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When in Rome...Do as Romans Do

Nabawi by the windowAs a moslem (though not a good one yet), being in Saudi Arabia offers great advantages. My family is close to the Two Holy Cities and we can travel there anytime we want to. We also feel secure while consuming food and beverages as I've written before here. Also important is that unlike in Holland, we can easily find places to sholat, even when we are shopping.

But few things are not suited to my mind which I think is quite un-Islamic. Therefore, when I was first got here, I realized then why all God's religions were descended to this region. There are still some remains of the Jahiliyiah old time. From first hand experience, these are my notes.

Discipline and order are two of the things that I know being taught from doing sholat, whether it is alone or together. But here, the word "QUEUE" seems to not existed. When you wait in line to do anything (pay in cashier, buy fastfood, in hospital reception, etc.), you will get push aside by both men and women. Sometimes not in a very polite manner. They just shrug in ignoring me who's already waiting for minutes. Another disciplinary issue is the way these people behave on the road. They drive like crazy (which were corrected by my hubby colleague - should have been without like). We were quite shocked at the beginning with the way people drive. It's like Kamikaze driving. Have you seen how Metromini drivers behave on the street of Jakarta? Imagine 90% of the cars here drive like that...

People are sometime harsh and impatient to others, even in Masjidil Haram. Hard headedness are quite common. That's why I keep hearing that when the Hajj season comes, Indonesian pilgrims are loved by the authorities because they are so manageable compared to from other Arab countries. And therefore, the lines for pilgrims from Indonesia/Malaysia are separated from those of Arab countries.

Time management, what time management? If you think Indonesia is worse in this department, think again! Indonesians usually are fashionably late to appointments for 1-2 hours. Here they can be 1-2 days. For instance, when we were first arrived here, we had to buy lots of things and made them delivered. They could arrive either 3 hours late or the next day. So, we had to wait in oblivion and couldn't do anything but wait because they didn't give us the exact time though we've asked. Most of the new westerners (such as a colleague of my hubby) also complain much about this. Duh, I thought we were taught at least with AL ASHRI (a Surah in Quran teaching about time and redemption).

The most aggravating thing for me is the freedom for women. Continuing my previous post about the abaya, not only it's a form of torture (wearing black in the harsh sunlight), it's also a form of withdrawing diversity. If the Arab women would like to wear them, just wear them but let us foreigner be different (hehehe being a rebellious soul myself). I also feel that my independence here is being taken. After for years being able to go out and about without fear and dependency to other people, being here and face the situation stresses me out. An old lady who already used to live here said that it's a form of love and care, because the wife should be accompanied by her husband all the time. Ehem! That's not my idea of love. For me, marriage should be about interdependency not one individual depending on another fully. And if that's a form of love, how shallow love is. (Of course, at that time I just smiled in disagreement). Women also not allowed to drive here, but I think it's okay considering that the road is very testosteron driven.

Freedom to think is also quite limited here. Books are first supposed to go through a stringent censoring process. Also the internet as I've posted before here are monitored. Gee, I wonder when will I get my Harry Potter's Deathly Hollows.

From second hand experience, I've heard lots of abuse of human rights, especially to the less fortunate such as Indonesian housemaid. Not only that I've read it but also heard it from my own maid who told the sad stories of her friends. That's not Islam at all.

Why is this happening? The western world thinks that Islam is Arab. SO WRONG! Islam is in Arab because it needs fixing. I've read an article the other day about education in public school here and then some things became clear to me. This one I quote from the Arab News 13 July 07 article:
Islamic Studies: If indeed it was being taught the correct way, then we would not hear of many cases of abuse against the less fortunate. The frequency of false promises to deliver or the tendency to reject any culture or individual that does not fall into their sphere is more the norm. This is not what Islam is all about. Something has to change.
To read the full article click here.

Lastly, this is my disclaimer. All I've written above is out of my disappointment about somethings here that according to my principals are not right. Many people are actually enjoy living here (like the old lady above), some don't (like me and some of my hubby's colleague). And as I said, my knowledge of Islam is so shallow that I only tried at least to do the basic obligations, and that are the things that I can compare to the situation described above.

But hey... At least, we're closed to Mekkah and Madinah, and Allah has given us some prosperity here. There are always two sides of a coin.


  1. Hi Vic, bener banget tuh yg urusan telat. Temen gue orang Malaysia yg lama berhub dg komunitas Arab bilang kalo buat undangan bukannya dimajuin 1 jam lagi, tapi 2-3 jam hahaha... But most of all, gue nggak abis pikir dg sifat abuse-nya itu, kok tega ya???


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