An expatriate sounds off
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Mareeg.com-My recent column on the plight of long-term residents of the Kingdom, many born here
and grown accustomed to a Saudi way of life, prompted a reader to send me the
following response which I have edited for space:
“I would like to ask you, sir, does dressing, speaking the dialect, and acquiring
the mannerisms entitle one to the right to live in one place? Doesn’t having being
born here, having obeyed the laws, having contributed to the economy have any
importance? I ask this because in your article you gave an example of an expatriate
who lived in Saudi Arabia since his birth, walks and talks like the locals being a
prime candidate to be awarded the right to live here as a citizen.
“But an expatriate like him is just a minority among the South Asian expatriate
community. There is a sizable majority of expatriates whose origin is predominantly
from the Asian subcontinent. These expatriates were born, raised, taught in the
Kingdom and yet haven’t acquired the lingo or the habits of Saudis. I happen to be
one of them. Did I not want to speak and dress like Saudis when I was a kid? Of
course I did. But I could not because I went to an Indian school and had Indian and
Pakistani friends. The stores in Saudi Arabia had Indians manning them (still do).
The cafes had expatriates in them (still do). The mechanics were expatriates (still
“My dad came to Saudi Arabia in 1975 and the day he landed he knew then as I know
now (and am sure my children too will know) that no matter how long you live here,
you will never become a citizen of Saudi Arabia. He knew that one day he would have
to return to India and that would be the fate of his children too. We make decisions
based on the options that are available in the present while keeping an eye on the
future. So if there was an Indian school here where his children could study and be
at par with education in India, the place where his children would eventually have
to go to attend university, there wasn’t any second thought given as to where he was
going to have us kids study. Now what I would like to know: Who’s to blame? Us for
not adopting the language, clothes and habits of the generations of Saudis who lived
here or Saudi Arabia for instilling in our parents’ mind and now in ours that we
will never be accepted as a Saudi? What would you do if you had been in my dad’s
“Every day I read in the newspapers articles spewing hatred with unrestrained venom.
Illegals/Expats: A threat to national security’’, ‘’Expatriate remittances costing
Kingdom billions’’, ‘’Expatriates taking jobs away from Saudi workforce” are just
some of the many popular lines that I find in the print media that make expatriates
look like a disease when you know that this an absolute falsehood. How are we a
threat to national security when we aren’t even recognized as one of Saudi’s own?
“Are we enlisted in the army? Government positions? Do we have access to weapons?
Saudi Arabia sure isn’t the USA where you can walk into a Wal-Mart and buy guns.
What a joke! The only reason expatriates remit money home is because many aren’t
allowed to bring their wives and kids here and can’t invest in Saudi Arabia (at
least not the millions required as per SAGIA given the salaries that Asian expats
earn). All the talk of expatriates taking over jobs that should belong to Saudis; I
ask this: Who brings the expats here and why?
“It’s because they offer specialized services. And they offer them cheap. When
Saudis talk about the ‘expatriate’ problem and how to correct it, little do they
realize the mess they have got themselves in? One can’t have everything, i.e. dirt
cheap services from expats and citizens employed on salaries 10 times higher doing
very little or nothing important. Little do Saudis realize that the laws of
economics dictate an equal wage rate among the workforce. This does not vary
regardless of citizen or expat. I know this having worked in England for four years.
This encourages competition and hard work among the workforce. This is true in all
of Europe and North America. Any wonder why these nations are so advanced despite
them having little oil.
“Is the sweat of an expat different from a Saudi’s? Is the blood of an expat blue
and a Saudi’s red? If there had been an equal wage rate implemented right from the
1970s or even later on, say the 80s, this crisis of inflation at the moment would
have been a non-factor.
“The West has embraced multiculturalism. Because of the West adopting immigrants,
look at the immigrants’ contribution to the economies there. Immigrants have always
had a positive impact. As long as cultural practice falls within the guidelines of
Islam, these are acceptable. Why then, don’t the Saudis or the GCC countries adopt
“I will not say that the West is without its problems. Sure there is opposition to
immigration. And yes there is racism. But these problems arise as a result of the
man-made rules they have come up with. We Muslims have the ‘Al-Furqan’ as our guide.
Then why are other nationalities treated differently? Siddiq.”
I can only respond to Siddiq by assuring him that his arguments are not irrational.
His call that lawful long-term residents be adopted among us merits serious
— The author can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena