Saudi Arabia: American Bedu Interview with Long Time Expat Sean Redmond

 

It is an honor for American Bedu to have an exclusive interview with Sean Redmond.  Sean is a local legend in the Kingdom.  He not only speaks fluent Arabic but speaks it with a Nej’d accent.  He is a multi-talented individual who has been living and working in the Kingdom for an extended period.  He is one of the few male expatriates who met and married a Saudi woman.

Sean, first of all Thank YOU for allowing me this opportunity to interview you and ask you all kinds of questions!

Carol it’s a pleasure to share my experiences with your readers! I love your blog! I’m not sure about the ‘legend’ part, but I am flattered and am proud that the programmes I made on Saudi TV gained favour with Saudis and expats. Alhamdu lillah.

Let’s start off at the beginning.  Where are you originally from? How did you initially end up in the Kingdom?  How long ago was that and what was it that interested you in seeking employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia?

I was born in the UK in 1974. My father is Irish and my mother from Malta … a testament that marrying from a different nationality works! I graduated in Middle Eastern Studies and Modern European Languages (Arabic and Spanish) from the University of Manchester, 1992.  After Graduation I wanted the opportunity to work in the Arabian Gulf. I met a lot of Saudi and Kuwaiti students during my final year and after graduation. In 1997, I got a job in Kuwait as an English Language teacher. During my time there I also started to deliver Colloquial Arabic training. I developed a successful course which I taught to members of the British Military, Diplomatic staff, as well as expat managers and professionals working in Kuwait. In 2003, I applied for a job with the Telecommunications firm, GPT Special Project Management Limited and came to Riyadh in July that year as an English Language teacher. Our work is with the Saudi National Guard Signals Corps. I currently work as Training Coordinator for the Riyadh Region.

 

When and how did you learn your Arabic?  What advice would you give to other expatriates and individuals who wish to learn Arabic? 

Before undertaking my degree in Arabic, I had already nurtured an interest in Arabic and things Middle Eastern and Islamic whilst in High School, in Norwich, UK. My mother’s language, Maltese, is a Semitic language with heavy Arabic influence. Malta was ruled for nearly 200 years by the Arabs from Qairawan, Tunisia. At that time, I was also interested in converting to Islam.

In terms of advice, I think a prospective learner of Arabic must be aware of that Arabic exists in two forms. The first is known as ‘Fus-ha’ or MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) and is never spoken on a daily basis. It is a literary form that is used as a medium throughout the Arab world in literature, news broadcasts, religious sermons and schools. It is pure, grammatical Arabic, untainted by slang, colloquialisms and regional variations. In short, people learn it but do not speak it in daily conversations. If you did as an Arab, people would think you are odd, have a screw loose or are incredibly pretentious! Kind of like speaking in very formal legal English!  SO to get by in everyday life you need to resort to the second form, which is, Colloquial Arabic or dialects. The most commonly understood Arabic dialect, is Egyptian. It is the Arab World’s equivalent to US English, by virtue of the fact that for a long time Egyptian media, music and films were dominant throughout the Arab world. However, with the growth of satellite TV, the Lebanese take over began in the 1990’s. Lebanese presenters became the ‘in-thing’. The Gulf satellite channels certainly leaned towards the Lebanese more so than Egyptians. To cut a long story short, 21st century Arabic media has allowed the Arabic speaking nations to become exposed to each other’s dialects. It is a paradise for Arabists like myself who have a fascination with dialectology…. MY ADVICE, learn the dialect of the country you are in. Do not be put off by other expat Arabs who express horror at the fact you are not learning THEIR dialect, as if theirs as if THEIRS is the only truth!

The Arabic dialect issue can be a nightmare for a learner. I suppose in English, we have regional accents, but not dialects as such. In Europe, Italian is a perfect parallel with Arabic. Formal Italian exists, however there are a myriad of regional dialects. The dialects if Sicily, Sardinia and Bergamo, for example, are a world away from the pure Italian language of the newspapers or the operas of Puccini!

