Tag Archives: Arab

Comrade Nadia

Part I – Why Russia was never the enemy but the USA is?
Part II – From Russia with Love
Part III – Moscow and Um Khalid’s dream

Part IV – Comrade Nadia

Many changes had happened in Khalid’s life since He came to Moscow. Couple of years had passed since the last time Khalid’s forehead touched his prayer rug. His mother made sure not to forget to place the most important item in his suitcase. As much as it was important to see her son succeed in life, it was not easy for her sending him off to a country far away. She believes God never forget his slaves especially the good ones. Her only request to Khalid before he left was not to forget his prayer.  When packing his suitcase, she placed the prayer rug on top of his other stuffs. She thought placing her son’s undergarments and shoes on top of the rug would be inappropriate.

In his first year in Moscow, Khalid used to place the rug either on his bed if he is not sleeping or on his study chair if he is not sitting on it. Somewhere he can easily spot when he wants to pray one of his five daily prayers.

After three years in Moscow, it was not just the absent of the prayer rug that you will notice if you enter his tiny one bedroom apartment. His Jordanian friend, Ahmad, was no longer his roommate. There were few pictures of him and Nadia placed on the vanity mirror and on the nightstand near his bed. They both looked so happy in these pictures. You can see different places on these pictures all taken on different occasions. There is one during his 19th birthday. Nadia is kissing him on the cheek and he is having a blast among his other friends. On another one, she is on his lap in front of a lake.

Where is Khalid’s prayer rug?

Khalid like the majority of Jordanians came from a conservative Muslim family. He would never throw away his prayer rug. He thought since two sins were committed regularly in his apartment, drinking alcohol and fornication, it would be better to keep the prayer rug in his suitcase. The one he brought with him from Jordan.

Nadia was Khalid’s age. They meet at a friend’s house. Nadia and Khalid found in each other something missing in them. He treats her like a princess and she gives him romance. It was not just her beauty or their love that lured Khalid away from his culture and religion.

Khalid transformed from a Hamel (astray or tramp), as his father used to call him, to a Comrade. A title that made all the difference in his life and had huge effect on him.

So, how did this transformation happen?

To be continued …

From Russia with Love?

Part I – Why Russia was never the enemy but the USA is?

Part II – From Russia with Love

During the 50s, most or maybe all Arab countries became independent. Arab governments wanted to build their countries so they started sponsoring their best students to study abroad. North African countries sent their talented students, even Muslim scholars, to France and the Levant countries sent theirs to Russia. For this reason, there are plethora of French and Russian literature translated into Arabic.

In Jordan for example, we read a few of Maxim Gorky’s novels while in high school. At that time, I could even name few prominent Russian novelists. If that was not enough, I actually read few of their short stories that were outside of the school curriculum. Unlike English literature, were sisters living in big nice houses in the countryside tricking charming men for marriage, Russian literature felt more realistic to Arabs. Russians lived a harsh life. Russian writers describe a life full of misery and disappointment. Their stories do not end with the protagonists getting married or achieving their goal. You can hardly find an educated Arab who has not read Russian short stories or novels. We got used to the tragedy in their novels.

This type of literature found a new reader based in the Arab land and supported by The Arab Nationalist Movement. Arab nationalists became heroes. Until this time, there are group of Arabs who call themselves Nasseri (i.e., a follower of the ideology of the former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.) Nasser was in office between 1950 to 1970. He was for many Arabs a hero who was a socialist and anti-imperialist.

Egypt was not alone in its Nasserisim against imperialism and pro-socialism. Iraq and Syria adapted an Arab nationalist socialist movement called Al-Ba’ath party. This party was in full throttle supporting The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO.)

These movements were very popular among Arabs. It was time for Arabs to stand up for themselves after being silenced by the European colonization and the Turks before that. The mood then was the unity of Arabs against the imperialism. However, why it was the USA only that was and still been hated more than any Western Country?

Enter Israel.

To be continued …

Why Russia was never the enemy but the USA is?

Some young Arab men discovered that they did not have to believe in God to go or see heaven. They found it on earth without any effort from their side. It was right in front of their eyes. They actually lived in it. Maybe, it would be a better description if we said they lived it; they lived the heaven life. No hot dusty desert but cold and beautiful green sceneries. There, they saw breathtaking women they have never seen anything like them. Women who were very similar to how some Imams described during Jumu’ah (Friday) prayer. Gorgeous women with milky and pearls-like skin. However, it would have not been heaven if they could not touch these angelic women. In this place so called heaven, touching these women was not an issue. In the promised heaven, a man can have more than one woman. In this new discovered land, these young Arab men satisfied their fantasies. The more women they wanted the more they got.

The paragraph above is not an introduction to a short story but a period of time some young Arab men experienced. Between some times in 1950 to 1990, this newfound land although felt like being in heaven was actually known as The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Also known as Russia.

So, beside the breathtaking women what else happened in Russia?

Everything exciting happened.

to be continued…

Who is supposed to give the Dowry?

One of my lab mates is going back to his country in Africa to get married. Me and him are the only non Americans in the group. Our all male group members were shocked to know that the dowry system works different than in the USA. I always thought that the dowry is paid by the groom (or the groom’s parents) to the bride (or the bride’s parents) except in India.

One of the Americans noted that giving money to the bride’s parents is like selling your daughter. According to my American friends the bride’s parents should pay for the wedding.

It is a very interesting subject that I was hoping to learn more about from the Americans. I want to know what is their perspective about the dowry system and why they believe that the bride should pay the groom not the other way. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish our discussion so hopefully I can hear your perspective about the subject.

Who should give the dowry? And why you think he/she should do that not the other way around?

