Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Impressions of a Canadian Ex-Pat

First of all, I want to thank this busy young wife and mother and relative newcomer to the Magic Kingdom for taking the time to answer my questions for this interview on my blog.

Let’s start with a little background about your personal life, education, heritage, and profession.
I am a 34 year old Canadian woman and am married with 2 young children. I have a background in child development and education and have been teaching for over 10 years. My family has a mixture of cultural influence. My husband is from Pakistan. My mother is originally Russian and my father is originally from Tunisia. I grew up in Canada.

Have you lived in any other countries and how well-traveled are you?
I traveled primarily to Europe and the Middle East during the earlier years in my life (18-24 years old).

How long have you been here in Saudi Arabia and what brought you here?
I am a revert to Islam and coming to Saudi Arabia for me and my husband was not related to any job but rather was a decision we made for deen (religious reasons). We decided to make Hijrah for the sake of Allah (swt) and came here primarily to live in an Islamic environment. It is exactly one year since I moved to Saudi Arabia.

Did you have lifestyle expectations before coming to Saudi Arabia and if so, has it been as you had expected?
Yes, I expected to live in a model Islamic society that adheres completely to Islamic rulings. No, I can’t say that this is exactly what I have encountered. Although there is definitely the religious aspect of living here, which is wonderful, there are also many draw backs that contradict Islam that I wasn’t expecting. The racism for one thing is something that really bothers me. Also, there is the aspect of not being able to drive, which is completely NOT Islamic and really makes no sense to me at all. Other than this, I find this society to be very dependant rather than independent which for me is also very hard since in Canada I used to do almost everything by myself. I also find the facilities for children and women very poor. There are almost no pubic parks or libraries and practically nothing to do with children here other than go to amusement parks which are in malls.

What have been the most challenging adjustments for you living in the Kingdom?
I think my most challenging adjustments would have to be the inability to drive, the cultural differences and the apparent lack of facilities for children and families. I also have to admit that lack of language has been quite a barrier as I don’t speak Arabic and on average very few people here speak English so on a day to day basis, it is challenging to interact with others.

As a Muslim convert, has moving to Saudi Arabia been satisfying spiritually? Do you think being Muslim has made your experience living here easier?
I would have to say that overall there are many blessings living in a Muslim land. The blessings of not being involved with open fitnah (like watching half naked woman walk around the malls) and celebrating Eid and Ramadan together as one nations are truly incredible. Overall, I am satisfied with the life here spiritually and living so close to the Kabbah is a true blessing and a real gift.

Your husband is dark-skinned Pakistani and you are a light-skinned Westerner – has this presented any special issues for you as a couple here in KSA or for your husband in particular?
Yes, this issue is somewhat problematic here in KSA. My husband tends to be treated like a second rate citizen. He is an investor here in KSA and is well-educated and self employed so he is required to handle legal issues pertaining to businesses, and he seems to encounter many challenges along the way. Anything from getting a drivers license to dealing with the government (SAGIA-Saudi Arabia Government Investment Authority) poses a problem. He often gets the run around, and it is clear from the way people speak to him that they are not tolerant of his appearance - being dark.
It seems that he is in a stereotyped category where the majority of people here who are from the same culture are actually uneducated and poor, so he is thrown in with the same class and as such treated very badly. It is unfortunate to begin with that poor people here (who should receive the outmost kindness and consideration) are treated in such an ill mannered way, astarfirallah. Kindness and compassion were second nature to the Prophet salllallahu alyahim wa salam and these are the very things in the KSA that infuriate me the most. The Saudis, who are direct descendents from the Prophet (sallallahu alayhim wa salam), seem to have no compassion and tolerance for fellow human beings simply because they are less fortunate, when they should be the MOST compassionate and understanding of people, as this is the birth place of Islam.
When my husband and I walk together, we get odd stares and even at work, people are puzzled when I tell them that he is from Pakistan. In their eyes I can see the hidden question lurking: ”But why!? Why would you marry a Pakistani?” I have friends from all walks of life. Some of my Somali friends here in KSA have experienced far worse treatment. One sister told me that when she picks up her kids from school each day (she is black and her husband is a white American and the children are white/blond), she is confused for a maid. When the children at school found out that she is the mother, they started making fun of her daughters. The girls were tormented at school and they eventually left to go back to the USA because of this. She didn’t want her children growing up without values and to be bullied throughout life because she came here for exactly the opposite reason: to have her children develop Islamic values of kindness, fairness, appreciation to God, but she found exactly the opposite.

What changes would you make that would improve your existence here?
I think that the only things we could do here is to try to stick together and find facilities and programs to better ourselves. I started working here because I was literally going mad sitting at home all day with the kids. In Canada I was able to go to the library and take the kids to ‘Gymboree’ and ‘Moms and Tots.’ I was also able to join a women’s gym, go shopping on my own and have weekly gatherings with other Muslim sisters. Here, women do not travel anywhere alone and I am not able to drive which makes it very problematic to be independent. Also, there are no quality programs for children here so we spend time mainly at home or in the malls, which is very boring to say the least. Since coming here I joined a parenting group to meet up with other westerners and I started working full time.
One day, down the road when Allah subhana wa t’ala provides more I would love to open some sort of quality childcare program for children here. I am also now thinking about having a kids arts and crafts class in my house for parents (free of charge) to allow my children to interact with others and also because I am very artistic and love creating things. I do crochet and sew but I gave this up here due to time and energy (which I don’t really have now) since I am a full time mom as well as having a full time job - I have no nanny or housekeeper. I am always trying to find other things to do here to keep busy and make me happy.

What have you found surprisingly pleasing to you and/or alarming or bothersome?
I find the deen aspect very pleasing and being so close to Makkah is a true blessing. I mean how many people can claim to be able to pray a salah at Masjid Al Haram whenever they want. Each prayer is equal to 100,000 prayers and that alone is a wonderful blessing. I find the lifestyle here a bit bothersome because I am used to being more independent than I can be here. I also find that “status” here is very important and that bothers me a lot.
I hate to admit this but for the first time EVER in my life I had a thought that I am “very glad I am white,” astarfirallah. I remember thinking that and I felt ashamed because I NEVER ever felt that way before, and I am married to a dark man so it made me feel so much worse. This feeling only came about when I witnessed firsthand the treatment my friends undergo each day here and I was thankful in my heart to Allah subhana wa t’ala for making me white and thus making it easier for me to live here. This is such a sad realization and I am truly ashamed for even thinking it but this is what springs up from within as we are human beings and are often selfish in our views.