When in Saudi, speak like a Saudi. When in Beirut, speak like a Beiruti. And if you want to read newspapers, write formal Arabic or understand the news, learn MSA. So the learner has to define how he or she wished to use Arabic – daily communication or reading/writing. For the former you need a dialect, for the latter, MSA.

I now am fluent in Saudi (Najd) Arabic, but understand nearly all dialects, except Moroccan and Algerian… very hard to get to grips with. Having a natural flair, not being shy to try and being a good mimic, make the whole language learning experience so much easier and more fun. I have even been accused (indirectly) of being a spy! Although, I don’t think I am quite 007!

What has been your experience of working as an expatriate in the Kingdom?  What are some of your best experiences, most unusual experiences and challenging experiences?

  Well I guess working with other Saudis has never been a problem for me. One benefit of working in an expat company like mine is the fact that you meet so many other nationalities and obtain a very good cross-cultural understanding. The pace of work here is certainly not high pressured like in the UK! Actually, I don’t think I would be able to settle into the swing of work back home. Here things are slightly more laid back. I think you just have to go with the flow, especially when working in a military environment. Don’t pick at every little detail! Learn to chill! When in Rome, do as the Romans. It usually works! However, on a serious note, my experience has been that Saudis are very courteous and will go out of their way to help you and make things easy for you. Be straight up, don’t promise what you can’t deliver, don’t be arrogant,  don’t condescend or think that just because you are from the UK/USA, you are a special breed or somehow Saudi Arabia can’t survive without you.

When that horrid man, Henry Kissinger (yuk), came to visit King Faisal to threaten Saudi Arabia during the 70’s crisis, Faisal (God rest his soul) told Kissinger (not an exact quote)‘We can go back to eating dates and herding if we have to’. In other words get lost and don’t be so arrogant as to tell us what to do!

You are a Muslim.  Were you a practicing Muslim before you came to Saudi Arabia?

I became a Muslim, officially in 1992. I had been contemplating it since high school. Many Catholics like me have converted to Islam. If you don’t mind, I’d like to briefly mention, without preaching, why I converted. I was never able to accept the mental gymnastics required to be a Christian – believing that the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Ever-Lasting, Ever-living God, killed himself on a cross so that I could be saved. I did not find any evidence to support the belief that Jesus ever claimed divinity. The ‘it’s a mystery’ line given to me by our parish priest did not convince me! In short, believing in the Jesus, his mother, his miraculous birth and his miracles are part and parcel of being a Muslim. On one condition, that you believe he was not God. For me becoming a Muslim was the next logical theological step. I felt as if all the unanswered questions I used to have became answered; a feeling hard to describe in words. What the media portray about Islam and the ignorance and malpractice of Muslims cannot hide the truth of Islam. I respect my family’s faith and indeed, my childhood best friend is a Roman Catholic priest. Islam forbids forcing your faith on others or disrespecting others’ religions. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the best example of this. It’s a shame that many Muslims today do not follow his example!

 

Naturally there is a lot of curiosity in the fact that you have a Saudi wife.  Can you share how the two of you met?  What was your courtship like?  What was the reaction of her family to you?

My marriage was actually very traditional No formal courting. I knew my father-in-law while he was studying for his PhD in the UK. We became friends. This was after my graduation. Within less than a year of graduating, I got my job in Kuwait and left the fair isle of England. Years later, after I had been in Saudi for 3 years, I re-established contact with him. Naturally his first question was, “Are you married yet?” …. A very, very, very common question here, especially when you’re over 30! I had tried on two occasions to marry into Saudi families but was rejected on the grounds that, although I was a nice guy, I was not Saudi. I can understand this. It is a big step for a Saudi girl to marry somebody not of their nationality and culture, even though he may speak the language, be Muslim and be well adapted to the customs.

