Monday, May 4, 2009

Step Back....Im on a Rant!!!

Yesterday I was standing talking with my friend when some ladies came up to her and offered her their salams and chatted for about 5 minutes before departing. During that 5 minutes they did not acknowledge me standing there...barely threw a glance in my direction. Its not the first time this has happened to on.

You know, dear readers, in my 23 plus years living here in the gulf Ive witnessed and been effected by many an Arab/Muslim tradition/culture/Islamic experience that has left me either happy, unmoved, or totally pissed off and wanting to vent like crazy. Ive been in arguments, debates, lost friends, gained new ones, learned much and wish to learn more...all in the quest to gain more knowledge about these people and their culture...and this religion. (not always two distinct entities mind you).

This particular post is just going to touch on one area in which an issue has been festering much too long. Ive tolerated this for 23 years and I dare say Ive damn near had it. Basic manners people...thats all it takes...basic manners.

Manners are taught to us from the time we are old enough to learn to say please and thank you. Manners are instilled in us so that we can learn to be sociable creatures that can get along in this jungle we call civilization. Most cultures out there, Im assuming, take great stock in manners...we pride ourselves in presenting a well mannered persona to those we know...and even those we dont know but may come into contact with for just a few minutes. Those few minutes can make the difference between leaving that "stranger" with good thoughts about you, your culture, your religion, your parents, your character....whatever...people pretty much make a snap judgement about you in just a few seconds/minutes of being in your make it count (if it matters to you).

My rant right now is about saying hello...or in this instance...saying salam or salam aleikum when you are faced with another person. We are taught at a very young age that when you approach someone to engage in conversation...or even just passing but want to acknowledge call out "hello" or "salam aleikum". Muslim/Arabs are particularly sensitive about this issue...Greeting family, friends and strangers alike with proper salams is something you learn from the cradle. If you leave the house for an hour and come back...salams are given. If your walking from your house to the car and you see your neighbor, salams are called out. If your standing in the store aisle waiting your turn to check out and you see someone you know...salams are shared...even if the person in front of you is a stranger and happens to look at you, possibly to get your attention that the cart needs moving ...whatever, a quick salam is given and then the problem stated. If you enter a room full of people and neglect to say salam...or in some cases...go from one person to another extending personal salams to each might be considered rude...and it will be remembered.

In other words...proper greetings are given a lot of seriousness and thought in this country/culture/religion. Hadith from the Prophet mention time and again to return salams with similar or even better ones...not to mention just minding our manners and showing respect etc. The Quran is full of information on how to act with proper manners etc...its not like Muslims dont they?

So I seriously dont understand my fellow Muslim sisters (Im speaking directly to sisters here as I dont generally have a problem with men in this regard)...why is it you find it so hard to not only acknowledge my presence when Im standing right in front of you...but even if you do SEE me you quite often dont bother yourselves to extend salams to me?

Now, my friend gives me every excuse in the book as to why these Muslims are being so rude to me...many of them are her friends...sometimes her family...she doesnt want them to look bad in my eyes...but this has been happening to me for 23 years...20 of those while wearing I dont understand what excuse there is. Muslims give Muslims salams...simple. Muslims should, in the very least, convey a smile or similar welcoming greeting to a person standing right in front of them...even if the arent Muslim...its called courtesy...manners.