How do you feel about being a woman in this society?
I honestly feel that I was more empowered and independent as a woman in the west. Overall I feel that women here are generally selfish and spoiled. Working outside the home, taking care of a house and two babies all alone here (no nanny or housekeeper) puts me in somewhat of an odd category, as it is very uncommon for a woman here to actually take care of her own kids, work, cook, clean etc..
I once had a conversation at work with a Saudi girl and she was inquiring about my kids and family and I mentioned that I had no nanny or housekeeper. So she asked “Who does the cleaning and mopping?” It was on the tip of my tongue to be sarcastic and say “A little fairy appears each night to clean my house with her magic wand” (as it was such a dumb question) but I thought I should be more polite, so I told her, “I do. I mop every day.” She looked at me and I thought her eyes were going to pop out of their sockets and in a loud stern voice she said “You mop EVERY DAY!?” She had this look in her eyes like “OMG, what are you - a maid? Why do you mop your own house?” I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.
Another incident with my current job was when I spoke with the secretary about her kids and found out she had a 5 month old and a 3 year old. I asked her if she was ok being away from her baby and how she juggles work and home duties - because here I am, stupid me, thinking of the sleepless nights and feedings and crying. I was admiring her for being able to do all of that and work. Then she told me “Oh I really enjoy my kids and it’s so great to be a mother.” I don’t think I spoke like that when my babies were 5 months old. I was more like: ”I need sleep” and “oh my god how many poos can such a little thing produce?” I can’t claim to have really ‘enjoyed’ my 5 month old. So I said, “Wow, that’s great.” Then I thought “Wait a second! Who is taking care of the 5 month old while she is at work?” and I asked her and she said “the Nanny.” I asked “You have a Nanny full time?” and she looked at me and said “Of course!” and then she added how much she loves “playing” with her kids. I laughed so hard and thought: “Sure! I would also enjoy my kids if I didn’t clean, cook or change a poopy diaper all day and all I did after a hard day’s work was come home to cuddle and ‘play’ with them.”

How easy has it been to make friends with any Saudis and what is your general impression of the people here?
I haven’t had much experience with Saudis other than the women I work with and I found them to be quite cordial and very nice. I work with a very young bunch of women (all under 25) and they are open minded and progressive in their views. Of course they are also very pampered as well and have maids and housekeepers. They are all upper class from “good” families and none of them actually need to work. They work for their own “pocket money” and are quite classy in their appearance at work. My co worker brings her NANNY to work so she can clean our classroom, and others have personal drivers, nannies and housekeepers to tend to their every need. If they want a coffee at work, they simply make a phone call and a driver delivers a coffee and Danish. The ladies are all into “brand names” (Gucci shoes, Louis Vuitton or Dolce and Gabbana bags) and I have never seen them repeat an outfit at work even once. It is as if their clothes are disposable. Another fascinating thing here is the shoes and how each outfit has to have a matching pair of shoes, jewelry and bag. I feel like I am working with Barbie most of the time, lol.
My general impression of the society is that classes and status are very important. Everyone’s house must look as though they have millions and who you associate with is also important. It seems that Saudis prefer socializing only with westerners and other Saudis. Also, the treatment of the “working class” is very bad. I used to witness the maids at work being called for every little thing; even to carry employee bags to their cars. In general this is a very materialistic, money spending society.
I think that for me it was easy to make friends with Saudis because I am white and Canadian but I know that my friends, who although are also Canadian but are black, have a very hard time here. I also see this from my own husband.

How do your own personal values compare with your impression of Saudi values?
My personal values involve compassionate, fairness, equality, good manners and a positive attitude. I don’t know much about “Saudi” values other than what I witness first hand but from what I do observe, my values are very different. Generally I find this society more laid back and requiring a lot of patience to deal with things on a day to day basis. I also disagree with the way people of lower means are treated, like Bengalis, Pakistanis, Indians, Filipinos and Asians. They are very hardworking people and seem to take on the hardest and lowest paying jobs. I also find that they are oppressed and abused in these roles and I have a real issue with that.
I know Saudis are very hospitable people, but are they hospitable to the lower class as well? Maybe some are, but I cannot say for sure what percentage. Generally I see that if you are wealthy and come from the west, you are treated well and with respect and even envied; but if you are from Asia you are mistreated and looked down at.

What activities have you and your family been able to enjoy together since you arrived?
To be honest, I haven’t really done much in terms of entertainment since we moved here. I tried taking the kids to a public park once but that what the first and last time I did that. The garden was filthy with cigarette buds and garbage and I was forever removing glass and other sharp object from my 2 year old’s hands. Also, there were no swings or playground equipment and only patches of dry (and pretty nasty) grass. I don’t even think it should have been called a park.
We normally spend time in the mall. I have been to the “beach” here once and that was also a place I may never visit again. The sand was also very filthy and my son was digging up pieces of bones and cans from the sand using his shovel. He thought it was great but I was very disgusted in the overall condition of the beach and how dirty it was. Other than Makkah and Madinah (which I found to be very clean and beautiful) I haven’t really been anywhere else.

Do you think KSA is a good place to raise children?
Yes, regardless of everything else, one of the reasons we moved here is for the benefit of the children. I wanted my children to have an Islamic environment where they could benefit from speaking Arabic as well as learning the deen. Although education in Canada is free and of very high quality, it is also heavily influenced by Christian values and I didn’t want my children to be subjected to celebrating Halloween or Christmas at school. Also, I wanted my children to interact with Muslim friends and steer clear of alcohol and drugs which are quite common in high schools in the west. I probably wouldn’t be thinking this way if I were a black woman, as my children would have possibly been tormented at school on a daily basis. I know people who teach at some very well known schools here and what they witness is horrific to say the least. Children who come from Sudan and Pakistan (even if they are children of westerners) are treated very badly. Other children refer to them as “Sudani” and “Paki”. They just call the kids that way at school like “hey Sudani boy” and “Paki boy” and they make fun of them all the time. I might have considered home schooling my kids - if they were dark - like many of my friends are doing here.

What things do you really appreciate about living in KSA?
I appreciate being close to the Kabbah, Makkah and for being in a Muslim land where you can wear an Abaya comfortably and not feel like an outsider. I chose Islam consciously and willingly and this is the place to be for a practicing God-fearing Muslim.

Would you like to add anything else that we didn’t touch on?
I want to say that regardless of all the negatives, my husband and I decided to come here for deen (the Islamic way of life). We were not sponsored in by a job but rather he is self employed so we have the freedom a lot of people do not - like being able to stay as long as we want and buying property and opening a business. We both left very successful careers in Canada for the sake of Allah and I am really determined to make it work.
I pray that all our suffering here will be rewarded by Allah swt and I have to admit that there is not a day that goes by where I don’t miss Canada and still view Canada as my “home”. We are planning a trip back this upcoming summer and I cannot tell you how excited I am and how much I am looking forward to going back. I hope one day I could feel the same about Saudi Arabia and “miss” coming here and living here in the same way. That would truly mean it has become my new home.