I plucked up the courage and asked my late father-in-law if his family would consider me as a husband for his daughter. This is not something unacceptable in society here, especially in my case where my father-in-law knew me. For me, I did not have a father/mother to ask on my behalf as would happen here! After a while I was invited to visit their home for a formal ‘introduction’, with my then future wife, her father and brothers present. I got the chance to talk and see her and something inside me felt that she was the one for me. The engagement became formal. I did not see her until the day we went to the court in Riyadh to marry in front of the Sheikh! I know it sounds odd that somebody from a Western background could get married without really knowing the other side, but it worked and, as they say in Arabic, “not all the fingers on my hand are the same.” What works for me may not work for someone else. It was NOT an arranged marriage as both of us consented. She had never contemplated marrying a non-Saudi. But I, as does she, believe that when God destines something for you, you can never avoid it. It was fate!

Her family naturally had apprehensions about me as a non-Saudi, however, they got to know me and saw that I was not alien to their culture. In short, they trusted me with their daughter/sister. I must also point out that there was no vested interest in me marrying a Saudi. It wasn’t a challenge, in any way. Simply put, I felt very close to the language and culture of Saudi Arabia, and marrying a Saudi seemed to be the natural choice. I never sought to gain a trophy, as some did think at the time. Many asked me, including Saudis, ‘Why a Saudi’ ‘Why not marry a Syrian or Egyptian?” ….. My answer to that – “why don’t you?!” No disrespect to other Arab nationalities, but my interaction in Saudi has been mainly with Saudis. My friends are Saudis. I am not familiar with other Arab nationalities. Most Saudis were very supportive, although there will always be a minority who think it heinous that a Saudi girl would marry a non-Saudi! Anyway, who cares about what people think? ‘khalli walli’ as they say!

 

What kind of approval process did you and your wife have to go through in order to be married and have the marriage approved?

First of all the girl must be 25 years old and over. Both she and her father had to formally document that they consented 100% to the marriage. The rest is routine procedure. An application for marriage is made to the local Governorate. After being checked out by the Police/Internal Security (Mabahith), my papers get an initial approval, subject to medical checks. When completed, final approval must be granted by the Ministry of the Interior. Once this happens, the approval is sent to the Marriage court where the ‘I do’s’ are said!

Saudi Arabia does allow its female citizens to marry foreigners. The conditions are fair and like many countries, they reserve the right to reject the marriage application. It is actually harder for a Saudi man to marry a non-Saudi woman! I think being a Western citizen made it easy as I had no vested interest in obtaining Saudi nationality or using my wife’s nationality for any financial gain. I think other Arab nationalities (non-Gulf) have to wait longer for approval. Again, Saudi Arabia has to take its national interest into account when considering its citizens marrying foreigners.


What are some of the challenges you and your wife have faced as a bi-cultural couple in Saudi Arabia?

Thankfully we have not had any real challenges from society. On a personal level, I am very Saudi in some ways and very Western in others. So inevitably, minor conflicts can arise when it comes to how the other perceives that the other should react, say, act in certain situations.  Alhamdulillah we agree on most things and, the odd cultural/mentality difference is the spice of life! Bi-lateral dialogue always resolves any international disputes! Any marriage is a 50/50 partnership. My parents, although European are from two different temperament zones – reserved North Europe and fiery Mediterranean! Married since 1971 and still going strong!

What was the reaction of your family when they learned you were marrying a Saudi?

Well they were not surprised that I would marry a Saudi. What surprised them or perhaps concerned them was how I could say ‘yes’ and not really know her. I understood their feelings, but at the end of the day, I was ok with it. As with accepting my religion choice, they also accepted this. They love my wife and vice-versa.

 

You are viewed as an expatriate who has integrated very successful into Saudi life and culture.  You work for a Saudi organization; you’ve had your own shows on Saudi Arabian Television; you married a Saudi woman.  What is the secret to the success of your ability to integrate?

