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Punish Saudis who misbehave abroad

Two Kuwaiti lawmakers have called for revoking the passports of any Kuwaiti who harms the country’s reputation abroad amid embarrassing reports about Kuwaiti travelers making a nuisance and a spectacle of themselves in public.

In a news item appearing in a Gulf paper, Nabeel Al-Fadl was quoted as saying that the interior minister should look seriously at those Kuwaitis tarnishing the country’s image abroad. Another member of parliament, Abdul Hamid Dashti, also called for a debate on this subject.

Social media has brought to our attention various types of behavior best described as not in harmony with Islamic or Arab traditions. Though only a minority may be involved, their actions grab the attention of the press in foreign countries and cast a blanket accusation on all.

Among issues brought up in the Kuwaiti case, which by the way are applicable to other Gulf states, are examples of a Kuwaiti woman tourist using flip flop sandals to hit her children in public, young people tampering with fountains, and people throwing empty plastic bags and cans and other litter everywhere they go.

In my travels I have seen worse things and at times have spoken to some of our young Saudi citizens for behaving in an inappropriate manner. A very annoying trend is to find Saudi tourists standing right in front of an elevator thus blocking people from coming out, or deciding to pray in exits blocking the passage for people passing by. Another is talking to a salesperson while he or she is dealing with another customer. In one case a saleswoman told an impatient Saudi woman: “Please note that my manager gets upset when I speak to two customers at the same time.”

In a small town in Austria, many residents complained about Gulf visitors. “Their men are loud and their women are covered from head to foot and this has scared the young children.” This was in a letter to the town’s mayor. Apparently, when these shrouded women took their kids to the kindergarten area of the park, many of the young children screamed in fear. While I believe in the right of anyone to wear what they want, I would caution that at times we can do damage to ourselves if we do not consider how others perceive us.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior has always issued guidelines to maintain the safety and security of its citizens who travel abroad. These include the safekeeping of passports, avoiding trouble spots, not engaging in flashy behavior or carrying large amounts of money, etc. However, it cannot tell us how to behave in public. That is something which we must be aware of ourselves.

Our tourists must use good and polite behavior, say “thank you” and “please” and respect the rules and regulations of the countries that they visit. There are many incidents of Saudis being abusive to their maids, waiters in restaurants or salespersons or cashiers behind the counter. 
I remember an incident at a famous New York restaurant where one of my countryman was shouting at an Asian waiter for no apparent reason. The waiter looked him in the eye and said: “Please sir, I am not an iqama holder!!”

The manager of the restaurant came and said: “In our country, we do not shout. If there is any shortcoming in service, please let us know.” 
There was dead silence in the restaurant and the wife of the Saudi gentleman was red-faced and apologized.

Other embarrassing behavior of our countrymen abroad includes being insensitive to neighbors and landlords. Saudi tourists are often loud and noisy until late hours of the night and they leave the flats they rent in terrible condition destroying furniture with stains and lingering shisha odors.

We as a society do not want our image to be tarnished by these people no matter how many or few they may be in number. I believe that cases of misbehavior or unethical conduct should be taken seriously and people who violate our Islamic values of cleanliness, good neighborliness and politeness should be punished. Uncouth and uncivilized behavior that is alien to our Islamic values should not be tolerated anymore whether at home or abroad.

– The writer is Editor-at-Large. Twitter:@KhaledAlmaeena


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