A few former Qatar Academy students engaged with the above Facebook post I posted on my timeline back in June. One in particular engaged with a number of our comments basically making the same claim as the politician.
(He is a Facebook friend of one of my former colleagues who had contributed to the discussion. That’s how he had come across the post.)
From the opinions he — and other students — expressed, it was clear he was painting themselves — the Arabs — as victims (of racism). It was clear he struggled to understand where we were coming from. After all, he was just a recent high school graduate who has had — and continues to have, I am sure — a very very comfortable and sheltered life.
Realizing that, at the end of the discussion, I posted the following parting message to him.
Omar, I don’t know you personally, but here’s my own parting gift to you.
As a teenager, you have an incredible opportunity ahead of you.
Go live in a few different countries amongst the locals. Live for a year or two in a country that speaks a language you don’t understand; a year or two in a country that follows a religion you don’t know anything about; a year or two in a culture that is completely different from yours. Live in Africa, Asia, South America. Live amongst people you have nothing in common with.
Go travel the world a bit. And I don’t mean the kind of travel where you get driven around from one five-star hotel to another, but rather one where you take public transportation, hang out where the locals hang out and eat local cuisines etc. Travel to Africa, Asia, South America.
Should you do that, you’ll do and see things that you can’t imagine (aren’t imagining) doing and seeing living in the comfort of your home in Doha, Qatar now, which, invariably, will change you in the process. Like, for instance, being in relationships with people from countries and cultures you have very little in common with and thereby, amongst other things, developing a better understanding of what your cultures is and how it has shaped your habits and thinking. Or, for instance, eating food and drinks you don’t eat or drink at home and developing a taste for flavors that you never knew existed. Or, for instance, learning dance moves that you never knew existed etc.
Then, come back and ask me to see these exchanges we have had and I’ll promise you, you’ll see these writings (both yours and ours) in a different light.
(You’ll never be able to fully appreciate the world and its diversity of people–and who and what you are–unless you have traveled. I know that because who I am and what I am today is a result of being educated in five, living in ten and traveling in over three dozen different countries over 25 years.)
I doubt he’ll come back but c’est la vie!
What advice would you have given him?