Understanding the mentality of the society, appreciating its identity, showing respect , being honest and not being fake are key elements to being accepted and respected. Insincerity and arrogance are the downfalls of many an expat. Saudis can be the most loyal and caring friends you will ever have. They are a very principled and proud people who value what’s on the inside, not the exterior (sounds so corny, but so true). They are wonderful people.

 

What do you enjoy most about life in the Kingdom?  What do you enjoy least?

On the positive side – my lovely wife, the closeness of people, loyalty, the restaurants, family life, Makkah and Madina, the language and the fact that I have never been made to feel like an outsider by Saudi people….The beaucratic side is another thing!

On the negative side – beaurocracy, Riyadh traffic, and the education system.

 

I understand that at present you and your wife do not have children.  When you become parents, where do you prefer for your children to be raised?  Why?

I want them to be raised in Saudi Arabia. I have been an expat for over 14 years now. Returning back to the UK is not realistic. I love the UK and am proud to be British, but my work, wife and friends are here. I would like to have a property in the UK in the near future. I feel this is a good place to bring my future children up. They will, of course, be bilingual and attend the British School inshallah! I always visit my parents and sister, and my mother comes here regularly. It is hard when your family are away, but this is life.

Would you like to receive Saudi citizenship if it were possible?  Why or why not?  What about future children? 

I would happily take Saudi nationality if dual-citizenship were permitted. My kids will automatically get UK nationality. In the long term, having Saudi nationality would be better for them in terms of higher education, scholarships and working, given that it is most likely I will settle here. They will always be entitled to British citizenship. However, realistically it is better for me to stick with my UK nationality.

As a bi-cultural couple, do you and your wife socialize more with Saudis or expatriates?

Actually, we tend to socialize more with Saudis though this is not deliberate! We do mix with other Westerners .

As a bi-cultural couple, how do you feel you and your wife are received by either Saudis or expatriates?

People accept us for who we are and we have never had any problems with acceptance. Those who don’t accept, we couldn’t care less about!

 

Why do you think some marriages between a Saudi and a Westerner fail?

Not thinking about the full implications of the marriage, let’s say, the non-Saudi husband wants to go back to his homeland after his contract ends. Where the children will be raised etc? Nationality? Where you want to settle?…. Not the kind of things you leave until after the wedding to discuss!

Another factor is not taking into account each other’s families’ opinions.

I also believe it makes life easier if they share the same religion. Both sides also have to accept that the other has his/her own cultural identity and that will be reflected in the kids. As much as I am adapted to life in KSA, I am not Saudi so inevitably my cultural background will sometimes dictate how I behave and view things. Anybody entering into a bi-cultural marriage must give and take culturally.

 

Who typically makes the most sacrifices in a bi-cultural marriage?  The man or the woman?

I think both do.

 

 

What advice can you give to others who may be in a relationship with a Saudi?  What are the key factors towards success?

Well the term ‘relationship’ is a sticky one in a conservative Muslim society. While I was in Kuwait I knew many Western ladies who were in relationships with local men – Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti Arab. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the men were not interested in marriage.  They kept their western girlfriend a secret, and were usually totally controlling and jealous! I believe that if marriage is not realistic for the man, then be prepared for roller-coaster rides and hurt feelings if you expect more than he can give. You can never underestimate the influence of family and society here on the individual. Never is it more apparent than with marriage. It is an area where the family have a direct involvement whether it be a Saudi male or female. As a foreign lady involved with a Saudi, you have to consider this…. and he must also be honest and realistic. Sorry to be blunt, but this is how it is here. Let’s face it, relationships other than marriage are not accepted in Saudi/Gulf society and, as such, will always be secretive. Of course, I am not preaching, but this is what I have seen over the years I have been in the Gulf. I say the Gulf as all GCC countries share the same principles when it comes to marriage.

As for a non-Muslim, foreign man seeking a relationship with a Saudi lady – don’t go there! It’s neither acceptable Islamically nor socially and would not likely have a pleasant outcome should it be found out.

Sorry to sound so miserable on this subject. I guess I don’t want people to make bad decisions. We are all grownups and know what’s best for us, but my advice is to take all factors into consideration. Nothing more to say on that.

Is there anything additional you’d like to add?

  Saudi Arabia is a great place to live and work. Like all countries and societies, it is not perfect, but it certainly is not the repressive backwater that so many an ignorant and bigoted Western reporter/politician makes it out to be. I am a great believer in not saying anything about a place until you have actually lived there and experienced it for yourself. There are thousands of Western expats in Saudi Arabia, many of whom have been here for twenty years or more. So it can’t be that bad to live in! There are also many well-educated, professional, well-travelled, cultured and forward- thinking Saudis, who take great offence at always having themselves and their country so negatively portrayed. People like me and you, Carol, have a duty to enlighten BOTH sides as to the true nature and reality of the other. Ignorance is our worst enemy.

Thank YOU again for taking the time and allowing me to interview you!

 

 

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32 Responses

  1. What a lovely interview Carol!
    I’ve always liked Sean ever since I saw him on Saudi channel 2 on a program about Saudi tradional recipes!

  2. Me too, J! It’s funny how we both worked for Saudi 2 at the same time but never met. ):

  3. The fact is that languages are becoming homogenized by virtue of TV is true all over the world. We don’t see the local (Southern, New England, Minnesota, etc) accents here in the US that were common 40+years ago. In Brazil, the same is true, regionalisms are fast disappearing as the nation informally adopts the TV Globo sopa-opera version of Portuguese. When a language is transnational, such as Arabic, the process is slower but the rule holds true. Slowly a more generic, comprehensible Arabic will develop.

    Oh yes, can a Muslim guest on this blog ever give an interview without the mandatory “Islam forbids forcing your faith on others or disrespecting others’ religions. The Prophet Muhammad was the best example of this” statement? First, neither is true; second, it is not just “many Muslims” but Imams and so-called experts that teach compulsion and disrespect; and third, yes Muslims do follow his example because they attack, discriminate against and persecute non-Muslims.

    I hope Mr. Redmond’s knowledge of Arabic is better than his knowledge of current events, Islamic theology, and history. Otherwise, a good interview, and interesting

  4. enyd reading it

  5. I found this interview refreshing, as I too am a Westerner married to a Saudia, I can recall many of the same experiences and share many of the points of view. I am not so sure the part of a Saudi man marrying a foriegner is harder than visa versa. It is all set on the situation of the individuals, mostly the Saudi that is marrying (tribal, age, income, previously married, etc). If God will let it happen, it will happen. I am sure the American Bedu can understand that. For a saudi working in the MOI or Exteriior, they are not allowed to marry a non Saudi, unless of course the king says so.
    Mr. Redmond, you are inspiring. I wondered how your Arabic was so good after watching the show, now I can understand. For me, I learned colloquial arabic from Saudi. I mix a few of the Saudi accents though, it is easier for me to remember the words. I have found the Najdis are the easiest to understand. The accent is harsher but the words are more clear to me, except the common “ss” sound that comes in every now and then.

  6. This was a nice interview. I’m very impressed with Sean’s Arabic skills- as someone who does not “have a flair” for such things it always amazes me what some people can do- because I also realize flair or no, you work hard for it.

    I agree with what he said about Saudi people. I have found many of them to be very warm and some of the most decent people I know. That said, I have one major bone of contention- and those of you who know me on this board know what it is. It is very easy for those of us who navigate easily through Saudi society to forget what it is like for those who cannot.