Thank you again for being so candid and for taking the time to answer my questions!


  1. Hey Susie, cool interview, with many misconceptions I have to say :)

    Ok, regarding the husband and dark skin and SAGIA, you should take a look at Saudi Blogs complaining about the treatment at goverment agencies, it has nothing to do with who the customer is, but those workers have no training. I just commented on a saudi blog complaining on the customer service at a well known saudi bank.

    And the barbies she works with... yes, very pampered indeed, they are like that sweet sixteen birthday parties they have on MTV of rich pampered kids, I just saw somewhere that p.ditty bought his son a Maybach benz for his 16th birthday... a Maybach is worth a number I cannot even imagine.

    Anyhow, best of luck to them and I hope they live long and prosper.

  2. Hi Qusay - No doubt that these things happen many other places around the world. I think for some strange reason - maybe because KSA is such a strictly religious country - many people don't expect these behaviors to be here and are quite surprised that they exist here just like everywhere else.

  3. I wish them all the best of luck...but a few things jumped out at me when reading the interview. Firstly, it seems that although they physically live in an Islamic country the country doesn't fully live it's Islamic values. I am not Muslim, but I understand them to be (among other things) equality with all people regardless of race, creed or color. I hope that they bear that in mind while raising the kids and take an active part in trying to counteract the racism. I feel very sad that her friends who are good Muslims I am sure, were driven away just because of the color of their skin.

    Secondly, I was under the very strong impression from another Canadian that Canada goes well out of it's way to accommodate people of all faiths. children of the Muslim faith or some other faith other than Christianity are not required to participate in programs of a religious nature and in fact that this sort of equal treatment is part of their Constitution and is taken very seriously. Further this person assures me that there are many Muslims in the larger cities and there is a thriving Muslim community there. If, of course, she doesn't want her children exposed to anyone other than Muslims that obviously would be tough in Canada and Saudi would be the place to be for that I guess.

    I know a lot of people think that Saudi Arabia is THE place for the purest form of Islam...I did too until I started reading these blogs and learning about Islam (obviously not as well as she)and KSA. In many ways I think there are things about the West that in theory and practice are more Islamic than KSA. But we don't have the Kaaba or Makkah or Medina!

    I hope that she is very happy and finds the deep peace and connection to Allah that they moved there for. I admire her family. That is an amazing undertaking!

  4. Thank you both for this thought provoking interview.

    I am curious, given the interviewee's previous travels in the ME, that the culture in Saudi proved to be such a disconnect. I realize that life in Saudi is distinct, and that the interviewee is primarily bothered by some Saudi specific rules, but so much is also common to other Arab Muslim, and even traditional southern European cultures. I also realize that she, like many Westerners who make hijrah, are disappointed with the failings of Muslims, including those who are responsible for the laws, regulations, and societal structures in Saudi. However, it is surprising that so many are so disconcerted by the reality. Perhaps the reality was worse than even the planned for expectation.

    The systemic racism (eg paying certain groups less by law) is certainly foreign for a contemporary Canadian (except for First Nations peoples), but the more personal manifestations are not--at least not to South Asian and Arab Canadians. There are certain places where this is less, but I was disappointed to learn from an Indian (Hindu) colleague how many times and how violently (including a gang beating that left scars) over his lifetime, in the upscale parts of a major cosmopolitan Canadian city, he has been targeted as a "Paki" and then as an Arab terrorist. This is by appearance only, and happened up to recently, including being pelted with eggs from a passing car whose occupants were shouting about terrorism to him and one of his many friends named Mohamed (no exaggeration, I have met some of "his Mohameds"). He and his Mohameds, many of whom are, like him, applying for specialty training positions in medicine are dismayed that they are unable to gain acceptance despite excellent CVs, superb references, Canadian citizenship and a Canadian BSc and MD. He is regretfully planning to join one of his Mohameds in the US where there are more opportunities, and it seems on this account, less racism. Rather a waste of Canadian tax payer money having trained them up this far, but I am helping him apply anyway.

    The interviewee here is wisely working fulltime, and I hope learning Arabic as that would be essential to feeling more at home in Saudi, even if she is surrounded by people who speak English (though it seems she is not). I would also ask her to reconsider some choices about nannies, cleaning ladies (or maids), and drivers. It seems that certain countries have lifestyle structures that just about require this, whether because of limitations on women driving (by law, or by custom, or by company refusal as is the case for some expat women whose husbands are transferred to Southeast Asian countries where poverty induces some to throw themselves under any car driven by any white person in the hopes of compensation), or the unavailability of other forms of home and child assistance. No woman in my opinion should work full-time, and do full-time home duty. It is a recipe for burnout, and resentment. But then again, I think babies should be delivered with a nanny on one side and a night nurse on the other. Storks, take note!

    Canadian public schools are of high quality and routinely make accommodations around non-Christian students, who are in fact the majority in some schools (my sister teaches in a wealthy suburban school that is 90% Sikh, and has taught in wealthy suburban schools where 60-70% of the school is Muslim). Hallowe'en (which is of course pre-Christian) is presented as a dressup day only and some children do not trick or treat but have alternate parties or nothing. No public school celebrates Christmas, although some have a winter concert. Class and status consciousness seem more obvious factors outside of North America generally, including Europe, MENA, Asia, and Africa that I have experienced.

    I have many other thoughts and questions triggered by this interview, but for now I will only ask, "Who is the adorable and pious young Saudi in the photos? He is definitely too cute!

  5. Its so sad to hear the lack of stuff to do for families.... I'm worried that if I ever go I will be extremely bored. I'm not sure my husband would want to spend a lot of time with the family if there isn't much to do.

  6. Very interesting to read Susie, indeed the Canadian sister did speak up the truth about our society but maybe she has to dig in more. There are clean beaches, good parks and female gyms but maybe she did not dig very well but since she lives in Makkah I cannot speak about it because I don’t know it very well.

    As for the bad treatment of the working class and maids in Saudi Arabia, I personally think people are divided into half which is still high...Overall the bad treatment of the working class is sadly common in Asia, South America and the Middle East. Try typing maid abuse in YouTube and you will realize how common is to mistreat those hard working people. As a Saudi myself, I really hope our society would change.

  7. Hi Oby - Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I know that Islam teaches that all people are equal and no one is better than anyone else. I know that Canadian Ex-Pat will agree that certainly not all people here treat their hired help badly, but it is noticeable.
    BTW, Saudi Gazette just published an interesting article about the discrimination many children of non-Saudi mothers face here: http://saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentID=2010012461158

  8. To Chiara - The story about your Indian colleague is very sad and shows that racism happens everywhere in the world and is not distinctly just one country or another.
    Even in the states, Halloween is called a Fall Holiday/Dress up day, and Christmas is called Winter Holiday in the schools. In fact, the older grades will have another theme for the whole week of Halloween, like Say No to Drugs.
    And the cute little sheik in the photos is not Saudi - his adoring aunt is living in AbuDhabi and sent him the outfit. His name is Carter.

  9. Hi Nasrin - My observations here are that Saudi husbands don't seem to spend a lot of quality time with the kids, and that they tend to spend more time with male friends out of the house, especially in the evenings.

    Hi Majed - I'm going to give Canadian Ex-Pat a list of beach resorts in Jeddah...

  10. Interesting interview Susie - thanks as always for providing us with food for thought. With a Pakistani background, coming to this country for the deen, wanting to teach my kids Islam and Arabic, encountering racism due to skin colour, etc I could relate to this lady in many ways. I hope she is successful in her endeavours inshallah.

  11. Oby--your strong impression about Muslims in Canada is correct. Unfortunately there are louts everywhere, but in terms of social structures including schools Canada is very accommodating, and minority rights are well protected under our Constitution, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (our Bill of Rights). Major centres like Montreal and Toronto, and their surrounding areas have higher and growing Muslim populations, mosques, halal grocery stores, restaurants and take out, clothing shops, bookstores etc, and some areas where Muslims are a majority and street names and park names reflect that. The schools provide prayer rooms and special rooms and Muslim volunteers to lead prayer and reflection during the lunch hour during Ramadan. Women in hijab are common, and although they are a small minority of Muslim women here (1-2%), women in niqab are more frequent in some areas like the uni library. Most universities have a Muslim Students Association which is active and has an executive comprised of brothers and sisters.

    Susie--Carter is a delight to behold, and I am obviously trained to see a shamaugh and think Saudi! LOL :) It is true that racism seems universal and is always sad. I have a highly diverse ethnic population of patients and students, and sadly so far no ethnicity/ nationality is free of racism or prejudice. On the other hand it also seems universal to work against this human tendancy.
    Interesting about the Hawaii system. My sister just looks aghast when I ask if the schools celebrate Christmas. Verboten!

  12. thanx for the interview Susie, but let me say that she is a bit naive for thinking that by coming here, her children would be in better islamic soceity !! and the probl;em is that she is still believing that. yes i don't live in the west and i don't know how muclims are living there but at least it's not islamic, why? because it's a big problem to live in a so-called islamic soceity to learn the islamic values when it's all wrong. she said is hereself how racist it's here , how dependent and materliastic it's.
    plus, who said that Saudis are the decendant of the prophet !!!!!! just because we are living in the same place doesn't make us decdndants.
    i wish her the best in living here and achiving what she and her family are looking for :)

  13. So after having an opportunity to read 12 comments based on Suzie's interview, which in fact is based on my life, I did want to answer/respond to some general comments made.

    With regards to Canada and racism than I must agree and validate that yes, it is a fact that as Canadians we support and promote inclusion of all cultures and religions. In fact, I used to teach in a public school in Canada for over 10 years so I know first hand of the tolerance and respect we display towards all nationalities and races. Christmas break is called "winter celebration" and Halloween is treated as a "fun dress up day". However, crafts and activities in schools are also related to "candy canes", "jingle bells", "ghosts" and "goblins" and it is not uncommon for your child to come home with a picture of a Christmas tree or a witch and have your child sing "have a merry christmas" in the car on the way home from school.
    Exposing my children to these things would mean having to explain all of these symbols to them and thus getting into really conflicting ideologies and religions explanations. Furthermore, later on, in the upper grades there are other sacrifices that a Muslim person makes like being exposed to mixed gender groups and girls/boys that might wear 'inappropriate" (according to islamic law) attire.
    Now, I know how this sounds to many people who are not Muslim and please know that I myself used to be a non Muslim "hippie, clubbing and party girl" in my youth but times have changed and I have changed and my values have also changed. I want what is islamicaly best for my children and leaving all other things aside, the primary reason we are here is because it is decreed for all Muslims to live in a Muslim land if they are able to. Clearly living in a non Muslim environment allows you to be subjected to many "non Muslim" things and although I respect each person's choice and freedom to act as they want, I am also making the choice NOT to be a part of things that are not "halal" (permissible) for me to undertake.
    For instance, in Canada, I worked in an environment where men and women freely mixed. I used to cover fully (abayah and Hijab) without ever facing actual discrimination and was always professional to all people but the fact remains that it was impermissible for me islamicaly to work alongside men.
    Now, although Canadian public Education is probably one of the best in the world, Islamic Education in Canada is of very poor quality and also very expensive. I wanted to be able to send my children to Islamic schools and after much research, my husband and I both discovered how poor the education and facilities are in Islamic schools in comparison to the public schools. There are great Jewish schools and great Christian schools but unfortunately not so great Muslim schools. Like any parent, I wanted the best for my children and since Islam is something I chose willingly (and might I add at the cost of my entire family!) I was not willing to sacrifice not giving my children everything as islamic as possible.
    Saudi Arabic is a young country and the "faults" we see here are really no different than those we saw in the US and Canada years ago. Were blacks not slaves, in some states until the late 60's? Were the aboriginals not oppressed by the white man?
    Every society undergoes a natural process of evolution and Saudi Arabia turned from camels to cars almost overnight with the discovery of the oil. (End of Part 1)

  14. (part 2)
    As for my past experiences with other middle eastern countries than I must say that things are very different in Dubai (for instance) in comparison to here. I do feel that Saudi Arabia by far has the strictest rules and particularly regarding women.
    Now, as for the comment of me being naive than in some ways I do have to agree that I was prior to coming here. I did do quite a lot of research and I was aware of these things prior to coming here but have you ever heard the expression "a picture is worth a thousand words?".
    One must also understand that there is a clear distinction between religion and culture. What you see here is the culture, not the religion. Islam liberated women 1400 years ago and gave them full rights. Before the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) women were like chattel. After the Islamic revolution, with the coming of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) women were give inheritance laws, protection laws, and it is clearly known from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in an authentic report that a mother/woman's deserves to be respected 3 times over a man. There are many other facts supporting women's rights in islaam which I will not get into. I do want to add however that while Islam liberated women over 1400 years ago, in Canada women were not considered "persons" under the law until October 18, 1928 in Canada.

