Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Saudi Syndrome - Are you Muslim?

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.
Yousef Ahmad is an American. He is also my best friend.
I’ve known Yousef for a long time. In fact, we worked together and since then became very close friends. He was a truth seeker, always looking for the Ultimate Faith, as he used to call it.
As a young man in California, Yousef changed his religion from Christianity to Buddhism. In his zealous quest to find and reach the Ultimate Truth, he converted to Taoism a few years later.
In mid-90s, he started to take an interest in Islam, and with a close fellowship of our mutual friend and co-worker, the Egyptian Mr. Dawood, my best friend (Mr. Bill Carroll was his original birth name) embraced Islam, and became a very devoted Muslim. He changed his name into an Islamic one to become Yousef Ahmad.
Now more than 14 years have passed since Yousef became a good Muslim. I know that he has found his Ultimate Truth of Faith. Since then, he has never left Saudi Arabia to go back home to America, and is now happily married to a Syrian Muslim wife. It seems that he wants to spend the rest of his life in this country. This, indeed, is very fabulous.
However, Yousef has something about us Saudis. He confided to me one of his experiences, some “innocent” observations.
After announcing his Shahadah (faith) as a new Muslim, he said a number of people went out of their way to greet him. Several added to their greetings an implied invitation. “We would like to have you over for a dinner sometime soon,” he was told. Yousef, of course, was delighted. He spent the next week eagerly waiting for the phone to ring, the door to be knocked, sometimes rushing home from work in order not to miss a call or an expected visit he knew would come.
The calls and the knocks did not come, not until months later. He told me that to adjust to Saudi culture; he had to learn that many words were spoken without conveying the real meaning.
Well, that doesn’t mean that necessarily we are bad people. Oh no! But many of our polite greetings are gracefully disguised ways of saying: “I am just being polite and trying to be decent.”
Is it interesting or distressing, I ask you my friends, that often our social and business interactions are saying one thing and mean exactly quite another?
Quoting Yousef: “As Muslims we must learn to speak sincerely with positive impact, using our words to express the real spirit of the ethics and laws of Islam to everyone.”
What Yousef said would help of course to enhance our social attitudes as Saudis. I think he is right; I think this is another Truth to our Islamic Faith.

In the above article, brother Najeeb writes about a kind of Saudi syndrome.
There is a worse variant of this syndrome. It is that Saudi attitude that denies friendship to another Muslim who is 'Ajami because of racial prejudice and this is far commoner in Saudi society. I would like to give two examples of close friends who went through this in Saudia.

1) Brother *** is a Konkani Muslim. He stayed for some years in Saudi Arabia. A devout Muslim, he used to work in a shop. Once an Arab, typically clean shaven and dressed in Western attire walked into the shop. The Indian brother was dressed in a thawb with a headcovering and a Sunna beard upto his chest. In the course of the conversation, the Saudi understood that the brother is not Arab. Then the conversation went something like this:
Saudi: Are you Muslim?
Indian: Are YOU Muslim?
Saudi: Hey! Why are you asking ME that?
Indian: Why are you asking me whether I am Muslim? I am wearing a thawb, my head is covered and my beard is as per the Sunna. You on the other hand look like a Yahoodi.
Saudi exits quickly from shop.

2) Dr. W.A. *** joined a teaching Hospital in Abha. He is also a practising Muslim with a full length beard and his first name is W. Ahmad. When he met his Head of Department, a Saudi doctor for the first time, he asked him his name. And then despite being told that the name was W. Ahmad, the next question was........yes, you guessed it right, "Are you Muslim"?
Inna Lillahi wa Inna 'Ilayhi Raaji'un.
May Allah cleanse us of our 'asabiyyat.
'Alaykum Salam.

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