    “… it certainly is not the repressive backwater that so many an ignorant and bigoted Western reporter/politician makes it out to be…”

    Actually, it certainly is exactly that for many who live there. It is easy when socializing with a certain type of people in Saudi to forget they are not the norm, or in a normal situation. Fifty percent of the Saudi population is oppressed legally due to their gender. And there are many that suffer tremendously because of this. Any woman with an oppressive or immoral Mahrem has very little recourse to improve her life.

    “There are thousands of Western expats in Saudi Arabia, many of whom have been here for twenty years or more. So it can’t be that bad to live in!”

    That only tells us it can’t be that bad for Western expats. And that is pretty much true. They usually get paid on time, generous work packages, and they can leave any time they want.

    “There are also many well-educated, professional, well-travelled, cultured and forward- thinking Saudis, who take great offence at always having themselves and their country so negatively portrayed.”

    I have no sympathy if they are more offended by people telling the truth than by people tarnishing their image. This is a guilt-based culture where “face” is more important that the reality of things. They would do better to be offended at the oppression going on.

    That said many of them are- and do not take offence at hearing the truth. Many of them- especially the women would like people to know just how bad it can be. Even among the educated women it can be tough. I have worked with women who spend a sizable chunk of their salary just on transport because they can’t drive. I know educated women with wasta- who can’t have access to their children. This is all sanctioned by the laws here.

    Carol, I really don’t mean to turn this into a mud-slinging brawl, but I really feel this had to be said.

  7. I enjoyed this interview. Thanks for sharing!

  8. @AB, good interview. I have seen Sean on a video clip. His mastery of Arabic is impressive.

    @Sandy,

    “I really don’t mean to turn this into a mud-slinging brawl, but I really feel this had to be said.”

    I think your comment was accurate. Sean has also mastered the apologist positions which a lot of the Western educated Saudi’s have developed.

  9. Good interview and he seems a very nice man.
    I also agree with Sandy 100%, I know of expats who have lived very happily for many yrs there and usually live like they did intheir own country . The difference is noted only when you work outside the home and come in contact with many saudi women many of them who are disadvantaged, i’m not talking poverty , just the fact that they have no freedom and the restrictions is so glaring.

    But i’m amazed at how well he has assimilated ino the cultur, language etc., hats off to him, that’s so hard , he sounds like a smart man.

  10. @Lonnie – you’ll have to let me interview you next! (smile)

    There are prohibited organizations where a Saudi is not to marry a foreigner yet inside the Kingdom you will find all kinds of exceptions, including my own case. But as Lonnie stated, my husband ultimately had to obtain permission from the King for our marriage.

    @Sandy – You raise good points. When I went to work at the National Guard Health Affairs my husband and I were then in opposite directions from each other. I had to pay for transport and it was 2500 SAR per month!! I always griped along with my female Saudi colleagues about the outrageous fees drivers could charge since they had us over a barrel!

  11. I have a reaction similar to Sandy’s. I really enjoyed reading the interview and getting acquainted with someone smart, strong and adventurous enough to learn a new way of life and resettle in a new country. Kudos to Sean.

    That said, I feel that Sean did not do enough to acknowledge that as a Western expat, he enjoys the white, western privilege and always will, regardless of how Saudized he will become. If you were a poor Pakistani, your experience in KSA would be entirely different. So please do not forget that a large part of your welcome in Saudi comes from the fact that in Saudi eyes, you come from a more privileged part of the world. I have to do the same when I enthuse about my life in America – to remind myself that as an educated, pretty, white blue-eyed woman, my experiences are completely different from an accented brown person. Having been pulled over many times, I STILL do not have a single traffic ticket. And it’s not because I’m a stellar driver! so let’s leave it at that.

    Secondly, I think you being a bit disingenuous about the marriage procedure, and how easy it was, and how justified the restrictions are. There is no reason to set the age limit at 25 other than leave the best (read the youngest) to the homegrown fellows. No country in the world rejects your marriage petition if the marriage is genuine. Ministry of Interior does not get involved.

