There was a report in the local press about the suspension of a security guard found standing in an inappropriate manner at the Holy Kaaba. The picture taken by a visitor went viral on social media. Many tweets asked for immediate action to be taken against the man. I personally agree that people have every right to be upset by the man’s improper behavior at the sacred site. However, do we have to tweet to force the authorities to address the negative phenomenon of the rude behavior of some government employees?
People should be reminded that it is not enough to pray five times a day or to fast in Ramadan and perform Umrah (minor pilgrimage) to be good Muslims.
What is equally important is to emulate the gentle and kind manners of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is totally un-Islamic to be rude.
Despite major government efforts and the move toward e-Government, there is still a lot that needs to be done to improve the behavior of public servants, whether they are in our courts, immigration department, labor office or municipality.
There is still a lot that needs to be done to improve the behavior of public servants
To begin with visitors to Saudi Arabia and citizens are, unfortunately, faced with unwelcome treatment as soon as they land at one of the kingdom’s airports. At the immigration counter, greetings are rarely acknowledged by the frowning staff, whose communication skills seem to be lacking.
Treatment of expatriates
Expatriates suffer more than the rest of us. My email is usually flooded with accounts of such unacceptable incidents that should never happen in our country today. The most recent letter I received was from an Asian gentleman who described his ordeal in renewing his iqama (residence permit). He had a printout of an attested copy of a letter stating that his iqama had been sent for renewal. However, he was detained for over eight hours until he was cleared with no explanation offered. Who is responsible for this kind of ill-treatment? The arrogant behavior of junior officials can be very frustrating. One cannot argue with them and they are never in the mood to listen.
Once a policeman stopped me at a traffic light and asked me for my driving license. When I asked why, I was accused of failing to wear my seat belt. When I showed him that I was in fact wearing it, he adamantly retorted that I must have put it on after he first saw me! However, in the end he let me go.
For how long do we have to put up with such behavior? How can we keep our cool with such provocations?
Today, rudeness and the misuse of power can no longer be tolerated by the public. People have become more vocal on social media and many incidents are regularly exposed. Nevertheless, there are still many cases that do not surface.
Discipline and education
The solution here is not only to apply disciplinary action when the misconduct of government staff is discovered but also to teach work ethics to ensure that there is harmony between government officials and members of the public.
Public servants need to undergo thorough psychological screening. They should be given regular training on behavioral skills and their performance should be monitored. There should be an active website for complaints and a more efficient hotline which people can phone to talk to someone and file a complaint.
Saudi public servants need to undergo thorough psychological screening
The government is spending millions on improving public services. However, a lot of time and effort is wasted and many of the initiatives become futile and useless because of the callousness and lack of empathy of some of our officials today. It is time we upgrade the manners of public servants and create a more polite society. We need to invest in our more cultured and talented young men and women and give them the opportunity to better serve our nation. The message should be very clear. We will no longer tolerate rude behavior!
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on June 8 ,2014.