To judge in haste is to err as quickly


A few months ago, an Indonesian housemaid working for a Saudi family in the US accused her female employer of turning her into “a virtual slave”, forcing her to clean, cook and care for their children while she was threatened and assaulted. The woman, it is alleged, was controlled by “a climate of fear and intimidation” that included physical abuse and the belief that she would “suffer serious harm” if she did not perform her tasks. After her rescue by the local authorities, she stated: “Even though I’m a servant, I don’t want to be hit.”

Following the newsbreak of the story, a young woman from California sent me her take on the subject. She wrote: “Surely you must see the logic that these two people came from a society where this sort of semi-slavery is the norm, so they wouldn’t see anything wrong with importing it to America, because everyone around them does it in Saudi Arabia. But then, what else can you expect when you’re dealing with Saudis / Arabs / Muslims!”

Everyone? I cannot really fault this woman’s reasoning because most of it is based on what she reads and hears. And by and large, in the aftermath of September 11, the US press has not been very favorable to Saudis. Years of existing as a closed society to foreigners with very little inter-cultural exchange has meant that many Americans now live in an atmosphere of ignorance and distrust. And flawed as her statement may be, this woman’s perception of Saudis can be excused.

I suppose if I flipped her comments around to what happens in the United States, I would be just as culpable. If Christian priests are arrested for making advances or molesting young boys, does that mean they are all pedophiles? When American mothers drown their little ones in bathtubs or lakes, is every mother in America guilty of such barbaric behavior? If teenagers go berserk in schools and attack and gun down their classmates, would it be right to assume that all school children in America are homicidal? When white extremists slaughter blacks or others of color, should I look over my shoulder when followed by every white American?

When a murder occurs every 22 minutes or a rape every five minutes within the borders of the United States, should I look upon the entire American citizenry as a gang of rapists and assassins? When a few hundred of their men in uniform are accused of torturing Iraqi or Afghani prisoners, would it be correct to assume that they are all a bunch of sadists? If 25 of the most notorious serial killers have emerged from within the United States, should that give me cause for alarm?

The answer is obviously “no”! Because for each one of those criminals, there are millions of God-fearing Americans, who would not condone such barbaric behavior. It would be great prejudice to presume otherwise.

Here in the Kingdom we do have our share of deviates and criminals. But they do not make up the entire country. And more often than not it is they who capture the headlines, not because it is the norm, but because they are the aberrant ones. They are not everyone! Good news invariably fails to garner an audience.

Neither our religion nor culture condones the harm or abuse of others. Nor do we, the greater part of God-fearing Saudis. But we will not deny that it exists within small pockets of our society. A few terrorists do not constitute the makeup of a nation, nor do the few Saudis who indulge in the practice of abusing hired help.

With imported domestic labor in just about every household in this country, sadly there will be a number who will be abused or discriminated against. But rest assured, the majority of Saudis do not excuse or condone such behavior. And when such cases come to light, the call from all quarters of this society is for swift and harsh punishment against the perpetrators, whoever they may be.

Judge me not in haste, America. For I do not stand alone against such crimes and conduct.

The author can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena