Are you really that racist?

November 6, 2009 at 8:24 pm (arranged marriage, Ethics, Just a thought ..., Opinion, Qatari culture, Society)

A question crossed my mind few weeks ago, while I was chatting with my sister. She was telling my a story about one of her friends. I don’t know why I decided to write about this now, but I just want to get your opinion.  The issue might be sensitive, and might bother some, but it is real and exists in our society. It is actually two main issues. Here is the story, and after reading it, you can understand which issue I am referring to. I won’t make any comments, I will just tell you the story.

Sarah is a beautiful young Qatari woman; she is an engineer and is very successful at work. She comes from a very good family, moderately rich, educated and open minded. She lives her life to the full, but she has a secret that was tormenting her for the past few months. A new guy came to work at her department and she fell in love with him. She was observing how he behaved with his colleagues, how he spoke, how he took good care of his image and health. How rare, she thought, he is so different.  Sarah is very confident, yet shy. She never dared to approach him, or show her feelings. However, with time, she noticed that he was noticing her too. Her heart would flutter like a bird whenever he spoke to her. The thing is, Sarah did not know that Ahmed, the one who she is in love with, is also in love with her. He had butterflies in his stomach every time he sees her or smells her perfume. Sarah wants to marry and settle and so does Ahmed. And finally, the day came when Ahmed told her that he would like to come and propose to her. Of course, Sarah did not show that she was about to faint as she heard him utter these words. She just said that she will think about it, and that he should speak to her family if he was serious.

Sarah flew home, everything was light, everyone seemed nice, even the heat of Doha seemed so easy to handle. How would she tell her father though? She can’t tell him that the guy spoke to her directly, so she decided to say that a friend of hers tld her about him. So, she sat both her parents in the living room and told them the good news. “My friend called me today and said that there is a man , works in our company, is interested and wants to propose to me. He saw me several times and asked about me”. Her parents couldn’t be happier; they asked her “really? That is good news, what is his name?”. “Ahmed al-****” answered Sarah. Her parents suddenly were dead silent. Sarah did not like this reaction. She looked at them as they were looking at each other looking surprised,  and asked “What is wrong?”. Her dad said “he is not suitable for us”. Sarah was confused, us? “Why isn’t he suitable, you did not even know what his job is, whether he was educated or not, rich or not”. Her dad said firmly, “his name is enough, he is not from a family that we would consider for affinity”.  Sarah then realized the reality she lived in, how discriminatory her society is, even against each other. Her mother said “They have Persian blood mixed in them, they are not pure Arab”. Sarah felt furious, she said irritated “That was hundreds of years ago, aren’t they Arab who went to Persia and came back? Didn’t they live here for a long time, didn’t they grow up here, worked and ate on this land, what makes them so different or not suitable for marriage, and what are we, created from a different material? Aren’t we all Muslims? What does this matter? I thought that you would ask about his morals, his reputation, his education, not how many races he has in his blood?” . Her dad said “well my dear, society doesn’t work this way, what would we tell people?”. Sarah got up at this point and said firmly “society are not going to live my life, it’s me who is going to live it”. As she was leaving the room, her dad said “ok, let’s ask about him, he might be a good man”. Sarah said “what is the point, you rejected him before you even know anything about him, how prejudice”, she then said “it’s funny how everyone interfere in this decision, how everyone must give his blessings and approval for my marriage, while it’s me, only me and the person I will marry who will be in this marriage, who will live this life together”.

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White girl or brown girl, which one you like for your son?

August 27, 2009 at 12:46 am (arranged marriage, Diary, Everyday life situations, gender discrimination, Human Rights, Qatari culture, Society, women)

Few months ago an incident happened that made me think of a lot of things. Things that I have repressed because every time they come back to surface they make me boil. Few months ago my mom told me that there is a family who is interested in me and my sister and want to ask one of us her hand in marriage for their son.

–         Last year when you went to the desert camp with your sister, there was a woman who saw both of you and asked about you.

–         Were you speaking to aunty Dalal?

–         Yes

–         Are you serious? I do not want anything from her side

–         No she has nothing to do with this

–         And they saw us at the desert camp! (I said that in a sarcastic tone)

–         They don’t live in that area at all they were just visiting your grandmother. Don’t worry they are modern people

–         Ok

–         Yes they saw you and you sister and they said that they want either the white one or brown one for their son!

–         Seriously! What are we sheep, white one or brown one!

–         They do not know your names so that’s how they described you.

–         I wont take anyone who didn’t study abroad

–         He is studying in London now

–         Now? What is he? A kid or someone who failed?

–         I do not know, he might be taking a course because he works in RasGaz.

–         I do not know whatever

–         Ok we will ask about him and see

–         Yeah whatever

I tried to be easy on my mom because I know how important this issue is for her. Few weeks have gone by and I thought that they forgot about it. But, my mom called me once when I was going out shopping with my friend Aysha, ironically, shopping for her wedding!

–         Those people called her and want to visit us this weekend.

–         They want to come check on the merchandise?