    Finally, I wonder how you feel about your future children being denied Saudi citizenship, even if they are born and raised there from a Saudi mother, because their father isn’t Saudi?

  12. @NN – I know the MOI was involved in the approval process of my marriage and to my knowledge, all foreign marriage requests go through the MOI….at least for those Saudis who are seeking the governmental approval of the marriage in order for the wife to be recognized.

  13. @AB

    I mean MOI does not get involved in marriage approvals in other countries.

  14. gotcha NN – thanks!

  15. Good interview. He sound like he is very happy in KSA. I did wonder what his opinion on women’s right there as it would be nice to hear what a male expat thinks.

  16. He did address issues about women and even his own thoughts of raising future children in the Kingdom.

    I’m glad that many have found this interview to be enjoyable.

  17. I would love it if Abu Sinan commented on this interview – wonder what became of him? He never writes any more.

  18. I thought it was a really interesting interview. A nice look into the life of someone who has assimilated so well into such a controversial society.

  19. I read his comments on children. Basically he stated he would wanted to raise them in Saudi going to the British International School. But I wonder if he had daughters would he really want them in this society. Would he really want to limit them in such a manner and stunt their abilities to be full independent persons. I just wonder. Given the choice I would leave to save my daughter(s) from double standards, limited opportunity, second class citizentry, and the list continues. I would do everything in my power to keep her from becoming a prisoner in the Saudi system. No matter what, he paints a picture from a privileged males position and that is wholly different than what women face in this country. I admire him for his abilities but until he has a daughter he will never truly know how that may affect his decision.

  20. If a daughter has a progressive father i don’t think the kingdom can stunt her abilities atleast till she’s in college. I imagineif he had a daughter he would give her the best education, holidays in england /europe to broden her horizons adn saudi heritage too. i don’t see that in any way stunting.

    the stunting is reserved for those saudi women who have mahrem issues. A truly liberal man will probably give his daughters every oppurtunity he can.The saudi system/laws etc., are usuallytargetted around slightly grown /late teens women… so i would assume he has plenty of time 🙂

    Again i say it’s not an issue just because he’s previlaged…It all depends on how open he is and what influence he will have on their upbringing.

    i’ve seen some pretty educated medical professions act like jerks towards the women intheir family with truly 16th century ideas …

  21. Radhaa:

    I have a daughter. I don’t care how progressive a father is, the environment and message that permeates within this society will affect her, no matter how well you try to stop it. I truly believe that this society has an extremely damaging psychology affect on girls and women on their worth, their person and expectation. What I can give to my daughter is independence, self-worth, confidence, knowledge and practice of self-defense and the best education possible with the best enviroment for her to thrive in so she can be her own person.

  22. Bigstick1 : I understand what you are saying about messages that they pick up, but there is no perfect place, I still think a family’s values impart itself more strongly in a child , ofcourse society’s values and norms will affect the child but i don’t think in this particular situation it will matter for a while atlest till she’s in her teens.

    I have a daughter too and we live in the US and the message she’s getting from society and her peers is not something i like either. but inspite of all the bad ideas around her she seems to listen to us and make the right choices, she seems to have the confidence to pick and she has lived in saudi, india and the US so i think there’s hope for girls raised in saudi. I have seen many students ( girls) from saudi and they don’t lack in self-confidence, knowledge or self-worth.

    Yes you are correct i agree saudi is not the ideal place to raise a girl child with all the ideals we want but neither is any 1 place. One does the best one can and maybe when the child is a bit independant she can always be sent to an ideal place . i would worry more if the mom is western and the dad a bit regressed…

  23. @ Rahhaa:

    I agree this is no perfect place. 😉 But to my way of thinking why risk the future of your children in this country.

