Monday, June 17, 2013

What do people from India know about Saudi Arabia?

Over the months that I have been here, I have come to realise the following:

When I first came to the Kingdom, I knew next to nothing about this country except that it paid a good salary to doctors; that it was a monarchy; that it was an Islamic nation with Islamic justice in line with the recommendations of the Quran and the Shariah; and that it was mostly a desert nation, the main highlights being the cities of Makkah and Madinah, where I would perhaps seek salvation.

I think this is the sum and substance of what most Muslims and non-Muslims know about this country. It is no big surprise since the feedback they get from the people who have been there and either worked here or performed the pilgrimages to Makkah and Madinah - is mostly along the same lines. 

When I started posting on www.ghumakkar.com, most readers who commented were awed by the details that I was sharing with them. They looked at the photos of the huge malls, the fantastic roads and the beautiful desertscapes with wonder. Some even recommended my posts because they could finally see for themselves that Saudi Arabia was a well-developed country. 

The impression I get after reading those reactions is that yes, they have really learned something new about Saudi Arabia, but no, they won't be going there soon if they can help it! The reason is that most non-Muslims cannot reconcile with the idea of a nation where there is a curb on religious freedom for non-Muslims; with the fact that there are no temples, churches or gurudwaras (or any other place of worship) for them; and with the fear that Islamic justice might mean that they may be dealt very harshly for any crime - firstly because they committed such a "crime" and secondly because, as a non-Muslim, they could not expect a shred of mercy towards them.

To be honest, it took me nearly six to eight months to shed my own prejudices, and even now, they aren't all gone, However, I am at peace with working here ... I no longer feel squeamish to assert something if I am right; I do not tremble when I see a policeman approaching me with me in the car; I laugh openly at Saudi jokes; and I continue to practice my religion the way I want to, without fear that they will catch me if, for example, I break some rules of the salat or something like that. After reaching this level of comfort, I feel confident that I would not have any problems with their laws as long as I stayed informed about these well in time ... and preferably in advance of the oncoming contact with the authorities!

I would suggest to my readers to read more about this country, and to explore it on Google Images, on Google Earth, and similar other media sites. I would also suggest reading a bit more on Wikipedia. This may expel some of your misconceptions and make you appreciate this country better. 

Of course it has many more bridges to cross, and there is some discrimination and so on ... but look at your own nations, friends. Do you see perfection ANYWHERE? 

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