–         No, they said they want to visit, what am I supposed to tell them no

–         Ok

–         So I want to know if your going to be free this weekend

–         No I am always busy. I already have plans

–         All days

–         Maybe Saturday night. But mom, this is so weird I feel like a sheep or an object being auctioned. And I am not going unless my sister will be there

–         Yes of course that is why I wanted to check with both of you

I tried to be as normal as possible with her. It was so obvious that she was excited and happy, I didn’t want to take this moment away from her. Later she texted me saying that they will come on Sunday. I texted back saying that I have a French lesson so I am going to be late. I was picturing different scenarios in my head, I was thinking too much until I got a headache. I had to let it out, I needed to speak with someone. So I shared my thoughts with my friend Aysha who was shopping with me.

–         Aysha, I feel like I am going crazy here. I cant bare the thought that I might end up with someone I don’t know.

–         Now you know how I felt before getting engaged to someone I didn’t want.

–         Don’t you love your husband

–         I do, we get a long very well. But it is still hard

–         I feel like I am going to cry.

and I really felt like that, because by looking at Aysha I felt like I was looking at myself in the future. Then we both were quiet, each one of us was gone to another world with her thoughts. Aysha probably remembering the past, and I picturing the future. I was her past and she might be my future. Then we changed the mood and laughed about it.

–         I really think this way of getting married is weird, I feel disgusted by it. I really do feel like a sheep you know

–         Why do you think its weird, it is normal here this is the way it has always been.

–         I know, but the fact that they came to pick either me or my sister is disrespectful. As if we have nothing to do but to wait for their son’s choice. Anyways, I am sure they wont like me. I do not even             have to try hard, I can just be myself hahaha

–         Hahahaha yeah you can do that.

–         But you know what bothers me the most.

–         What?

–         We have to go through so many things just because we are girls. Life is very unfair for us simply because of our gender. And what I really do not understand is that women accept this injustice,                 embrace it as part of their belief and pass it on to their children. Why would they do this to themselves? Why don’t they break the cycle?

–         But when your parents say no to something is because they are under pressure from the society.

–         I know and I understand that, I am not questioning my parents, I am questioning the pressure itself, the society.

–         But you did study abroad and you can go out

–         Yes, but it came after tremendous effort! I had to fight, I got those things after being emotionally and psychologically exhausted. Why? Everything is just given to boys!

–         You know parents would say that boys can take care of themselves

–         You know just like I do that this is not true, we took better care of ourselves than boys ever did. The only difference is that they have more muscles. This is what it is  all about, physical power

–         Yes, and because they have this advantage they can take care of themselves. That does not change the fact that everything is given for guys without even asking.

–         I have been mad about that since yesterday, LOL I just wanted to share my thoughts with you.

Then I called my sister, we laughed about the issue and exchanged our thoughts. We totally agree with each other. Then she told me the story of her friends Manal. Manal is a computer engineer like my sister. Her dream was to work in QP. After graduation she got engaged and was very happy about it. My sister expected to see her in QP but months has passed and Manal didn’t show up. Then she met her once at the Ritz Carlton. Manal told her that the reason she didn’t show up is because her husband doesn’t want her to work in QP with men. She is an engineer for God’s sake! What does he expect! My sister was surprised that she agreed to his demands. Now she is staying at home doing nothing. She even applied to the central bank and he refused even though the office she was going to work in was female only except for their boss. I thought “he is sick”. No one thinks like that unless they were really mentally sick and dirty, doesn’t he trust his wife?  and why does he treat her like a property? Then my sister shocked me when she said “he is keeping her hanging while he is studying abroad having all the fund and freedom, he wants her to wait until  he finishes to decide in her matter”. What a pathetic thing to say; to decide on her matter!

As if she is not mentally capable of deciding on her life. No one is protesting about this non-sense, not even the girl. My sister told her “you signed a contract with QP, they have paid for your studies for 5 years, you cant just leave like that”. Manal said “my husband said he will deal with them”. My sister said “when they take you to court, its your name and your matter not his”.Manal told her later on that she is actually heart broken for being controlled and treated that way, and not happy with him, she doesn’t know what to do. And this is their engagement period, they didn’t actually live together yet!

The day came and the guy’s sister and mother came to our house. I don’t know anything about his except that he works in Ras Gaz! My sister and I sat next to each other. We were quiet the whole time. Luckily my auntie and grandmother were there to keep them entertained. The older sister asked my sister “so, where do you work”. My sister said “QP”, the lady looked like she chocked on her tea. She asked me then “where do you work?”. I told her, and she was happy that it was not a mixed gender place. Then she asked “oh really, this is good. How long have you been working there?”. I said “I started right after graduation from UK so about 2 years”. She said “aha”. And that was it. Apparently they didn’t want  girls who are “too exposed”.

My sister and I were very upset when they left. We told our parents that we don’t want to be put in such situation again where someone come to pick either me or her. They should have decided already on that before they come. At least those people did not ask that we must wear niqab, leave work and stop driving cars like others have before we even agree to marry one of their sons !!!

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