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Sunday, November 06, 2005 

More Muslims Gone Wild

An aunt and uncle of mine had their 50th wedding anniversary today. I know that's not particularly interesting to you but it did provide a chance for me to catch up with some of my more elusive relatives. In particular, another uncle of mine who has been living and working in Saudi Arabia for the last 5 years. I got to pick his brain for some first hand impressions of that part of the world.

He made several observations during the course of our conversation, the first of which was that the Western mind can never completely understand the Muslim mind. You can learn more about them and understand them better, but you can't understand them completely. This mirrors some of my other studies. It would appear that some basic premises are diametrically opposed. Sort of a black is white, up is down, love is hate, freedom is slavery, Orwellian thing.

He told me to imagine a man driving 100 mph on a narrow two-lane road with his family in the car. His children are not only not wearing a seatbelt, they are actually hanging out of the windows. As a matter of fact, nobody is wearing a seat belt because to do so would be a sin. It seems that Allah has preordained when one is going to die and nothing can change that. Wearing a seat belt would be attempting to interfere with Allah's will. Therefore, it is immoral.

The flip side of this insanity is even more insanity. If it isn't your time, then you won't die no matter what you do. My uncle told me of horrifying car rides where the driver would pass at high speed on those two-lane roads, even though there was oncoming traffic closing at high speed. The driver's attitude? The oncoming traffic will more over and let them pass through the middle if it isn't their time. If they die in a head-on collision, then it was just their time.

He also regaled us with a story of the Saudi justice system. It seems that 3 Filipino workers had decided to take a day off and go fishing, in the Gulf presumably. They chose to wade out waist deep and fish from there. Two weren't having much luck, but one was and chose to clip his string of fish to his waist. To make a long story somewhat shorter, the fellow was attacked by a shark and eaten. His horrified companions ran off to report the incident to the local authorities.

In a typical case of no good deed going unpunished, the authorities arrested them for murdering the poor guy. They were sure they had committed the murder and come up with the shark story just to cover it up. Two weeks later a fisherman catches a 14-foot shark and when they cut it open they find Filipino parts in it's stomach. The authorities were unmoved. Their theory was that the two hapless guys and murdered the 3rd guy, cut him up, and feed the pieces to the shark to get rid of the evidence. They were kept in prison for 18 months before they managed to get out.

I've read some articles that claim that Muslims have a lazy streak so I asked him about that. He wasn't as harsh on this topic, but he still had some interesting comments. He said that in his estimation a huge percentage of the population population was unemployed and on the Saudi version of the dole because they refuse to take "demeaning" work. In a nutshell, they want to start at the top. They won't take a job unless it is a professional or management position and are willing to wait until one comes up.

However, the biggest problem in his view was the educational system, or lack, thereof. Saudi parents consider education to consist of learning to read Arabic, then reading the Qu'ran until you've memorized it. He told me with genuine admiration that they have phenomenal memories, but don't deal well with change and aren't adaptable at all. I got the impression that their heads are filled with knowledge. Unfortunately, none of it very useful.

My uncle is a chemical engineer and works in the petroleum industry and told me a related story as an example. Something as simple as a painting the handwheel on a valve a different color caused one of his Saudi workers to come completely unravelled.Just thought you'd like to know.

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About me

  • I'm dostrick
  • From Texas, United States
  • The All Seeing Eye. A symbol of the Enlightenment and I like to think one day it will be a symbol of me. *** Middle-aged juvenile delinquent. *** Meyers-Briggs INTP if you follow that. *** My primary interests are in history, philosophy, languages, and literature. All the things that guarantee you'll never get a well-paying job.
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