  24. @Radhaa,
    You are right. There are many girls/women raised in liberal families and they have a lot of opportunity and self-worth, and are raised outside of the “jewel philosophy”, in spite of society’s attempts to indoctrinate with it. Once adults though they realize how badly their society values them. Some of them are so well-educated and “polished” it is hard for them to accept how society is. Of course, no woman should accept how society is- because it is wrong. Many will not marry, because they don’t want to lose their freedom. And lately there has been brain-drain beginning. I personally know a handful of Saudi women that have left. Some with husbands some without to Dubai. Hopefully women like this who remain will help bring change. Sean’s children though have another nationality to fall back on and won’t be trapped here. It’s always easier to live here if you feel it’s a choice not a sentence.

  25. @American Bedu
    Ahlan wa Sahlan 🙂

    I have a daughter and living here in KSA. Last night, we entertained my wife’s family with a BBQ. All parties were well educated, some from Bahrain, KSA, and American universities. I found that the growing up isn’t the problem here for girls/women. It is the grown up, all the women claimed that the growing up was great. Just now as a college grad, the entry level jobs available in KSA is getting harder to find especially without good work experience. As a Saudia competing against Saudis as engineers, programmers, or IT specialists is very difficult. Without being able to drive and the female stigmatism for being in these careers puts them at a disadvantage. Some of my wife’s cousins work elsewhere in the Gulf for this reason. The growing up is not the problem, in fact, I like raising my little girl here. Her cousins are close, I don’t worry about gangs in or out of school, I feel safer walking streets here than in most countries including my own (except for the traffic). Granted she may end up living somewhere else in the world due to career or possibly marriage when she is grown up, God only knows. For now, I feel she is better here growing up. I maybe a Westerner but I am compelled to watch the direction of KSA and its people, dispite people saying it isn’t your country and you can leave at anytime. After all, my children are half Saudi and one day they may marry a Saudi, that concerns me.

    Fact is there is no place perfect on Earth, if there was everyone would be trying to get there.

  26. @AB Great interview! I’ve always wanted to know more about Sean Redmond ever since i saw himon Saudi TV, especially his excelent language skills, I thought he was ‘half’ Saudi :-), he really sounds like a lovely person wish him and his wife all the best. If you don’t mind me asking which programme did you present on Saudi 2, Children’s Choice by any chance, there was a segment by a lady named Carol if I recall… I used to watch the show….the days before sattelite TV took over every household :-)… I’m really enjoying reading your interview posts. Can anyone tell me what does ‘khalli walli’ mean surprisingly I’ve never heard the term before.

  27. @Misha – I participated in some special interviews, National Day activities, as a political analyst and worked on a new program “Kaleidoscope” which was oriented towards building bridges between expats and Saudis.

  28. Masha allah very good interview! I know of many women married to Saudi but it is hard to find men married to saudi women i only know of 3. I think the problem has to do with the permission mainly which is getting harder and harder, as I am personally aware how difficult it is to get approval. I love your blog by the way

  29. Glad you liked the interview, Angel. Thanks for the compliment too.

  30. Just checking to see if Mr. Redmond had bothered to provide feedback on this post, or his comments.

    I guess that he is probably down at some government office using his excellent Arabic language skills to explain to the authorities – religious, civil and otherwise – that there is no compulsion in Islam and that Islam forbids forcing disrespecting others’ religions, and so has had no time to respond to any comments here (most of them positive, by the way).

    I am sure they will appreciate his concern and corrections, and the memo will go out right after Friday prayers to allow full religious freedom and asking Imams to skip the usual ‘curse the damn infidels’ component in their sermons.

  31. Masha’Allah wa Alhamdulillah, I really enjoyed reading this. This is by far one of the best interviews I’ve read in a long time. Being married to a Saudi, it’s always nice to see something positive being posted about the interactions between Saudis and non-Saudis.

  32. MashaAllah Brother, We used to love watching you at Ramadan cooking with the sister and listening to you speak Arabic. You are an inspiration to all reverts. A great interview too. I wish you and your wife and very long life together and much happiness.

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