By Arab News
By Dr. Qaisar Hamed Metawea
Discrimination exists in almost every country but the levels and types of such discrimination vary vastly from one country to another. Also, discrimination is an issue that should be tackled by every country and it should not be ignored. Some countries have made great efforts to eradicate all forms of discrimination and enacted laws and regulations to make it illegal. However, other countries have not taken enough action yet.
Discrimination is an unjust and ancient problem which exists in every society where some classes of people are not treated equally when there is no reasonable ground to distinguish between those who are favored and those who are not favored. Moreover, discrimination comes in many forms, such as racial discrimination, gender discrimination, religious discrimination and others. It matters not if some people do not express their discriminatory feelings toward others verbally as the actions of certain people not being treated equally as others can also amount to discrimination.
Saudi Arabia is like any other country and has people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The society of Saudi Arabia is like any other society where there are people who are knowledgeable and aware of the danger of discrimination and its negative impact on society and at the same time there are others who are oblivious of the effects and gravity of such a problem. Nonetheless, the notion of an ideal society does not exist and thus no one can say that Saudi society is an ideal one. Hence, there are some Saudi people, who prejudice and discriminate against others, and this fact cannot be denied.
For instance, there are those in Saudi Arabia who discriminate against women and hold demeaning views of them. Such people do not feel ashamed and proclaim to all that women are not mentally capable to work in senior management positions or above as they do not have the mental capability to think properly. Another well known example is where some people discriminate against foreigners generally or against the ones who work for them. In many cases it is clear that they do not treat foreigners like they treat Saudis and sometimes they even deprive them from their basic rights, if they are working for them. Some people prejudice foreigners just because they are foreigners, not for anything else.
Nonetheless, it somewhat ironic that many Saudis have experienced the feelings of being discriminated against when they travel outside Saudi Arabia and complain that are being discriminated against simply because they are Arabs or Saudis, while they forget that some of them do the same when they discriminate against foreigners in Saudi Arabia! However, there are other types of discrimination in Saudi Arabia, such as discrimination against Saudis from different regions or tribes in the country and the list could go on and on.
Saudi Arabia needs to enact an anti-discrimination law by which discrimination should be clearly deemed as unlawful with appropriate sanctions against those who discriminate against any class of person. The law should be clear about the punishment of any discrimination against others, so that people are deterred from discriminating against others or prejudicing against them. Also, enacting a non-discrimination law would assist in providing public awareness of the evils of discrimination, especially for those who see nothing wrong in having prejudices against others as they see nothing wrong in such behavior.
Enacting an anti-discrimination law without public awareness will not assist in solving the problem of discrimination. Therefore, the government should play a role and initiate an anti-discrimination campaign to increase awareness among people of the negative impact of discrimination on Saudi society. Of course, parents at homes and teachers at schools, among others, can also play an essential role with respect to public awareness of the issue of discrimination.
No doubt that discrimination issue exists in almost every society. Nevertheless, denying the existence of such issue, as if we are an ideal society, does not solve the issue. The best way to solve the problem of discrimination is to confront it with stern action rather than to remain in a state of denial.
Dr. Qaisar Hamed Metawea is an Attorney at Law-Partner at the Mikwar, Akkad & Metawea Law Firm