Strangers in Their Own Homeland
Namir Alireza, Arab News Staff
JEDDAH, 2 May 2003-Many young Saudis who were being educated in the United States were forced to return to the Kingdom as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, in which 15 of the 19 suicide-hijackers were Saudi.
In a series of candid interviews with Arab News, a number of them talked about how they feel about being back in their homeland, and what sort of impact they hoped to make on their society.
Sultan Al-Angari is in his early 20s and studying at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Jeddah. He wants to return to the US, hoping to continue where he left off in his education after the interruption of Sept. 11. He has to study one more year at the University of San Francisco before he gets his BA in Business Studies.
He said his main reason for wanting to return, despite the difficult circumstances, is that the level of education is far better in the United States.
"It would be a waste not to finish my course, especially since I have only one year left before I graduate," he explained.
However, he said he plans to return to Saudi Arabia as soon as he qualifies.
"I am against the idea of living away from your own country," he told Arab News.
Sultan's description of the American people as a whole was positive, especially when it came to life on the West Coast.
"Not once have I been mistreated or racially harassed or abused in any way," he recalled. "They were very kind and accepting toward me. If the equivalent of what happened in New York on Sept. 11 had happened here, I don't believe that our people would have shown the same self-restraint and patience toward the Western expatriates living here that the American people have shown toward the Arabs and Muslims living there."
One young man, who wanted to be called Yousuf, complained of an inability to relate to Saudi people.
"Here, it's not what you know, it's who you know," he said. "People have no respect for creativity, no respect for original thought."
Yousuf studied in the US for years and was hoping to gain some work experience there before returning to Saudi Arabia and working for his family. All that changed after Sept. 11.
"Everything here is segregated-men from women, rich from poor, and foreigners from locals. This is a land of segregation. The majority of people try to justify this, but I feel that we should focus on integration, not segregation."
Yousuf said there was a contradiction in the behavior of many Saudis. "When people are outside the country, they go wild. When they are inside, they go to the other extreme."
"I am very angry at my people," he added. "They have this terrible habit of blaming the world for their own faults."
Another young Saudi who was also studying in the US before the Sept. 11 attacks, and who would only give his name as Faisal, added a note of caution.
"Let's not forget that the young Saudis who came back were forced to come back," he said. "Most of them are in a state of culture shock. These students who go and study abroad don't have a welcome sign waiting for them when they return."
I copied the entire article, felt it was very interesting.
How these Arab students felt after returning to their homeland.