She will tell me that they are shy cause they dont know English...well...hmmm? Last I heard salam aleikum was Arabic not English. Im not asking them to discuss the origins of life with me...just a simple salam to acknowledge they actually see me. I might even accept a simple smile to at least break tension...but no..nothing.
Now let me remind you dear readers that this is not a one or two times thing...this has been happening for over 20 years.
Ive been sitting with women at a table and other women will come....give salams...and not even eye contact with me...I will be in a room full of women...someone enters...extends salams...goes around the room for personal greetings...but for me...nothing. Its happened so many times that I cant assume its nothing but personal...but what have I done to deserve it? I dont know.
People DONT see me!!! Im starting to wonder if Im invisible...seriously.
It happens to be one of the hardest to bear experiences I have had living here...being made to feel I dont belong...arent worth being acknowledged.
Like I dont count in their why should they bother to greet me.
So my friend tells me...I should be the one to greet them if they dont greet me first. I should be the one to smile and show manners since they apparently arent going to. Ok fine...I can do that...not a big deal...but its rather hard to smile and be friendly with people that just rebuffed you for whatever comes off fake...not to mention humiliates me that Im forced to make them acknowledge me when clearly they did not want too. She doesnt understand how I feel since she has never stood in my shoes.
Anyhow, Im sick of it. Had enough. I told myself the next time someone deliberately refused to SEE offer salams etc while I was right there in front of them...I would make sure they knew just how rude they were being.
I was with my friend yesterday...and 3 ladies came up to her for a project of some sort. They gave kissy kissy salams Arab style...Im right there...they know Im with her...they interrupted us to greet why no greeting for me too? I dont expect the familiarity of kissy kissy salams Arab style...but still...Hello? Something?
So I loudly told my friend..."I thought Muslims learned to say salam from a young age...where are these ladies manners? How rude of them they didnt give me salams."
She tried to smile and cover up my talk while apparently hoping they didnt understand English enough to know how RUDE I was being...go figure.
Anyhow, anyone out there have this problem...invisibility among Muslims (in my case Muslim women generally)? It doesnt happen ALL the time to me...but enough times to really cause me grief and deeply hurt feelings towards these so called Muslims. I cant find any acceptable excuse for not extending a basic salam to someone...ignore the language barriers...whatever...I can say hello in 7 different languages even if I cant speak anything else in that language. Its an ice breaker to greet someone with a hello...its a sociable concept to acknowledge their presence and include them in your talk when you walk up and face them with one or two others. This is shunning pure and simple...and I dont understand the reason for it.
Before anyone makes the excuse....maybe they dont know your a Muslim. My answer...whats that got to do with anything? Seriously. Dont even use that weak argument with me. Are we to believe a basic salam...or even an English hello...cannot be spoken to a nonMuslim if that is the case? Are Muslims so miserly with their salams and who they give them too? Is it too much of a language barrier to utter "hello" to someone...or even just smile at them if you dont know the language or feel shy?
Seriously people...what the hell is it? Is it me? Am I wearing a sign that says "hostile combatant" on it or something? What?
Im 40 years old. Ive spent 23 years of my life being made to feel invisible for some reason by assumingly ordinary basically good people. I dont know why.
What does it take to be SEEN over here?


Mona said...

That is so very rude! I've seen it happen with foreign friends of mine. I do not get it. I hope someone has some insight on this.

Rasputin said...


I have seen your comments on bedu's blog and eventually landed up here. I'm an expat working in Riyadh. Yes, some people are downright rude in not even acknowledging another human being's presence, let alone be courteous. While people talk about culture and et all, a simple aspect of etiquette as saying Hello or a smile or acknowledging one's presence seems to be lacking...Culture my foot!!
But being rude takes different forms as well, a friend of mine was waiting for a car to move out of a parking lot so that he could park his car there...and whoosh a local just drove into the empty parking space...and when my friend asked him why?? He said "Its my country" ... Basic thats asking for too much aren't we??

Terri's Space said...'s them...and why you would after 23 years give a rat's "u-no-what" about them, is beyond me. Religion does not make people makes them intolerant and judge "mental".

Why would you assume they are good people? By how they look? Judge them on their actions...and you may determine...that they are not good people, and were not raised with courtesy and respect for others.

How you treat others when you are out of sight from authority, and who are different than you, is a measure of one's character.

janice said...

Wow, CoolRed. I don't know what to say or how to respond.

I completely understand how this would make you feel slighted.

I don't believe it's you, as you said you don't normally have this dealing with men, only women. Which leads me to believe it's those women and not you.

I'm from middle America (OH) and have only visited Israel and Canada and I've never experienced something like this.

I agree, it's plain RUDE!

Caps Fan said...

You know, I think some of us just ARE invisible... I've been invisible most of my life. It's not quite as bad for me as it seems to be for you, but I do know where you are coming from. That's one reason I prefer my animals to people :)


San Antonio Cicily said...

Obviously they are doing this on purpose, but for me I used to be painfully shy and I at times would not say hello and I was misunderstood and because people only would see me as attractive they would assume I was a bitch and a snob, never realizing that I was just really shy! I know this is obviously not the case for you but just remember when you are in the states that the shyness could be the case. Thats one thing I always hated about being attractive was that people would just assume I'm a bitch and really I'm not! Well now people proabaly just think I'm conceited and thats not my point either. Anyway I hope you understand what I'm trying to say here! Also women sometimes can be your worst enemy thats why men say hello and the women in Bahrain don't!

fred_says said...

walk away

it's not just Muslims or whites or yanks or Brits or Canucks or whatever.

rude people are rude people.

if I am talking with someone, another enters and does not acknowledge my presence, I walk away. I do not accept being made to feel invisible. It's rudeness plain and simple. Nationality, religion, race - it has nothing to do with this and everything to do with how people behave. You can bet that these people carry this rudeness forward in the rest of their lives.

coolred38 said...

Mona...Ive sometimes wondered if its because Im foreign...but considering how welcoming and nice others are...its hard to know. I dont get it.

Rasputin...yes being rude comes in various forms. I expect to be ignored by an individual here and there...unfortunately thats what life teaches us...but this is time and again...too many times that I just have to wonder WTF!!