    As for the comment about the facilites in the KSA (beaches, libraries and such) than it's possible that there are places here that of course I am not aware of and I am hoping to learn more. Canada takes great pride in investing and supporting "Early childhood education" and "families" and there are hundreds of wonderful quality and free facilities for families to attend regularly. This is on top of the beautiful, very green and clean public parks throughout the cities. Clearly, Canadians put a great emphasis on public services and perhaps my expectations are derived directly from that.
    Regarding having a maid/ driver than I am slowly warming up to the idea of a maid as it is quite challenging to juggle full time work, house work and mothering 2 babies. I must admit that for a short while I had a helper coming in twice a week for a few hours to help with the major chores but I was disappointed to discover that she was careless. She once left the iron on and unattended (thus causing my son to burn his hand)and mop water all over the floor (again causing my son to slip and fall) that I decided it was safer to just "do it myself". I am not adverse to the idea and possibility of finding part time help a few times a week but I am definitely not comfortable with the whole "live in maid" scenario that is so common here. For starters, my home is my retreat and my "peace" from the rest of life's chores and having someone here full time would make it feel like an invasion. Also, I personally am not comfortable with the idea of having someone serve me day and night. God bless I am an able person with 2 hands and 2 feet and by the will and mercy of God can take care of my family's needs on my own. Also, I don't know about anyone else but I take great pride in being able to take care of my family; cooking, cleaning and taking care of my husband and children needs.
    In conclusion I want to add that life is a journey and our decisions are often based on good intentions and wishes for ourselves and our loved ones. I put my trust in God and pray for happiness, prosperity and a lot of patience.

  15. Education is free in Canada? What province did you live in? I raised both my kids in Alberta and I can assure you Education is not FREE in Canada.

    Candy Canes and Christmas trees..just objects of a holiday that most people celebrate to be good to mankind, and to give and receive gifts. While some Christians still believe in the fable of Dec 25, it is not the norm for most Canadians. Christmas is a pagan holiday.

    It sounds like you and your husband did not do your homework before moving to Saudi. Certain people from certain 'Asian' countries are not welcome in Saudi no matter how smart or how much money they have, and don't be to proud of your white skin, you stick out just as much as your husband, what is not said to your face could be said behind your back. At the end of the day you are NOT a Saudi!

    I find it sad that someone feels they have to leave their own country to follow their Deen. You either have it or you don't. God is not blessing Saudi or Makkah more then other places on earth. Each prayer is equal to $100,000 prayers. Is that in the Quran or is that in the man made books called Hadith?

  16. Canadian Expat--thank you for sharing more about your experiences and choices. You are of course the arbiter of your own life.

    I would only say that African Americans were not slaves up to the 60's. They did lack equivalent civil rights, mostly they were deprived of them illegally, but legislation after the civil rights movement of the 60's did improve their situation.

    I wish you all the best in your ongoing adaptation to Saudi Arabia. One year is very little time, to learn the ins and outs of living in a place, as you know.

  17. Canadian Expat...

    As Chiara said you are the arbiter of your own life. And as I am sure you know life is made of choices and tradeoffs. If, in the end you are happy with the tradeoffs you have made then that is what counts. God is everywhere, but if you feel closest to him there then that is what is important IMO.

    I would only say that I read an Islamic scholar once that pointed out that it is very possible for Muslims to be fully Muslim in the West. They don't HAVE to partake in the things that are not considered Islamic. I have always dressed conservatively and don't drink, have never done drugs of ANY kind-ever, don't smoke, gamble, or get involved in many of the vices of the West and I am teaching my daughter the same thing and I am not even Muslim. My parents taught me that. One doesn't need to involve themselves in those activities even though they are there. Just some food for thought in case you ever felt like you might want to make a change.

  18. It seems to me that Saudi Arabia would be a harmful environment for daughters. And sons would grow up entitled in a way that would degrade the quality of personality.

  19. Too many westerners come to "Muslim" countries thinking it's going to be oh so much better. It's not. I wish people would do more research before packing up and leaving. Canada has a lot to offer, Islamic schools (so your child won't be pressured to celebrate halloween or xmas), family (and halal) activities, a multicultural society, food that represents a multicultural society, self sufficient strong women role models (that are still alive) and temperatures that you don't fry in 10-11 months out of the year. I don't see (or understand) how raising your young impressionable children in this environment will properly teach them Islam. They will see culture put before religion here, they will see racism, sexism and how money makes people's lives worth more than people with less money, this isn't what Islam teaches. Saudi claims to be a 100% Islamic country, yet some of the things that go on are 100% unIslamic. Quite confusing for a young child if you ask me. Personally I'd rather raise my children here in Canada, let them see other cultures, other religions and give them a chance to be strong independent women in whatever they choose to do. And on top of living in Canada I plan to put them in a public school (gasp) so that I can teach them about Islam and not have to worry about someone adding their cultural opinions to the mix

  20. what an adorable little baby!!!!
    this was a very good interview...the only thing i would like the interviwee to know ..that no matter where one is raised there is always a possiability of children getting into trouble.
    i belive that no matter the relgion, race or country ....its all about the parents. our children really look up to us!

  21. Sorry I have to address a few things.

    "Exposing my children to these things would mean having to explain all of these symbols to them and thus getting into really conflicting ideologies and religions explanations"

    They are going to ask these questions sooner or later, and more than likely you will be the one they come to. If you don't teach them these things and answer their questions, they might get the wrong answers from somewhere else.

    "I want what is islamicaly best for my children and leaving all other things aside, the primary reason we are here is because it is decreed for all Muslims to live in a Muslim land if they are able to."
    Dawa is also decreed for Muslims, how can you give dawa when everyone around you is already Muslim?

    "Saudi Arabic is a young country and the "faults" we see here are really no different than those we saw in the US and Canada years ago. Were blacks not slaves, in some states until the late 60's? Were the aboriginals not oppressed by the white man? "

    saudi arabia is actually not a young country, Canada is much younger. And there is no excuse for racism in a country that claims to follow a religion that clearly states racism is WRONG.

