|Commenting on the article ‘Going down the history’ of Marguerite, Mohammad and Jane, a friend of mine after reading my article wrote a letter asking me why some people are more interested in the tales of Westerners, men and women, who fall in love with Muslim Arabs in particular, to the point of abandoning their families, homelands, and religious beliefs.|
Why do we pay much attention to such events while ignoring similar stories of Africans or Indians, for example, news about abandoning their religion and communities and getting married to a Muslim Arab man or woman?
Is it because we are underestimating when we compare ourselves to the West and vice versa to the East? Why do Westerners receive special treatment in our countries, which is greater than what they receive in their homelands?
The friend said when he returned to Egypt after obtaining the US citizenship, the attitude of almost everyone, including his relatives, changed and he began to be treated differently as someone very important, although he himself had not changed.
Perhaps the secret lies in the fact that we live in the age of Western civilization, and ‘Every foreigner is the best’ as the people of the Levant say.
We usually care about the opinions, desires and attitudes of those who are better than us, and the West, in general, is better than the East in almost everything.
The Westerners are the source of medicine, food, healing, technology, wealth, beauty, intelligence, old universities, established democracies and defenders of civil rights and absolute freedom, etc.
If a Westerner, male or female, abandons all this happiness and prosperity and progress, and prefers to come and live among us where power outage is the order of the day in one half and the lack of clean drinking water in the other half in addition to poor schooling and medical services ‘to live happily among us’, it is indeed surprising and deserves to be talked and written about.
On the other hand, it is not surprising that we do not pay attention or are interested in, for example, the Egyptian, a GCC citizen or any other Arab marrying an Indian or Bangladeshi — with due respect to these people — and choosing to live with the Arab in his cave, tent or a house shared by cows, sheep and camels and other cattle and birds. All these things are not strange to his or her environment, they are familiar scenes.
I remember when in the 1970s I was on a vacation with a friend I was staying in a villa in a European country. He wanted to slaughter a chicken the Islamic way and spent the whole day looking for one.
The way the Westerners think of young men or women of the East is in part due to their earlier notions about romance in the desert, the stories of the Thousand and One Nights, the joyful nights of the East and the Hollywood movies and scenes about the romantic Arab life, particularly the side related to love.
We pay attention to stories of Western women who fall in love with Arab men is not only because of the beauty of these women or differences in their behavior in their societies, but also because of scarcity of what happens in these marriages.
Millions of Western women have passed through our region and did not think of marriage and we did not pay attention to this phenomenon but once one of them agrees to live in a makeshift room or in cave, or in a cottage, her story becomes a subject to talk about.
One of the reasons why we pay attention to the stories of those Westerners is because we believe see them as sacrificing their religion to marry whom they love, without realizing that religion has no role to play in their lives as it does in ours.
Religion is a personal matter, not a social issue.
By Ahmad Al-Sarraf