Terri...I like how you seperated judge"mental"...that explains alot. It bothers me still because people wonder why I dont consider Bahrain my home after 23 if it should be by default of time spent...well...I dont feel welcome most of the time...maybe thats me but home is a place you feel welcome no matter what.

Janice...Im not saying Ive never been rude...but generally my rudeness is for people I DO know that I feel deserve me being rude...someone who treated me badly in the past etc. Just about all the people who have done this to me are basically strangers...why be rude to strangers? Whats it do for you?

Caps Fan...animals first everytime. I agree with you.

San Antonio...I can understand where your coming from. People judge negatively against "ugly" people on a daily basis...but what most people dont realize is...we judge beautiful people as well. Im sorry you or anyone is presumed anything merely by how they if we had control over our looks when being created.

Fred...I dont mean to imply that they are rude because they are Muslim...I cant help but point out they are Muslim merely because 90% of the people I am around are Muslim (not too much contact with the expat community here) its what I know. I take exception to the fact that they are Muslim because Islam supposedly teaches proper etiquette and manners. I thought it was a given. More the fool me.

janice said...

Oh CoolRed, I didn't mean to infer anything with my comment.

It's been my experience (with strangers) in line, in the mall, at the PO, it's normal to nod, say hello or make small talk.

I guess I just impose my salutations on others first and that makes them compelled to respond.

I meant nothing by my comment and I've been rude to those that deserved it as well.

Chiara said...

Thanks for the warning! LOL :)

I have had the experience of "random rudeness" someone who doesn't give a salutation, or some who doesn't introduce you when someone interrupts the 2 of you. Usually this is mitigated if one's friend afterward says something like: "Sorry, I didn't introduce you because..."

Now on the other hand, the BIL's wife's sister makes it a point of pride to never have even acknowledged my presence in years worth of vacation visits, weddings etc. I always say the least educated most unilingual traditional Moroccon little old lady has found a way to be more gracious to me than this educated, wealthy, well-travelled woman--and I'm not Muslim.

I don't know how you tolerate years of this happening routinely. I would wonder about superstition (and evil redheads LOL :) ) but you say it happened when you were covered. Eye colour? skin colour (the Chinese call whites "white ghosts" or "white devils")? demeanour?

Sorry about it anyway. What would happen if you just introduced yourself or salaamed (no kissy kissy though--save yourself the bother)?

Her Secret is Patience said...

I absolutely hate, hate, hate people who act like that.

I am an American living in the UAE that has happened to me several times too. It has also happened when meeting Muslim women in the States in different types of gatherings...basically these type of people are ignorant, ill-mannered people or arrogant. And they just weren't Arabs or Locals but women from other races.

Their loss.

I must admit though, that when I went back home to San Antonio after an 8 year absence I was completely taken aback by how polite everyone was. I wasn't used to people holding doors open for me, openly saying good morning, how are you...I really, really, really missed that. I was so used to the shoving, cutting in line, and rudeness that you generally witness here in this part of the world.

A lot of the time though you have to show that you are the better person. Cultured and well-mannered.

Like I stated, their loss.


coolred38 said... worries. I didnt even take your comment with any sense of negativity.

Chiara...I know what you mean. My SIL didnt speak a word to me for 3 years...and we lived in the same house...the same very tiny house. I must admit...she certainly chose a course of action and stuck with laziness or wavering on her part...sigh.

I tolerate it generally because I am not a rude person by nature...and so I routinely swallow things rather then call them out...or at least that was how I dealt with things before. Lately I notice I dont have that same level of tolerance nor willingness to swallow such things. Never too late to take a stand I suppose.

Mary Ann...I know what you mean...when I go home I notice how different things are so standing in lines...driving with proper safety etc...just things like that which stand out and make for a pleasant enough day. Over here its such a constant battle not to absolutely lose your cool with the level of rude behavoir...and as someone said...they generally reply when you call them out..."its my country". Funny how that works.

Nawal said...

I have a post as well on "Give the Salams!!"

I think every observant Muslim has had this experience at some point on their journey through Islam. They are just rude people to begin with, so the abaya they are wearing has no bearing on their character. As for someone's comment that religion makes someone intolerant and judge "mental" I think that only holds true if they are not observing their religion in the first place.

There are many places in the Quran and hadiths in which Muslims are instructed to give and wish the peace and blessings and mercy of Allah to others, and that there are more blessings in saying it first. And if someone wishes such blessings upon you, and you are unsure of what they said, at the least you can respond with 'wa alaikum" as the prophet instructed in dealing with non-muslims who wished 'death' upon him. : )

Nawal said...

Terri's Space said...

I don't know if it's the sand...the heat...the lack of greenery, the lack of vitamin D (with that excessive covering) or what...but I've never come across a group of people as rude as what I see down's the only thing that is consistent. Yes...I've experienced rudeness in other countries/places...but never with the regularity that you find in SA or in your experience Bahrain.

sista #2 said...