  22. While Saudi Arabia definitely has its benefits in terms of being able to lead an Islamic way of life much more easily than a secular nation like Canada, it does seem like the only 'pro' in a sea of 'cons' if I read this interview correctly. However, such a move is definitely not taken lightly. If Canadian Ex-Pat thinks that this 'pro' outweighs all the 'cons' put together and the move will be a huge benefit for her family, then I wish her all the best :)

  23. I come from Ontario where Education (NOT post secondary) is completely free. Of course, we pay astronomical amounts in taxes so in essence it is not really free but it is certainly not something you pay extra on top of the taxes you are obligated to pay each year. As for never being Saudi, that of course we did know from the get go as there is no immigration here and one can live here for 50 years without ever being considered an actual "citizen" with full rights. I do however need to note that we do have full rights (unlike someone who is sponsored in by a Kafeel-sponsor) because my husband is an investor here and is self employed so I can own a business, buy property and am not at the mercy of a sponsor to be able to stay here.
    As for practicing any religion than of course, if you believe in it than you will practice it regardless of where you are. I believe I was a good, God fearing Muslim in Canada just as I am here. My choices in coming here were in hopes of strengthening my beliefs, beings in a completely Islamic environment and giving my children better Islamic education. Now, no place on earth is perfect and everything in life is a trial and error and when I was asked "if this was what I expected" I was honest in saying that "no, it is not". Like anywhere else, there are good things and bad things. There are many GOOD things here that are worth noting. For instance, my WHITE skin and Canadian citizenship is a benefit because my salary is probably 5 times (if not more) that of a Saudi woman for the same position. I am not saying I agree with this way of doing things but it is a fact here that you are paid based on where you are from rather than your actual qualifications. Living in Canada, my husband and I were both working and although our salaries were quite impressive, at the end of the month, with the high cost of living and high tax brackets we were in, were unable to save much. Here, the cost of living is much less and the salaries are tax free so at the end of each month, you can easily save more than 50% of what you make. That is also a benefit. So, actually being "Saudi" would not be such a beneficial thing for us and to tell the truth I do not want to be Saudi and coming here was not an intention to one day become "Saudi" but rather to live in an Islamic society. We could have chosen to live in any other number of countries like Egypt or Dubai but we chose to come here because the Kabbah is here and we wanted to be close to it. So, I did not leave Canada because I felt oppressed or because I couldn't practice my religion but rather because I wanted to be completely immersed in Islam and give my children a high quality Islamic education, which unfortunately is lacking where I was from. Did I make the right decision? Regardless of all the other challenges I face here than I have to say that "Yes, I did". I am in an Islamic society, I am 35 minutes away from the Kabbah and my children have the opportunity to go to great Islamic schools. My husband, Thanks to God is an intelligent, loving and supportive man (a real gift from God) and he is truly my better half. Together, we have overcome many obstacles and God willing will continue to overcome many more. Sometimes in life "the worst loss can be the greatest gain". I have lost my entire family l when I converted to Islam but in exchange I truly did find inner peace and happiness. I married a wonderful man and have 2 beautiful children and all thanks to God.

  24. Interesting review. The baby is gorgeous mashaallah :D

  25. Canadian Expat--thank you for clarifying further. You certainly do seem to have made the right decision for you, and to have thought it through. Reality is always different from expectations, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, sometimes just different. I hope you enjoy your visit to Canada, and are happy when you arrive "home" in Saudi. All the best.

  26. "I have lost my entire family l when I converted to Islam"

    I am sure it came as a huge shock to them and unless they are ultra prejudiced give them time to come around. Had you been a Muslim converting to another religion, without question, your Muslim family's reaction would have been the same or God forbid worse. (remember, no apostasy allowed)

    They may not understand your choice and may feel completely rejected by you because of your conversion, especially if it came as a result of meeting your husband. They may even hold him responsible. But God willing they might turn around and one day reach out to you. Try very hard to keep your mind and heart open to your family. If you don't due to the fact that you are Muslim and they are not and it is something you are choosing to do,(you rejecting them by choice due to the fact they are non Muslims) then you need to rethink that because Islam says that Allah created ALL people of different religions and cultures and there is no compulsion in Islam. He did not say you should wall yourself off from all others except Muslims. This is doubly important when considering family.Don't be worried about the effect they may have on your children religiously speaking. Kids are resilient and you, as their mother, have way more influence over them than anyone else.

    And before you think I am pompous,bossy and obnoxious...I know what I am talking about. I married a man from a completely different culture and VERY different religion...neither of us converted to the others religion and my daughter has grown up to understand that there is more than one culture in the world. She sees it living and breathing everyday in her father. She understands that her paternal Grandparents dress, talk and behave differently than her maternal grandparents and I ASSURE you that she loves both sets equally and they love her. She was raised to be open minded and generous in acceptance of both cultures. BUT my husband's parents and mine were NOT happy about the situation at first...but we were all open minded enough to remain as open as possible to each other and over time great love and affection grew on all sides despite the differences.

    I wish the same for you and your family.

  27. To lose your entire family, was that your choice or theirs? It seems very extreme, yet you are at peace with it.
    Learning about different cultures is very interesting, but difficult to understand. To each his own, as they say.

  28. Who said working alongside men is impermissible in Islam ?!

    I think you are following a strict interpretation of Islam, and I got that sense from your reason of your so-called Hijrah . Halloween is a harmless non-religious holiday and the segregation of the two genders is a cultural issue not an Islamic one.

    I think you are taking away from your children the chance to live in a diverse society in Canada where they can learn about other cultures and religions and exposing them to another one where there is only one way to do things or to be. I strongly agree with Anonymous's comment that God is not blessing one place more than the other. Whether your kids will turn out to be good muslims depend on How you'll raise them , not Where.

  29. Hi susie. A very interesting and thought provoking blog. I'll definately be back to follow your blog. Thanks for blogging.

  30. I thought this interview with a controversial Kuwaiti journalist and women rights activist might interest you


  31. Nasser-thanks I will check it out.

  32. Nasser - Thanks so much for the link to that amazing interview. She makes so much sense to me! And my son has fallen in love with her!!! I wish there were more people like her in this crazy world of ours. Thank you again!

  33. Well, it is only a minority of Muslims that think genders can't mix. And even some Saudi scholars are clarifying this point publically now,

    My children were young in the States. One of them LOVED Santa. He'd always go talk to him at the mall. Not to ask for presents- but about how we celebrate different holidays -and chat about the differences. He was only 5. He was not confused. And I must say Santa was a good sport.

    Education was always my big issue living here. I can't imagine giving up Canadian education for what is on offer here- but I wish you well. And sadly, there are drugs and alcohol in the High Schools -just like everywhere else.

    And as I've said many times. Saudi is not an Islamic society. It is a tribal patriarchal one, with a small veneer of Islam applied. And everything is interpreted through that tribal patriarchal lense.

  34. You are doing a great job I liked reading you blog and I loved keep on the good work on I don’t know if I have said it already or not but great wok tack care thank you

  35. Sandy--such a great story about your 5 year old and the obliging Santa(s). I don't think children are confused, except for the confusing messages their parents may give them--meaning the parents need to be clear and consistent; and in the magical thinking way appropriate to their age. Children are accustomed to letting things fly over their comprehension, and make their own sense out of nonsense.

  36. Hi again...sorry to bombard your commen window with these links but I really think they're worth looking at!
    this is another subtitled interview on the popular Saudi TV show 'Eda'at' with renowned Saudi intellectual and cleric Ibrahim Al-Belaihi..


