Q: Do you experience prejudice from Middle Eastern people for being an American?

A: Western media paints an unreasonably dark picture of the Middle East. I have lived in Saudi Arabia for twenty-three years, and I have experienced the best of hospitality from the country, and from the people. And I live among the civilian population, not in a sheltered compound. Do I experience prejudice? The reality is that it is the other way around. The vast majority of Saudis like Americans, and go out of their way to welcome us into their homes and into their culture. After 9/11, Saudis I didn’t even know stopped me on the street to tell me how sorry they were for the crime at the twin towers. What did they have to do with it? Nothing. But nonetheless they went out of their way to tell me I was welcome in their country, and to assure me that they viewed the tragedy as a crime as well. Whether suffering from illness or struggling with a disabled car by the side of the road, time and again the native population has shown me a selflessness that far and away exceeds anything I ever experienced in the West. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is paradise. I’m well aware there are criminals and radicals out there somewhere, but you know what? In twenty-three years, I’ve never met one to know it. Not in Saudi Arabia, not in Kuwait, the Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, not even in Israel. In America, you risk your life by venturing into the wrong neighborhood during broad daylight, and frequently innocents suffer violent crimes even in “safe” zones. In the Middle East, I feel completely at ease, even in the deepest, darkest hours of night. And I’m not the only one. I know many Americans who live here as non-Muslims, but who hope to live and die here. They have no interest in Islam, but they love the life and the culture, and they have integrated into life here relatively seamlessly. The hospitality of the Arabs has that effect on people. As I have said before, there are good and bad people everywhere, but the simple fact of the matter is that I feel more safe living in the Middle East than I do at home in America. That may seem strange, but it’s true.

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