The Arabs I know

Category: Life & Society, Middle East Topics: Arabs, Family Views: 3493

Wake up America! Special interest groups, news media, and money-hungry politicians are duping you into profiling all Arabs as bad Arabs. Often, the news media tell us the polls show Americans support Israelis over Palestinians. Based on what? How many of these poll participants have seen an Arab, talked to an Arab, or worked with an Arab? Very few, I would venture. On what then do they base their opinion? They are largely influenced by the biased news media, which give no quarter in making sure we see all Arabs as bad Arabs. Are there bad Arabs? Of course there are. Are there bad Americans? We have plenty of them. Where are all the bad Israelis? There must be some. Why don't we hear more about them?

I lived in the Middle East for over 33 years. I have seen Arabs, I have talked with Arabs, I have worked with Arabs and I have lived with Arabs. Over this span of 33 years I had an opportunity to meet and interact with Arabs from all walks of life - kings, ministers, emirs, college professors and businessmen - and I worked with Arab employees from laborer to president. I believe this qualifies me to speak about Arabs.

Arabs have many of the same desires and expectations as we Americans. They love their families, they love their country, they love their land, they want to better themselves, they want to live in peace, and they worship the same God as Christians and Jews. They are the most hospitable people I have ever known. The Arabs I know do not judge people by their race, religion, or nationality - but by their character. They are some of the best observers of people I have ever encountered and I have traveled the globe. They will judge you in their hearts, but are reluctant to criticize you face-to-face or publicly. Arabs greet you with Salaam Alaikum (peace upon you) - and your response should be, Waalaikum Assalaam (and upon you peace). To Arabs, peace is not rhetoric; it is a way of life.

I went to the Middle East in 1954 to work as a young engineer - eager and adventurous. I spent my first month in Sidon, Lebanon at a training center. Where I learned some conversational Arabic language and was introduced to Arab culture. On weekends and in the evenings I would travel all over Lebanon by motorbike and even to Syria. I had nothing but good memories. I would stop at a village to have refreshments and on many occasions I was invited to homes by Arabs to meet their families, view their olive groves, and have refreshments. It was a wonderful experience.

I then traveled to my ultimate destination - Saudi Arabia. I continued my interest in the Arab world by visiting villages in the Kingdom. Arabs would invite me to their village and their homes for a meal and/or coffee. They shared their food with me. I sat in their majlis (living room) along the wall on cushions and drank coffee with sometime as many as 20-25 people present. The host would move about the room with a large Arab coffee pot and a stack of petite cups, serving his guest hot coffee flavored with cardamom seeds, until we all had drank our customary three cups. Then he would start his rounds again serving hot tea. The conversation was a good chance to practice my Arabic. They would laugh understandingly when I mispronounced a word. If we had been invited for a meal, we would retire to another room to sit around a huge brass tray heaped with Arab rice around a steaming spit-roasted lamb. The delicious rice was flavored with nuts, raisins, and spices. There would also be spit-roasted chicken. On some weekends I would visit as many as 10 homes in one day to share their food, coffee, or tea. I had to turn down invitations because there were so many. I would no more than step into the street when I would be taken by the hand and told, "You must come to my house for gahwa (coffee)." The congeniality was sincere and hospitality never lacking.

I was there during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. The air was full of tension because the US was supporting Israel. One of my Arab friends wanted me to send my family to his village to stay with his family for safety. Of course I wouldn't let them go, because I did not want to put his family in harm's way. As a result, he brought with him another Arab friend to stay with my family for our protection. I had a hard time convincing them it wasn't necessary.

Another Arab friend called me on the phone during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and said he had heard they were evacuating Americans and wanted to know if I were leaving. I told him I was not going, but was considering sending my wife and three-year old daughter. He said, "Why? You have many friends here." I replied, "It's not my friends I am worried about." We laughed about that for years afterward. He would ask me if I was now worried about my friends.

When one of my Arab friends went to America for a medical problem, he brought me a huge amount of cash and asked that I look after his family while he was gone. His oldest son would come every week and I was to give him a specified amount for expenses. My boss heard about this and advised me not to do it, because something could happen to my friend and his family could cause me problems. Obviously my boss did not understand the bond of friendship that existed. There was no way I would violate that friendship. For over a year, I looked after his family until my friend returned to Saudi Arabia.

Returning to Saudi Arabia after a vacation, my wife and I inadvertently left one of our many suitcases on the sidewalk, outside the airport, when we were loading them into the car. After the weekend, we asked a company driver to see if by some chance it had been turned in to lost-and- found. The driver returned with the bag. Airport security told the driver it sat on the sidewalk for two days. When no one picked it up a policeman finally brought it to lost-and-found. Try leaving your bag on the platform in the New York subway for two days.

The Bedouin hailing down your vehicle as it neared his tent - insisting you stop and have coffee with him, traveling all over Saudi Arabia without fear of carjacking, camping deep in the desert with strange Bedouin stopping to visit, stuck in the sand and have every passerby stopping to help, and leaving your doors unlocked (something you don't do in America) - on and on - these are the Arabs all Americans should know.

I leave you with these few examples of the many, many good Arabs I know.

Frank Fugate is a former Aramco senior vice president.


  Category: Life & Society, Middle East
  Topics: Arabs, Family
Views: 3493

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Older Comments:

Thanks frank for being honest!. However, it is very clear why USA is doing so with muslims !

The Bad one who had a power ! alwyes will mis-use it just to satisfy his desires...but not fore justic !

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,

I can only say that I experienced the same in the Arab world. Im coming from Europe and what I saw in the Gulf is almost the same as the writer said.

As-salaamu Alaikum :) Thank you very much for posting this story, it was very beautiful to read! Someday, InshaAllah, the seeds of hate growing in America will be overcome by seeds of love. Until that day, I will believe there are some out there that do show compassion and love and know the truth. Allah hafiz...Channen or Mariam

I thank Frank Fugate for his honest attempt to
dispell the bad image of Arabs in the west. we
are fortunate to have people like him. One can
imagine the frustration of Arabs who act
against the west by seeing the double
standard of western politicians of treatnig
their homeland and imposing corrupt dictators
and supporting them. The rheotoric of war
against Iraq cannot have surgical cleaning of
arsenal but killing and agony of innocent
civilians and children as it happened in Gulf
War and Afghanistan. The result will be more
frustration that may lead to more terror. We
pray for God to give wisdom to Bush and
associate to avoid war and solve the existing
problems in the Arab world by joining hands
with others.

Also Our beloved prophet peace and blessings be upon him was Arab.

Ordinary Americans are nice people who do not tell lie. They are too occupied in making their material things. Unfortunately they are being worked around by media interest and myopic leadership who do not appear to have respect for any other people.
The time the Ameican public awakes to the realities and decency in others they will be better people, not only world seekers. Media and the big interest groups are at work to ruin the humanity by pushing theri cruelities in way of economics and destruction by bombs and disregard to the basic human values. More people around the world like the ordinary Americans but not their leadership.

I could not agree more. Unfortunately, the American public is misinformed & bows down to whatever the American government & the dirty politicians are saying. Moreover, the sad events of 9/11 aggravated the situation. The American concept of melting pot (you must be like the rest to be accepted)is bound to create problems & hostilities. If you happen to have a different opitinion from the majority, then you may be considered as a traitor (e.g, not supporting the war against Iraq).

Wake up whomever you are. Everywhere you go, every masjid you enter, every community you go where there are lots of Muslims....the Arab is the bone in the steak that divides the harmony.

The majority of Arabs I've met are arrogant, pride filled fools who think themselves better than the rest of mankind because the prophet (saw) of Islam came from their land.

The Arab has been at the center of division of three Masjids in the Dallas area within the past 4 years. They seperate and segerate the people in the mosques. They think their interpetations and ways of practicing Islam is THE ONLY WAY AND THE BEST WAY.

They sit around and finger point, speak ill of and make others who are not like them, who refuse to embrace their backwards arrogance as bad.

The arab has been the down fall of Islam in American...and of Islam around the planet. Visit Saudi, the home of the best of the best Arabs, and see how they treat other muslims who are not's a SHAME!

The author needs a lesson in reality....

And yes...I am an Arab. My blood comes from the Arabs in Syria and I know better than any other why the ARAB is in the light he's currently in.......IT'S DESERVING!

May ALLAH forgive you arrogant fools for trying to propogate you propoganda

Boy did you hit the nail on the head with this article....I cannot believe there are people who will judge others, when they know not what they are talking about! Our friends in KSA are really getting drug through the mud, and for what? I lived with these people, and the ones I knew were like you and I. I agree, there are some people who are not first class citizens, but like you say, that is true in any race! Please you people who are bad mouthing my friends in KSA, get your facts straight!

Salaam Alaikum. I was born in and spent the first 11 years of my life in Saudi Arabia. I always felt safe and knew that if I needed anything I could always turn to my family's Arab friends. After 30 years away, I returned to visit two years ago (as a single woman, traveling alone) and had the same secure and welcome feeling around all that I met. I even became reacquainted with Arab classmates that still lived there - It was as if we'd just been together the day before. I will always value my memories of Saudi Arabia and its people. As a Royal Family member said to me during my recent visit, "You will always be a child and citizen of Saudi Arabia." I cherish that honor. As an American and "honorary" Arab I thank you, Frank for your wonderful and enlightening article. My hope is that many people read it and understand.

Jackson and Josephine Christofferson's Daughter

As a Muslim(black American) that attends prayer at my local Masjid, I have found some, but not all Arabs to have issues with blacks. I wont say they're racist. I do feel some are arogant, and have a pride in there skin color, education and family background which cause this negitive attitude. I guess it junk left over from there "dark periods".

In general american distrust of Arabs is due to the latest terrorist events in the US and world wide. Well it wont be the last time America is misinformed by media bias. I am more concerned with the Ummah, I'll qualify that, the fragmented Ummah. Some of "The Arabs I know" need to drop there "good ole boy" ways and help the Ummah regain its proper place in Islam..

PEACE BE WITH YOU. As an African-American Muslim I am well aware of racim and discrimination and at times the US government will utilize these evils in defense of their capitalistic intrest for it was founded upon such evils---the near genocide and relocation of the indigenous population and the cultural castration and enslavement of the African mases. But being both African and Muslim in the US is a double exploitation as it is also for both Arabs and non-Arab Muslims in the US.I find it that most Americans care little about the truth of the matter in favor of stereo-types. Its easier to uphold a stereo-type than dispell a myth and unfortunately on the part of this soceity and its ruling body does next to nothing to bring a clearer understanding on this matter.As much as I admire the stance of some individuals and groups against racism,I am convinced that imperfect man cannot bring peace to Humanity[if he could it would've been achieved eons ago]but as I said I appriciate the effort,"ARABS I KNOW" is a sincere effort that should be in all US classrooms[the younger the students the better]to be open for discussion,I really enjoyed this work and I know it won't sway everyone to an anti-racist stance against Arabs,its certainly a treatise that should at least be presented and available to those who need to be corrected.I hope this work is a success for you and the cause against racism and ignorance. Thanx for a good read. Salaam.

Having spent both my entire youth and a large portion of my adult life in Saudi Arabia, I may only echo Mr. Fugate very well worded feelings. I have known the desert tribes and the shopkeeper and the Royal Family and the threads of common decency and courstey and generousity of the Saudi people is a treasure to the world. Both in the way of their belief in Islam and in their day to day life. Never have I met a more gentle, kinder people and never will I again. I call the Saudi people "Friend" and that will last as long as the desert sings it songs to the wind. The handshake of friendship of the Saudi people is one the Americans who know them feels great comfort in.Thank you Mr. Jungers. You speak well for all of us of our friends, the Saudi Arabian people.

Re: The Arabs I Know.

Way to go, Frank! Thank you for writing this piece. It brought back many great memories.

Doug's daughter.

I think that this is an intrisiting article. What I liked most about this article is the author said,For Arabs peace is not just rehtoric, but its a way of life. I think that as Muslims we should be careful on how we identify ourselves. Meaning, I don't think that we should identify ourselves with the terms that are being used in the media, I beleive that it could create division within our ranks. Its true that Muslims come from very diverse backgrounds and ethnicity,and I think that this is one of the aspects of Islam that makes the culture and religion so beatiful. I think it can be harmful if we start to identify ourselves as, My Arab brother or sister, or My Pakistani brother, or my African American Muslim brother. Its true that are backgrounds and cultures are significant Allah says/"He made us nations and tribes so that we may know one another". I'm not quite clear on the objective of the article wether its talking about Muslims or Arabs in general. Being an Arab dosen't necceraliy mean that a person is Muslim. I think in this time we should be very careful on how we respond and decyhr information. Especially when it talks about Islam or groups of people associated with Islam. This is just my thoughts and opinions about the article, wassalamu.

My experience with Arab hospitality is nowhere near as extensive as Mr. Fugate's, but every bit as positive.
I have met no friendlier people anywhere than I did on a trip to Jordan and Syria, and I hope to return someday.
The best thing for world peace would be for people of different cultures and countries to meet each other, rather than taking the words of governement officials who have their own agendas.

Salam alaikum, i just wanted to react to the story about good arabs well i wished that evrybody thought the same way you did, but not evrybody is like that .The americans and the Israeliers think that arabs are the bad people of the world but we are peaceful.I live in Holland and there are al lot of people who think the same way as the Americans and Israeliers just because we are muslims.I get so angry some times that i just want to hit them because they are so stupid to understand.We have a lot of cultures in our country but the muslims are the bad ones and i dont understand that.Why does evrybody look at us in such a way.And the people in holland look at muslim women like they are monsters just because they where (hijab)i think it is terrible how they treat us.And the Israeliers why do they hurt the people in palestina what harm do they do.And if the president of America bombs Irak what is that going to help,NOTHING.I really don't know why people are so stupid Allah made us all the same why do they think they are better than us.I'd really would like a respond and if you can't than it doesn't matter.I wish you good luck with your site.

Greetings from ,FARAH

Excellent article! I hope this opens up the minds of ignorant Americans.

I have not know any Arabs personally but the ones that I have corresonded with on the Internet have been charm itself. I agree with the authors acessment of the Arab character and would feel perfectly safe with most of the people that I have read about.