  37. To Oby & Lori - Regarding the fact that CanadianEx-Pat lost her family when she converted to Islam, this was her family's choice as they are not as open or accepting as some and are very strong with their own religious beliefs.

    To Nasser - Thank you again for the amazing video - keep 'em coming! I especially like the mentality of Al-Belaihi - thanks!

    To Sandy - I think it is wrong when two people from different cultures join in marriage that one person's heritage should be totally disregarded, as is the case when many Western women marry Saudi men. I see it here a lot, even with my own husband now. It is a constant battle I have with him dismissing my roots as unimportant now that we are on his turf. Thanks for your comment.

  38. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Rfmdbae_sg

  39. Snippets from an interview with Ghada Jamshir, Bahraini women rights activist


  40. I agree that both origins need to be respected, and acknowledged.

    Publicly of course the society around one makes one of those origins more important, ie When in Rome. This is also true of anything done privately which is against the law.

    That means,imo, that it becomes more important to respect both origins no matter where one is living, and negotiate the public demands together.

    Susie, without wishing to be indiscreet, do you think that Adnan felt his culture and origin were neglected when he lived in the US, either by his own choice, the societal demands, or the way you negotiated your own marriage at that time. I have seen people who themselves gave up their origins to happily immerse themselves in another culture only to feel a mid-life backlash, or a time of revolt against their own high degree of assimilation. Others have taken different approaches at different times in their life, or in reaction to an external new societal occurrence.

  41. Nasser--great links! You might enjoy the debate on my blog on whether Muslim women should have the right to marry non-Muslim men:


    Feel free to comment and link!

    Same to all!

  42. For more on Ghada Jamshir's feisty interview on 'Edaat', you can read the full transcript here http://word.world-citizenship.org/wp-archive/458

  43. A great interview with one of Saudi's pioneering young women, the Saudi best selling author of 'Girls of Riyadh' Rajaa Al-Sanea


  44. Wow. I learned a lot in this post. Very interesting. I can't imagine not having any places to take the children to play and meet other people. It sounds like she has a great idea of starting and art group for other mothers and children.

  45. PS I am visiting from the Blog awards. Congratulations on your nomination!

  46. I am a Muslim women from a non-arab country. I live in US now. I am not restricted, I do not have (and didn't have) Hijab.
    But I think a country which treats the dark-skin people like this, is not a great place for practicing Islam !!!
    North America is a good place for Muslims. I think it is much better than KSA. There is no Islamic rule for these kind of Hijabs. It is just some traditions from Pakistan and Arab countries.
    Also I think "Fitnah" is something like calling your classmates by their country and race, like "Paki boy" !
    I am just so surprised by this interview !!

  47. Very interesting. Beautiful baby! Is that the women in the mall with the children in a "car" stroller? Frankly, I do not think I would have the courage to live in KSA. But, I think I'd love to visit.

  48. Hi Ilse - The women in the photo with the two kids in a stroller in the mall is just a stock photo I pulled from the internet.

  49. Parisa, I agree with you. I feel Islam is more compatible with democratic North America than it is with patriarchal/tribal Saudi Arabia.

    The one advantage here is that there are more Muslims and at times like Ramadan/Eid there is a real feeling of community celebration.

  50. I enjoyed reading this interview and the comments. Thank you!

  51. http://www.madawialrasheed.org/

  52. Thanks for all the links, Nasser - that last one you just sent is blocked here in KSA!

  53. Thank you for your thought provoking entry, Susie. Guess what? Your blog entry is forwarded to a mailing list for Indonesian students studying in Australia. The wonders of internet. I am an Indonesian myself. I remember my mother being treated like a maid when she was in Saudi for UMRAH. It saddens me to no end, that The so called caretakers of the Holy Cities are totally out of touch with the REAL WORLD. And if they are being brought up as spoilt brats when they are young, imagine what kind of leaders they will become. Their sense of Racism is akin to tribalism during the Times of Jahiliyah. And don't even make me start on the behaviour of Saudi tourists down here in Gold Coast, Australia. They drink alchohol and really go all out with their excesses. As a muslim working alongside my western colleagues here. Its EMBARASSING to watch.I hope they open their eyes. They are still my brothers in Islam. I fear that if they dont change, Allah will change then the hard way.

  54. Thank you for your thought provoking entry, Susie. Guess what? Your blog entry is forwarded to a mailing list for Indonesian students studying in Australia. The wonders of internet. I am an Indonesian myself. I remember my mother being treated like a maid when she was in Saudi for UMRAH. It saddens me to no end, that The so called caretakers of the Holy Cities are totally out of touch with the REAL WORLD. And if they are being brought up as spoilt brats when they are young, imagine what kind of leaders they will become. Their sense of Racism is akin to tribalism during the Times of Jahiliyah. And don't even make me start on the behaviour of Saudi tourists down here in Gold Coast, Australia. They drink alchohol and really go all out with their excesses. As a muslim working alongside my western colleagues here. Its EMBARASSING to watch.I hope they open their eyes. They are still my brothers in Islam. I fear that if they dont change, Allah will change then the hard way.

  55. "Thanks for all the links, Nasser - that last one you just sent is blocked here in KSA!"

    well in that case..




  56. I have to disagree, I'm born in Saudi i have no clue what you mean. Although i understand the racism towards south east Asians,but thats how they are treated all over the GULF not just SAUDI people see them as cheap labor regardless of how wealthy or their status. Now i don't agree with this as i find it rather ignorant and stupid. But Arabs themselves come in all colors so for you to think its just based on his color is WRONG. You might be treated better then your husband,but they also see you as an "easy woman" because you are from the west and white. I have had many friends who have gone through this, were Saudi men try picking them up, because they have this stupid idea that all western woman are the same & easy to sleep with. I went to a boarding school in Europe and am now finishing my post secondary in Canada. Thank God i'm not in Saudi, i miss the some things, i'm so glad i'm not there anymore.

  57. I lived in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years and I never experienced the level of racism that the interviewee encountered. My(then) husband is black and speaks fluent, native level arabic and I dont believe that he experienced that level of racism either. I lived in an area that was predominantly Saudis. In a building that was 100% Saudi and I never had any problems. In fact I would open my door practically every day to a gift whether it be food in Ramadaan and/or fruits baskets etc. As a black woman of Jamaican descent speaking with a British accent...I never had ANY issues. I was embraced and I embraced my Saudi neighbors and friends who cried when I had to leave!
    I say all that because I believe ones experience in Saudi is very much what you make of it. I went there and immersed myself in the culture. I learned the language. I was respectful and as a result I benefited tremendously. Maybe some of the expats would do well bearing that in mind.
    The fact that the interviewee felt that she in some way had a "pass" because she was light skinned was strange to me. Its kind of ironic to me because in the UK being of Turkish origin would place you right next to the Pakistanis in the social ladder.