Is there a contract between American Christians between the bride and the groom like Muslims do? In Islam, the contract should specify what the bride is offering and the responsibilities of both sides. In addition, it includes the amount of Nafaqa in case a divorce happens.

I wish also to hear what Christians in the Middle East do. Who give the dowry?

Trust and Customer Service in America

Unlike America, trades in the Middle East do not involve fine prints chosen carefully by a group of lawyers. In the Middles East, a transaction between a merchant and a customer is so simple. Shops have only one policy. The shop’s policy is written in a large print and hanged up inside the shop in a place the customer can see it as soon as he enters the shop. Many business owners hang it up behind the cashier.

If you saw an American tourist at an Arab shop, especially a boutique, pulling her hair out you should know it is because she can read Arabic and that she read the large printed sign.

The one simple policy is “Goods sold will not be replaced or returned.” Meaning, once you paid for an item you can’t have a second thought. You should be 100% sure that the dress fits you perfectly and you like the color and everything else about the dress. This is customer service in the Middle East in a nutshell. Very simple and clear!

In the US, customer service has a whole different meaning. Its entire economic success is due to almost a perfect customer service. Unfortunately, customer service here is deteriorating due to outsourcing and to foreigners exploiting this new culture of customer service experience.

Many big companies, moved their customer service to India. One major problem is the language. Many of the reps answering the phones overseas don’t have good communication and English language skills. A friend who worked as a customer service rep in India, before coming to the States, told me that his American company employer had daily screening of the American sitcom Friends.  The company wanted their customer service reps to practice English and also learn about the American culture as well and they were forced to speak English only as long as they are inside the building.

Two days ago I was on the phone with a customer service rep. The young guy on the other side of the world wasn’t from India but from some other Asian country. His English was so bad and I am very good at interpreting broken English. I am very sure if an American made that call he would have never stayed on the phone beyond the first sentence. The culprit company is Simple Mobile. Unfortunately, they decided to move their customer service to even a cheaper place than India.

The other reason customer service is not as good as it used to be is because foreigners from South America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe countries, are not used to such customer service luxury. Sadly, some of these people made an unlawful profit, or exploited or misused this great service. Here is how:

  • Stealing: Someone would enter Walmart pick up a TV go to customer service and tell them he wants to return it back. Yes, back then you can even return an expensive item without a receipt.
  • Exploitation: Someone moves to a new house and finds out he needs to use a drill to hang up some frames. He goes to Walmart buys  one and returns it back once done.
  • Misuse: We have an Arab proverb that says “If your lover is made out of honey, don’t lick it all.” Meaning, if someone is very kind to you, don’t take advantage of the situation. Some people think because they can return goods they should do it all the time.

I am not saying that only foreigners do this but they take advantage of it more than locals who worked very hard to establish this amazing customer service. Because of the above three examples, customer service is not as used to be in the US and also is different from one city to another. I heard that in big cities like Houston for example their customer service and returning goods is not as easy and good as here in Columbia, MO.

In general, there is no difficulty in returning purchased items here. In some cases, you can even return goods without having a receipt.

Now, here is a story that will blow your mind, if you are an Arab. It happened to me and it definitely was quite an experience:

One week after returning from Walmart, I found out that I was missing a couple of things I bought.  I think I have forgotten to put one of the plastic bags in the shopping cart after being registered by the cashier. I know exactly what I had in the bag because that day I only bought few items including two duct tapes I went especially to buy.

Anyway, about a week after this purchase I decided I want to use the duct tapes so I went to Walmart to buy new ones. When I entered Walmart I thought maybe first I can ask the customer service to check if they have my bag by any chance. Here is our conversation:

The customer service lady, lets call her Kim: How may I help you?
Me: Hi, I was here about a week ago and it seems that I forgot to pick up one of the bags at the cashier. Is it possible that you may have it?
Kim: Do you remember when was that?
Me: Not very sure. More than a week ago.
Kim: Do you know what is in the bag? [Meanwhile, she opened a huge notebook]
Me: Two duct tapes, hand lotion, … [I mentioned few other small items that I forgot now what they were]
Kim [looking into the notebook and turning over pages]: mmm… I am afraid I can’t find it.
[I didn’t know Walmart keeps a record of uncollected bags.]
Me [preparing to leave while smiling]: Okay, no problem. I just thought to give it a try.
Kim: Tell you what go get these items and I will bag them for you.
Me: Oh, are you  sure? I don’t have the receipt!
Kim:  That is fine!

I went to get the same stuffs I bought thinking what made her “trust” me that I am not going to throw a couple more things in the basket or buy the more expensive brand instead of the more affordable ones I usually buy. I was happy I asked but was more moved by such great customer service which after all depends mainly on an important human trait called trust.

Later, during pondering of this experience I remembered what the Egyptian Muslim Scholar Muhammad Abduh said more than 100 years ago when he visited France and England, “I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam.”

Sadly, at some period of time -not sure when- something happened that changed Muslims. I am struggling to understand the reason behind this change. I don’t know how many authentic Hadiths are there but there are as many, more or less, Hadiths about Muslim’s relationship with Allah as there are about his relationship with others. Sometime ago, Muslims abandoned the quite many and sufficient Hadiths about ethics, manners, morality, behavior and what not and concentrated more on Muslims’ relationship with Allah.

The same Muslims who know by heart the virtues of fasting on the day of Arafa (Islamic holy day) are the same who speak ill of others. Our relationship with each other is as important as our relationship with Allah. This dual relationship between a slave and his Master and between a slave  and another is one entity.

Here is a recent TED talk about the importance of trust in successful businesses: