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Saudi Arabia: A Blogger's Praise Of Britain

Maram Meccawy is a Saudi writer and blogger, currently living and working in the UK. She recently wrote a post called “Why am I ready to defend Britain?

Maram starts by saying:

كنتُ دائماً أعلن أنني أحب بريطانيا..فهنا أحلى ذكريات طفولتي، وهنا الوطن الثاني الذي عشت فيه (ولا أزال) ردحاً من عمري. ولم تكن لدّي مشكلة كبيرة مع كون بريطانيا دولة عدوانية بامتياز (تاريخياً وفي الحاضر أيضاً ) باعتبار مشاركتها في الحربين على أفغانستان والعراق، لأنني كنت هنا منذ البداية وأعرف بأن هناك فرق شاسع بين ما يقوم الساسة بتنفيذه وبين ما يريده الشعب حتى في دولة ديمقراطية مثل المملكة المتحدة. فأنا أدرك بأن أقوى المنظمات الشعبية المعارضة للحرب موجودة هنا، وأفضل الأفلام الوثائقية التي فضحت جرائمها أنتجت في هذا البلد. وأراقب يومياً الجدل الدائر في الصحافة والإعلام وأروقة السياسة حول رغبة الشعب في رؤية قواته تنسحب من هذين البلدين وأن يفتح باب المحاسبة والمحاكمة لكل من تسببوا بهذه الجرائم.
I've always said that I love Britain…This is where the best memories of my childhood are, this is my second country, where I have lived for a long period of my life (and still do). I did not have a big problem with the fact that Britain is an aggressive state (historically and in the present as well) especially in regards to its participation in the two wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, because I have been here since the beginning and I know that there is a great difference between what the politicians implement and what the people want, even in a democratic country such as the United Kingdom. So I understood that the most powerful grassroots anti-war organisations are here, and the best documentary films exposing the country's crimes have been produced here. And I see on a daily basis the ongoing debate in the press and media and the corridors of power regarding the people's wish to have their troops withdrawn from these two countries, and to open the way to holding accountable and putting on trial all those responsible for these crimes.
ومع مقتي الذي لا أخجل من التصريح به علناً ورفضي للسياسات الخارجية لحكومات لندن المتعاقبة، إلا أنني كنت دائماً أكن احتراماً كبيراً لسياساتها الداخلية والتي تقوم على احترام حقوق الإنسان وعلى إنشاء مجتمع متعدد الثقافات.
Despite my hate, which I am not ashamed to admit publicly, and my rejection of the foreign policies of successive London governments, I have always had great respect for their domestic policies which are based on a respect for human rights and the establishment of a multicultural society.
فأنت في بريطانيا ليس مطلوباً منك أن “تنصهر” أو ” تتبرطن” حتى يعتبرك الناس واحداً منها. تستطيع أن تكون مسلماً وبريطانياً، يهودياً وبريطانياً، وأسودأً وبريطانياً، وتستطيع أن تصل بالأمس أو تولد هنا ومع ذلك تقول بفخر بأنك بريطاني ولن ينكر عليك أحد ذلك. صديقاتي الفرنسيات والإسبانيات وغيرهن من الأوربيات المتحدرات من غير البلد ذاته الذي يحملون جنسيته (حتى لو كان بلداً أوربياً مجاوراً) يعلنون بصراحة بأن الوضع ليس كذلك في بلدانهن. فالجزائري يظل غريباً في فرنسا ولو كان جده هو من هاجر إلى باريس قبل مائة عام يوم أن كانت الجزائر بالأصل جزء من فرنسا.
When you are in Britain you are not required to “assimilate” or “become British” for people to consider you one of them. You can be Muslim and British, Jewish and British, and black and British; you can have arrived yesterday or have been born here, and still say proudly that you are British – no one will deny you that. My French, Spanish, and other European girlfriends with roots outside those countries whose nationality they hold (even roots in a neighbouring European country) openly admit that the situation is not that way in their countries. An Algerian remains a foreigner in France, even if his grandfather was an immigrant to Paris a hundred years ago at the time that Algeria was actually part of France.
حدثان في الأسبوع الماضي لفتا انتباهي بخصوص خصوصية بريطانيا.
Last week two events drew my attention regarding the particular quality that Britain has.

Maram goes onto to describe attending a recruitment event at Oxford University with the oil company she works for. During the event some protestors started demonstrating about what they argued the oil company had done in various parts of the world, accusing it of having acted criminally. Security guards started to remove the protestors, but a company official agreed to let them have their say for five minutes, saying that he respected their right to freedom of opinion. However, after the five minutes were up the protestors would not allow the official to continue, and kept heckling. Despite the disruption, the company official was disappointed when one of the protestors was finally carried away by force; he said that Britain was a free country and no one should be thrown out because he or she disagreed with the company's activities.

The second event that caught Maram's attention was a particular episode of the weekly BBC television programme Question Time, in which a panel of politicians and others face questions on current issues from a studio audience. Controversially, Question Time had allowed the chairman of the rightwing British National Party and Member of the European Parliament, Nick Griffin, to be part of the panel for this programme. Nick Griffin has previously been convicted of distributing material likely to incite racial hatred.

After setting the scene, Maram describes what happened on the programme:

عودة إلى غرفن فقد أعطي الفرصة ليحدثنا عن خزعبلاته ويشتم الجميع دون أن يؤذيه أحد! وإنما استطاع زملائه في البرنامج من الأحزاب الأخرى وعلى رأسهم الوزير جاك سترو وكذلك الجمهور الحاضر (من بيض وسود وآسيوين ومسلمين ويهود ومسيحيين وغيرهم) بأن يردوا على أفكاره المتخلفة بمنتهى الهدوء والتحضر ويعروه أمام الجمهور البريطاني، فبدا (خريج جامعة كامبريدج) وكأنه طفل يحاول إغاظة الكبار بقول كل الكلمات التي طلبوا منه سابقاً أن لا يقولها..ثم بدا كفأر في مصيدة لا يقوى على الخروج منها…وكان أجمل تعليق ذلك الذي قاله أحد الحضور من المسلمين إذ عرض عليه أن يشتري له تذكرة للقطب الشمالي ليستمتع بالحياة في بيئة بيضاء لا تعكرها الألوان المزعجة!
Going back to Griffin, he was given the opportunity to tell us his nonsense and curse everyone without anyone troubling him! Indeed his fellow participants on the programme from other parties, led by the minister Jack Straw, and the audience present (white, black, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Christian and others) were able to respond to his backward ideas in a very calm and civilised manner, and expose him in front of the British public. This Cambridge University graduate seemed like a child trying to anger his elders by repeating all the words he had previously been told not to say…Then he seemed like a rat in a trap, unable to leave it…The best comment was by one of the Muslims in the audience; he offered to buy him a ticket to the North Pole to enjoy life in a white environment, unmuddied by annoying colours!
انتهت الحلقة منذ أربعة أيام … ولم يخسر أحد وظيفته، ولم تقم انتفاضات ولا نزلت قوات الشغب إلى الشوارع! وواصلنا جميعاً حياتنا بسلام.
بعد أن شاهدت الحلقة ليلتها أطفأت جهاز التلفاز، وذهبت لأنام وأنا أشعر بفخر خفي لأنني متواجدة في هذا البلد العظيم وبالتالي جزء منه، وأغمضت عيني وأنا أقول لنفسي بأن البلد الذي يمنح هذا القدر من الحرية للناس ليعيشوا ويتحدثوا دون خوف – مالم يخالفوا القوانين المعلنة المعروفة – لهو أجدر بقعة جغرافية بأن يتداعي الناس للدفاع عنها ولم لم ينتموا إليها عرقاً أو ولادة أو سكناً أو رحماً..فوطن الحرية هو واحة يستظل تحتها الجميع..في حين أن أوطان القمع هي سجون لأهلها..وشتان ما بين الواحة وزنزانة السجن الباردة..
The episode was four days ago…and no one lost his job, no uprisings were started, and the anti-riot police did not move into the streets! We have all continued our lives in peace.
After watching that show that night, I turned off the television and went to sleep with a secret pride that I live in this great country and as a result am part of it. I closed my eyes telling myself that the country which offers its people this amount of freedom to live and speak without fear – as long as they don't break any known laws – is the most worthy geographical spot for people to rally to its support, even if they do not belong to it ethnically, by birth, or by residence…A nation of freedom is an oasis for everyone to enjoy its shade, while the nations of oppression are jails for their people…and what a difference between an oasis and a cold prison cell…

2 comments

  • […] Global Voices Online, Maram Meccawy, a Saudi in Britain […]

  • Tim

    Well done, Maram. Thank you for sharing your views, both the good and the bad. You’ve set an example for everyone who wants to live in a free society. We must first examine our own thoughts and ideas, good and bad, in order to be honest with ourselves and then with our neighbors. Let everyone be heard so that we can reflect and grow, first as individuals and then as a society.

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