opening Saudi Arabia to foreign investors, providing the best education for his citizens, eliminating extremists within his borders and opening the job market to women. Over the course of his five years as King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah has achieved a lot of firsts. In February 2009, King Abdullah appointed Norah Al-Fayez the Deputy Education Minister for Women's Education. This was the first time a woman was appointed a minister in the Kingdom. In addition, in September 2009, King Abdullah opened the first co-educational high education institution in the Kingdom, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). KAUST is the realization of King Abdullah's vision for an international graduate-level research university in the Middle East to act as a beacon of learning and understanding throughout the region.
King Abdullah has stood firm against those who wish to harm the Kingdom and its allies. In 2005, King Abdullah launched the first-ever awareness campaign to reinforce the true values of the Islamic faith and to educate Saudi citizens about the dangers of extremism and terrorism. The campaign, conducted over several months, featured advertisements on television, radio and billboards, as well as programs on television, in schools, mosques and at sporting events.
In order to help bridge the gap between cultures and encourage dialogue King Abdullah launched the Interfaith Dialogue Initiative in 2008. The initiative has brought together hundreds of religious and political leaders from throughout the world to unite behind the commonality of their faiths and cultures. In addition, King Abdullah initiated the Religious Education Program to educate imams (prayer leaders) and monitor mosques and religious education to eliminate extremism and intolerance.
Throughout his reign, King Abdullah has worked tirelessly to bring people from different cultures, religions, and backgrounds together. The King Abdullah Scholarship Program is an example of this. The program sends qualified Saudi students to colleges and universities around the world to learn, make friends and experience foreign cultures. The Saudi government has already offered scholarships to more than 60,000 students to the United States, Canada, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and others.