Saudi public calls for severe punishment of extremists
It is very sad that the people who are the right image of Saudi Arabia are not recognized and have to endure such uncivilized behavior
In the past few days, two striking cases of misconduct by public sector employees have caught the attention of people at home and around the region. The first was that of a Saudi immigration official arguing ferociously with a passenger just because he dared to ask him to focus on his work while dozens of tired passengers waited to get their passports stamped after a long flight. A YouTube clip that captured the aggressive behavior of the passport official was widely circulated causing general public frustration about such incidents that continue to take place in our country with no serious measures being made to put an end to them.
The media has repeatedly reported about the slow procedures at our airports and foreign nationals have also complained about the careless and antagonistic behavior of some passport officials. However, the majority of these incidents do not get enough media attention because people are usually reluctant to make a fuss, thinking that it is futile to complain since it is unlikely that there will be any positive results.
It is very sad that the people who are the right image of Saudi Arabia are not recognized and have to endure such uncivilized behaviorKhaled Almaeena
The second and more glaring incident occurred last Sunday when staff members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, or religious police, attacked a British man and his Saudi wife outside a shopping mall. It was a savage attack and YouTube clips went viral showing the men jumping on the British man as he lay on the ground. The Saudi wife slapped one of the religious police to save her husband from further bodily harm. It was a very ugly scene that reminded many of the hostile ISIS mentality promoted in Mosul and elsewhere around the Muslim world.
I had the opportunity to speak to the couple who remain calm and are eager to support government initiatives to address the extremism and intolerance that remains prevalent in our society. The wife is an educated woman who after the incident of September 11, 2001, toured the United States and spoke to members of Congress to correct misconceptions about Saudi Arabia. She is a good example of a Saudi national who cares for her country and the image of our people abroad.
It is very sad that the people who are the right image of Saudi Arabia are not recognized and have to endure such uncivilized behavior from the fanatics who have no right to be in positions that allow them to harass citizens and expatriates.
Religious police transgressions
The aggressive misconduct of some religious police staff members continues despite government attempts to stop it. Over the years when I was editor of both Arab News and the Saudi Gazette, I received hundreds of letters from Asian expatriates who were victims of religious police transgressions.
In one instance, a poor Filipino had a chain suddenly and forcibly ripped off his neck. The Filipino begged the religious police staff member to return it as it had been given to him by his mother on her deathbed. All he got in return was a slap! These incidents cannot be erased by an apology or a statement saying that it was only the act of an individual. It is time to have these people publicly prosecuted and punished.
Such incidents are damaging the reputation of our country. We cannot give outsiders further ammunition to tarnish our image and give Islam a bad name, as these members of the religious police claim to be the guardians of our Islamic morals and values.
I appeal to the authorities to address the misbehavior of immigration officers or any government employee. Any irresponsible or undisciplined behavior should be dealt with severely, especially when it is directed at expatriates who are our guests.
Employees should be instructed to adopt a positive attitude, pleasant manners and reflect Islamic values and Arab hospitality. If they are not capable of doing so, they should not hold positions that would allow them to harm our society and increase the frustration of ordinary citizens who continue to endure a lot from these government servants who do not provide them with proper services and are indifferent to their rights and needs.
The public has had enough and should not be subjected to the aggressive and uncouth conduct of the extremists and rude people living among us.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Sept. 6, 2014.
Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm, Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Russia. He also traveled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena's political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena
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