They came up and greeted your friend. Did you know these women? Did your friend after greeting them, introduce you to them?

If not, then it was rude of her.

As for me, I would have just butted in their conversation to introduce myself.


Philly said...

Don't take this comment negative, I just have a few questions. I've looked back on your post and can't seem to find any info. Why are you still there? Why not move back to the states? You can't find work there, so if you are going to ask for help via the internet, why not ask for your plane fare or whatever you need, move back here and start your life over?
It is obvious that these people DO NOT like americans.
I must admit, you complain about them alot. Please try and help me understand.

coolred38 said...

Nawal...thanks for the post info.

Terri...I agree...sometimes they can be the rudest people Ive ever met...sandwhiched in between kindness and generosity...go figure.

sista...I told her she was also being rude for not introducing she says she felt awkward doing that because obviously they choose to not see why should she force me on to speak. Whatever.

Philly...for many reasons Ive mentioned on my blog I cannot leave just is what it is.

Now I didnt take what you said negatively so dont take what I say that way either. I dont write this stuff so that you (general you) can understand me...I write so that maybe I can figure this stuff out and understand it myself. Its cathartic for me and even if no solutions come...I feal measurably better having done it. Take care.

Susie of Arabia said...

I think the next time something like that happens, you should just look at your friend and with a big smile on your face say "Aren't you going to introduce me?" This will put her on the spot and force them all to recognize your existence. I can't believe your friend actually told you that she didn't introduce you in the first place because her friends obviously chose to ignore you - that's absurd - and I would question what kind of a friend she is.

coolred38 said...

Well Susie...she believes that if she introduced me to someone that chose to ignore me...then they might actually say something rude rather than just be rude by ignoring me...then trouble would start because she would feel the need to say I said...I dont understand it...and I dont make the rules what ever they are. I know she has my interests in mind so I dont blame her on this.

The Queen said...

Trouble would start with whom? What kind of trouble? Something more than a friend's hurt feelings at being ignored? I find it very hypocritical that would be all kissy kissy salams with someone who is rude to her 'best friend'. That kind of behavior makes me very skeptical when people talk about the generosity and hospitality of the Arabs.

coolred38 said...

Queen...personally I agree...but you got to understand the dynamics between family here...if she fought with them over me (the foreigner) a whole lot of trouble will start...something I wish to avoid on her behalf so I understand where she is coming from on that. I want people to "see" me and be courteous...but Im not going to start family fueds over it...not worth it.

Suroor said...

Its your colour, Coolred. You are white. Most Arabs don't see white. What they see is an infidel who is worthy of salaams.

Pppppbbbbttttt to them!

fred-says said...

It's not! I live in Oman, and (excepting the driving where they are complete freaking nutters) the Omanis are the kindest most gentle friendly and helpful nation of people I have ever lived with (and as a long term expat hopper I have lived in many continents).

Please dont treat all "arabs" as one race or people. They're not. Some generalisaations are valid. But some go too far.

The Queen said...

Well, I'd be happy to be invisible to people like that! When you are invisible you can make all kinds of faces and hand gestures and no one even notices! lol

coolred38 said...

Suroor...white in the physical skin color sense...or white on the inside sense? In which I would agree with the first...not so much with the second...haha.

Fred...I personally dont take all Arabs as one race...but I have serioulsy met some rude ones...and they run in packs.

Queen...I agree..and I do...ask my kids.

eyes serene said...

Assalamu alaikom,
Carry an air horn with you. Blast as necessary! (ha ha)

Although I'm responding to your post with a joke, I do feel sympathy for you, as I've experienced this on occasion, too, and it makes my blood boil.

coolred38 said...

eyes serene...good idea...any idea where I can get an

Jennifer Kabir, "The Creative Muslimah" said...

Salam Alaykum sister. I think this is disgusting but I can't say its a shock. It's happened to me. I am a white American revert to Islam and I know I've been snubbed from time to time. Some Arab people have a bit of a chip on their shoulders and feel they are superior. Prophet Mohammed,pbh was an Arab so I guess they have cart blanche. Anyways, I'm glad you spoke up and said something. It is extremely rude and of course its not you its them. So write here let me just say SALAM a million times. :)

coolred38 said...

hijabwoes...thank you very much for all those salams...I need them today really.

Nikki said...

To break someone's heart by such an action is a Sin in Islam. So even if they don't ever greet u in whatever language its a SIN they are performing. You shouldn't get bothered about it because ur not the one who is wrong its them who are on the wrong thing, and yeah Arabs are a bit arrogant when it comes to performing basic manners.

أم ترافيس said...

I hate when I salam others and they just walk by me... like whats wrong with you, yo? So then I say it again, and I get a very rude salam back... If I were you, try to salam them when they salam someone else and not you to draw attention to their rudeness and make u feel a hell of a lot better :D