Saudis are not racists and must speak out against it

We must remember that expatriate workers have entered the Kingdom legally to help us build and develop our country

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
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The title of this article is taken from a video posted by the well-known media figure Kamal Abdulqadir on his Twitter account. The video talks about the ferocious racist campaign launched against non-Saudis.

In the video, Abdulqadir said that it does not befit us Saudis to launch such campaigns. He wonders why someone would launch a campaign called “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is for Saudis only”. It is a strange title, because, of course, the Kingdom is for Saudis not for any other nationality.

Some Saudis are angry because expatriate workers transfer billions of riyals out of the Kingdom every year and say that it is not fair that this money goes abroad instead of being spent inside the country. Abdulqadir asks: “Why do these Saudis want expatriate workers to spend their money locally?” After all, this is their money; they have earned it legally and have worked hard for it. We should thank them for helping us build our country and should always remember that they have the full right to transfer their money to their families back home.

I do not understand why some Saudis want expatriate workers to spend their money in the country. How can these Saudis say that? We have to remember that expatriate workers are the ones who have built our country. They have not invaded our country; they entered it legally and we asked them to come here. They have worked hard and have made this money to support their families back home.

There are expatriate workers who have been living in the Kingdom for decades and some were born and raised here. Abdulqadir says that these people deserve to be naturalized and be given Saudi citizenship because the Kingdom has become their homeland.

In the video, he states that some people will not like the things that he says and some will even describe him as a naturalized citizen who does not have original Saudi roots while some will use racist words against him although Islam is against racism. At the end of the video, he calls upon Saudis to rise up to the occasion and treat all expatriate workers with respect because they are here to help us and provide services for us.

I have noticed that when people do not have an argument to support their hostile opposition to expatriate workers, they bring up the issue of expatriate workers transferring money abroad

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

Viral on social media

The video became widely popular shortly after it was posted on Twitter and many people responded to it: some supported Abdulqadir while others opposed his views. Jameel Farsi, who is considered to be an authority on jewels and who is a social media activist, said that over 165,429 people have watched Abdulqadir’s video, over 1,163 have commented on it and over 3,500 have retweeted it.

Farsi said that only five percent of the comments smacked of racism and that these comments were made by people who use fake names and have no respect for religion, ethics or other human beings. Unfortunately, the ferocious campaign against expatriate workers has not only been launched on social media but has also appeared in some newspapers.

An Arabic daily published a cartoon offending all expatriate workers and then removed it from its website following a barrage of criticism from many. Although many people asked the cartoonist to apologize for the offensive cartoon, he refused to do so. I have called many times for the cartoonist to be put on trial for his racist comments if he continues to refuse to apologize.

It seems that some people are encouraging the cartoonist to draw similar offensive cartoons. Apparently, some people have an ethics crisis and poor education, and by some I mean those who describe expatriate workers as invaders who enter the Kingdom to steal jobs from Saudis.

When I discuss this issue with people on social media websites or read the comments made by some readers on newspaper websites, I find that there are people who insist that Saudis have the right to fill the vacancies available in the market. Of course, I agree with them, but the problem that is we do not have enough Saudis to do certain jobs. We still need expatriate workers who can work as doctors, engineers, pharmacists, nurses, construction workers, street sweepers, etc.

I have noticed that when people do not have an argument to support their hostile opposition to expatriate workers, they bring up the issue of expatriate workers transferring money abroad. They keep saying that these transfers are a great loss to the national economy and that the country needs this money.

When I explain to these people that this money belongs to expatriate workers and that they have worked hard to earn it and are free to spend it on their families and children who live thousands of kilometers away from them, they do not seem to be convinced. The money belongs to expatriate workers and we have no right whatsoever to tell them how to spend it.

“We must remember that expatriate workers have entered the Kingdom legally to help us build and develop our country. They have contributed immensely to the development and progress of the nation. They deserve to be thanked and appreciated for the work that they have done. We wish them all the best. We, as Saudis, should rise up and speak up against racism and discrimination which conflict with the teachings of Shariah. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Leave it (i.e., racism), it is rotten.” He also said: “One who does not thank people does not give thanks to Allah.”

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on January 19, 2016.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at [email protected]

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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