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Discrimination in mid-East

By Scott Clark
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
December 1, 1999
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To the editor,

I just finished reading the article "UA student outraged at America West," and felt the need to provide a different perspective on Muhammad Al-Qudhaieen's encounter with discrimination. First, let me make clear that I have much sympathy for his situation. From the evidence presented in the news, it sounds like he was the victim of discrimination and I agree that his experience was both horrifying and humiliating. It angers me that such encounters, and worse, occur in the United States.

As a society, we regularly attack the litigiousness of the U.S. legal system and the quality of the media, but an event like this encourages Americans to acknowledge the significant role that both play in our society. For example, consider a similar event in a different society.

The following happened to me during my two and a half years living as a foreigner in Saudi Arabia. In Riyadh, I too was pulled out of a group of passengers, and detained in an airport room for hours, without any information, and interrogated by authorities. Unlike Mr. Al-Qudhaieen, I was released after my very frightening encounter without any apologies or explanations and with no legal recourse. Unfortunately, this was not my only encounter with discrimination in Saudi Arabia. My airport experience was repeated, along with a variety of other abuses; I watched neighbors arrested and sent to jail without explanation or trial, I witnessed friends beaten, handcuffed, and humiliated by authorities. I felt that every day the safety of my family was in jeopardy. The climax occurred when I was held at gunpoint for several hours under suspicion of violating principles of Islam. I was eleven years old at the time. Without any legal recourse or media sympathy to our plight, my family decided that the discrimination we faced was too much and we moved backed to the United States.

I understand that discrimination is still part of today's world, but I sincerely hope that Mr. Al-Qudhaieen, his friend, and others who have experienced prejudice remember their encounters and use them to increase their own tolerance, patience, and understanding of others who are different from themselves. Americans should also sit up and reflect upon the role that our legal system and media play in fighting such abuse.

Scott Clark

Public administration graduate student

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