  58. Hi Anon @ 9:18AM - The internet has literally changed the world and brought us all closer together. It's the greatest invention, maybe of all time!
    There are good and bad people everywhere, in every color, shape and size. The important thing is to take each person as an individual and not to lump everyone from one group all together as the same. The sad thing is that when tourists visit other countries, many of the things they do are choices. Being here, I feel that I do not have choices and that I must conform even if I don't really agree or want to. Thanks for your comment.

    Hi GypsyHeart - What I don't understand in the treatment of Asians here is - doesn't Islam teach that everyone is the same and that no one is better than anyone else? It's hard to rationalize why they act this way.

    Hi Aaishah - I think we can all agree that everyone has different experiences and that anyone coming here would come with an open mind, ready and willing to assimilate into the culture. What one finds upon arrival, however, may not be what was expected or hoped for. And let's face it - there are jerks everywhere and fortunately for you, you didn't run into any while you were here, but she and her husband have. Thanks for your comment.

  59. Parisa's seems to be the only rationale comment in rebuttal to this interview. The KSA is similar to apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow South in the US prior to the Civil Rights Act. In both cases the ruling class based its hateful prejudice on scripture and justified the violence committed against those considered inferior as a right given to them by God.

    Bombing churches and killing children, spitting on students as they enter their newly de-segregated school accompanied by the National Guard; lynching or beating to death any black man without due process, simply for whistling at a white woman; brutally violent minority rule of a predominantly black country for most of the 20th century, going so far as to side with the Nazis for the sake of racial purity: all carried out by bible-toting holy rollers who think that their values are the true way and the only way. Religious hubris.

    What I don't understand is how this educated woman rationalizes that raising her children in an environment of hateful prejudice, not to mention one that forces her to accept severe restrictions on her personal freedoms, is so much better than in the West.

    All zealots, regardless of religious affiliation are dangerous to humanity at large and those who live amongst them who do not challenge the injustices committed by the so-called righteous moralists are just as narrow minded and intolerant. To abide evil in one's community is to encourage it. Religious purity that denies basic human rights to half a country's population (yes, women are human) and treats those of other national and ethnic origins as slaves and chattel is not a holy endeavor. The total opposite, in fact. There simply is no moral justification for it.

    And once the world can figure out how to be independent from the oil underneath the deserts of the Middle East, the fanatics in that part of the world can try to eke out a living pounding salt and those who want to live free can leave and join the modern world. Insha'Allah.

  60. I thought the person's father was from Tunisia. The vast majority of Tunisians are Muslim, so unless I am missing something, shouldnt have at least 1/2 of her family been Muslim anyway?

    As to going to Saudi to find real Islam, I am married to a Saudi and she insists that she had to leave Saudi to find real Islam.

    As one Egyptian journalist once said "In the West I saw Islam everywhere and no Muslims. In the Muslim world I saw Muslims everywhere but no Islam".

    I dont think I have read anything, bar The Qur'an, that held so much truth as those words from the Egyptian.

  61. Why would you want to bring your kids up in an obviously mysoginist, racist society, where they will be influenced by their spolit brat peers, than in Canada? Is it really just because you don't want to have to explain our religions exist? Is having a single prayer count as 100,000 worth it....by the way isn't that also taking the lazy way out?

  62. i am so shocked to read this interview.

    i am of indian origin and know of people who worked at saudi arabia in good posotions of engineers and doctors! so this is so shocking for me to hear that they are considered lower class...

  63. The interviewee is quite courageous. Yet I find her values turned strangely upside down.

    She has chosen a society in which to raise her children that condescends to whole classes of people, in fact to all people in certain specifics. It deprives the mothers of all us of basic rights, and produces women who she describes as selfish, narrow minded and lazy. And she does this, for the reason that, as she said, she can wear an abaya in public without stares? And so as to not be exposed to Halloween and Christmas? Why can't one just pay no attention to Halloween and Christmas, and put up with some stares?

    She did also mention her aversion to seeing semi-nude women in public in the west. I don't like semi-nude women in public either. But having read this interview, I think I'd rather ignore that than to try to ignore how people are being treated.

  64. Susie, just read your comment. I cant speak for everyone, its the nature of things. I see people in western societies do worst things to people, based on color & religion. You wont ever see Arabs forming hate groups like they do in the west & going after people.

    As for the women who was interviewed: STOP complaining about not having free education, your in a different society of course nothing will be the same. So what Saudi's are privileged.. are you jealous? I don't understand this woman, she moved to this country only to tear it apart. I'm not saying its perfect it has its corruptions but what society doesn't? If your going to relocate only to complain about things then please no one is holding you hostage, feel free to return to your country leave Saudi and the entire GULF for that matter.

  65. Ditto to everything that Judith said. But just in a in a harsher less respectful way. I'm very sorry that I can't find one positive thing to say about this woman except that I positively hope that she STAYS there. I just feel sorry for her 'Paki' kids. I hope they don't end up too scarred living there.

  66. Nasser, if you are still reading,
    I was stunned by the youtube clip of the interview that you sent Susie. I was still thinking about it the next morning when I woke up. Thank you.

  67. The lady who was interviewed here doesn´t seem to be too smart. I´m sorry, but she really does sound rather simple-minded. She is ignorant and clearly she thinks her way of thinking or her interpretation of religion (Islam) to be superior than other cultures and religions in Canada or in the West, for speaking in such a berating way about the culture, traditions and way of life in the West. Not all youth in the west drink, smoke, do drugs or "walk around naked in the streets", as if these "half-naked" women were whores.

    And how does moving to a supposedly Islamic country make your faith stronger? Your faith comes from within you, you have to *work* for it. It doesn´t come from not having to see "half naked women" in the streets, and it clearly doesn´t come from wearing the abaya without the fear of "sticking out" of the masses. It doesn´t even come from having a muttawa order you to pray five times a day, since true faith does not come from coercion or use of force.

    You´re either a pious, "good" muslim or you´re not. No outside, societal pressure can change that.

    And so what if your child happens to learn stuff from Christianity, Christmas and other religions and cultures? Is it really that horrible to have your son subjected to other ways of thinking?

    Is your, or your son´s faith that weak that you have to keep him away from different ways of thinking?

    Your way is not the only way, and your way is not necessarily a "right" way, nor are other cultures and religions the "wrong" way.

    I would like to apologise my possible grammatical errors, I am not a native English speaker.

  68. Hi Susie,
    Thank you for a very interesting blog! Is it possible for you to conduct a follow-up interview with the Canadian lady? It would be nice to hear her impressions after more time in ksa. Thanks!