Language of hate against expats

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WE have all followed the story of the “Saudi Kidnapped Child” who was found in the care of an expat family residing illegally in Riyadh. The child was discovered when police raided a neighborhood in Riyadh, as part of the security campaign against illegal residents. The police were quick to recognize that the little girl, who had lived with the expats for three years, was not part of that family. These were the facts, but people are impulsive and are quick to assume and presume without ascertaining the facts.

And that’s precisely what happened when the first general assumption was that the child had been kidnapped, despite the fact that police did not issue any statement regarding the child at that time. The story of the “Saudi Kidnaped Child” soon went viral on social media and with it came the trashing of expats in our country.

The online campaign against expats after this news was mainly from accounts that were faceless and even with unspecified names. But there were many accounts with real names and pictures, who called on the authorities to crack down on expats and deport them without any rhyme or reason. A hashtag on Twitter was quickly created to “highlight” the danger of expats to our country, which in my opinion was driven by hate.

It was only the following day, when a TV journalist revealed the truth behind the “Saudi Kidnaped Child” in a TV program, that all these mostly faceless and nameless expat-bashers were left red-faced with no way to retract their baseless and spiteful venting against the expats, whom they sought to demonize.

The first shocking information that the journalist revealed was that the girl had not been kidnapped, but instead had been rescued. He explained this cryptic statement with an elaboration that was stunning. The child, he disclosed, was the product of an illegitimate relationship within a Saudi family, which had demanded their domestic help to put her in a box and place her in front of a mosque.

The domestic help felt sorry for the infant and, instead, took her to a family in the neighborhood where she was staying to raise the child as their own, in another words she rescued the infant. The journalist found out that the domestic help had gone back to the Saudi family and told them that she had done what they had told her and the case of her deception was only discovered when the police raided the neighborhood and followed up on the girl’s identity.

The irony is that soon after the diligent journalist’s careful investigation of the case and later clarification that cleared the mist about how the girl came to be with the expats, whose status was illegal, very few had the graciousness to thank the expat family for their humanitarian act in taking in and caring for the child even when their own life was not a bed of roses. In addition, the voices that were attacking and vilifying the expats suddenly went silent.

This negative approach toward expats was evident in a conversation I had recently with a Saudi, who wished to see all expats deported because they were taking jobs away from locals. His language was very similar to those who attacked the expat family mentioned above, without ascertaining the facts. He cited the number of crimes committed by expats, such as copper theft, store robberies, forgery and sometimes murder and said that “they” pose a danger to our society. What he meant by “they” is that he included doctors, engineers, professors, teachers, computer programmers, nurses and many other noble professions in which expats are working, as people who potentially might commit crimes in the future.

He did not know that crimes do not have any nationality and can be committed by any human being. I had to tell him that his language was full of needless hate and that he should not transfer his problems to others. If he or his son were qualified, then they would find a job in the market, any market for that matter. Haters will not hesitate to raise their voice against all expats after a police campaign against illegals or when a crime that shocks society is committed by an expat. They also are quick to brush aside other crimes that do not involve expats.

No one is against the government’s campaign against illegals, who sneaked into the country illegally or overstayed after Haj or Umrah. The government’s warnings against harboring illegals or providing them with jobs is justified and needed. In addition, the government in past years has given illegals the chance to rectify their status and after that opened the doors for them to leave the country peacefully without any fines. In the face of these warnings, Saudis providing illegals with jobs or accommodation are committing a crime and are subject to punishment.

People should stop generalizing or resorting to instigating hatred. And they should not speak on behalf of Saudi Arabia and Saudis as we, as a community, welcome people. The language of hatred is the language of a stupid minority that does not know what they are talking about. Not every expat is a potential criminal who is seeking the perfect chance to commit a crime. Expats came from their country legally to provide a service and earn a living for their family back home. They are our friends, neighbors and co-workers.

I will cite something that I wrote in a previous article. “The language of racism is not our language. It is against Islam and against humanity to paint a negative picture as a whole of others. Expatriates, who worked with us in our country, deserve our thanks and appreciation. The language of racism and accusation comes only from ignorant people and also from those who are envious of others or lack self-respect.

“The government has every right to make any changes that is suitable to employ young Saudis and graduates from the talent pool in the job market. And they have been planning and implementing these changes as part of their new growth plan. However, any change that comes in the job market should not be accompanied by firing accusations at expatriate workers and calling them the source of all troubles.”

We need to assess every situation on its merits before speaking. And if and when we speak, we need to avoid negativity and be civil. For civility costs nothing and society’s gains will be immense — as a welcoming community with a human face.

The writer can be reached at mahmad@saudigazette.com.sa Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng


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