Thursday, December 2, 2010

What will become of us?...

Dubai is a place that always gets me thinking. Thinking about Arabs, thinking about Muslims and the Ummah, and thinking about what we have all become. This place always opens my eyes up to the depressing realities we are faced with. I made a few observations in Dubai that spoke to a bigger picture, the last being particularly disheartening.

After an extremely long and uncomfortable flight we arrive in Dubai and are about to line up to get our visas/passports stamped. My mother and I were, in a strong Iraqi accent, discussing which line to go and stand in when one of the men working at the airport approaches us and asks what kind of passports we have. He was obviously expecting us to tell him we have Iraqi passports and was quite surprised when I told him our passports were foreign. By foreign, I mean Western. Now, this little occurrence is very telling, it speaks to a broader theme of treatment in airports depending on the type of passport you have, ultimately the nationality you are recognised with. In the Arab world Western passports are privelleged, if you have a Western passport you are treated like a star. Had I told the man we had Iraqi passports and were using these to enter Dubai, it would have been a very different story, our treatment would have been VERY different. There is a huge social stigma around Iraqi's and Iraqi passports at airports. We would have had to wait in a different line and apply for a visa or have had this previously organised, whereas with a Western passport visas are granted on the spot along with a complementary smile and welcome. Now, isn’t it odd for states to treat their fellow muslim or arab brothers and sisters with such disregard, well, you would think so but it happens all too often in most countries in the Middle East. What angers me is the double standard here. Why should I be treated any better than another Iraqi who does not hold a foreign or Western passport, I mean essentially we are the same. We have had this happen in many other countries all over the Middle East, we are treated like stars while other Iraqi's are treated like dirt, but what makes me any better? The flashing of a passport should in no way determine your treatment. If anything Iraqi's who lived through the war should be treated better, those of us who have foreign passports grew up outside and never saw the atrocities they saw.  This, in my opinion, speaks to the bigger issue that the Muslim Ummah is divided and remains to be. We treat those who have othered us and looked down on us with the respect we really should be treating our brothers and sisters with. Not only that, but we try to speak the language of the Empire - the language of violence and exclusion, and this ultimately leads to the othering of our own people. 

Another quick observation which I always make as soon as I touch down in the Middle East, is the way they treat the workers and maids etc. I mean, the men who load your bags into the car at the airport, could you not just be nice to them? Why do Arabs have to put themselves above these people? Is it because the West has looked down on us for so long that we need to look down and ‘other’ others to make up for our treatment? Two wrongs certainly don’t make a right. People don’t realise that God could have easily put them in the other position but he didn’t because he is testing them with the privilege they have been given. The general lifestyle of people in Dubai is very luxurious, way too over the top in my opinion. Am I the only arab that doesn’t like the luxuries of Dubai? Possibly. I really don’t understand why it is so hard for people to understand that I would rather sit and read and write (or even stare at the walls!!) than go out and consume overpriced food, sit in overly fancy restaurants, buy unnecessary things and engage in meaningless conversations when my brothers and sisters all around the world have almost nothing. I am just not interested. Don’t get me wrong, its not that I am anti-social, I would prefer to call myself ‘selectively-social’. Take me to a museum or a good book shop or take me to sit in a park and talk politics and I am so there. But when it’s unnecessary and extravagant - count me out.

During one of these moments in Dubai where we were sitting in a overpriced fancy restaurant engaging in quite pointless small talk, something bigger came up, the issue of boycotting Israel and Starbucks in particular. Now you'd think that people being aware of the issue having grown up on this side of the world wouldnt be so blatant in their indifference. Actually, it was more than indifference, it was almost supportive of starbucks. So obviously I am the one who is going on about the boycotting and Israel and Palestine etc and the most of the adults on the table, after some arguing, were able to acknowledge that starbucks is something to be boycotted but had excuses like 'but their tea is so good' and 'I tried to boycott but I couldn't', you know, typical stuff that people come up with. So the discussion that follwed was what left me dumbfounded. A girl, about 16 years old, said she didnt care where her money was going as long as she gets a good coffee, she expressingly said she didnt care what they used the money for and that she had no part to play because she was buying coffee and only that. Now, not only did this enrage me, but it also worried me, worried me for the future. If we have youth with this sort of mindset now, what will things be like later? The youth are the adults of tomorrow. What will things be like in 10 years time, what will become of us? I really hope the snowball effect is not what we are heading towards, however, sometimes I do get the felling we are heading down that path after having spoken to youth and seen the huge gaps in their knowledge regarding the Palestinian cause. Never in my life have I heard anyone say somethig of such content and with such confidence, I mean there is a huge difference between finding it hard to stop buying coffee from starbucks and straight up not caring about what the money you paid for starbucks is used for. If we let them control our minds and let them convince us that the tea is too good to stop buying or if we start to think that we cant do anything by boycotting then we have lost the battle before its even begun.

I dont know. Right now I am angry, I cant stop sneezing and I haven't slept for a very long time. I dont feel like I am making much sense either. So, with that, I will end here. But in the mean time though we need to encourage people to treat their fellow brothers and sisters with respect no matter what their passport and we need to start treating our workers (if any) with moral respect. Lastly we need to figure out how to open up a coffee place called "Intifada-bucks" and make it just as successful as Zion-bucks, or something...

1 comment:

  1. You have a gentle spirit Asrar. Don't ever loose that. God bless you.