This I Believe

Rabaa - Egypt
Entered on February 9, 2008

As Arabs, we are subjected to many stereotypes and prejudges. However “I” as a special case, have been subjected to these prejudges at a much higher rate. The reason behind such matter is a number of factors that has nothing to do with “Rabaa” the person; however they all rotate about cultural and ethnic issues. Being a Saudi female has shaped the way others perceive me. My trip to the American Embassy to obtain a visit visa has shown me how others assume a Saudi female would look like. As I was being welcomed and interviewed 2 times, three common questions were being persistently asked: “You are Saudi, why are not you veiled?” and “Saudi females usually get married by the age of 15, how come you are still single?” Being a Saudi female does not mean that I have to be veiled, ignorant or married at an early age. It cannot be denied that many Saudi women are still struggling against such abuse; but a rising percentage especially of the new generation are perusing their education and expanding their careers. None of the Embassy’s interviewees believed that I turned down marriage proposals; they assumed that I have not been receiving ones at the first place. To top these assumptions even more, I happen to be half Iranian and born in Tehran. The first question I was asked in the interview was not who I was or why I wanted that visa; however the question was “You were born in Tehran, Iran, ha?” It sounded like an accusation or a blame that I had to justify and defend against. To be quite honest, as much as I got offended, I do not blame the Embassy staff for making whatever assumptions. The uneven flow of media has created such stereotypes about the Arabs. Personally I believe that when citizens are afraid, they look for answers; hence they turn to the media which enjoys great power in influencing people. This perfectly illustrates the reality. After 9/11, people turned to the media as a credible satisfactory source of information where images of Arabs were negatively portrayed. In fact, depressing images of Arabs on camels, in tents and women walking great miles behind men has been portrayed since many decades. As I try to put myself in the Western citizens’ shoes, I tend to think the same. A half Saudi and half Iranian female would have certain characteristics that the media has shaped. I would think of a fanatic, undeveloped, close minded, and second class citizen. Though time is needed to change such perception, the “new” real Saudis can try to change such thing by direct contact. This I believe is the best solution for us to overcome the miscommunication.