Monday, July 26, 2004

Of America and Americans - an Arab is impressed

From Arab News via Athena

I was a little bit apprehensive when I gave my passport to the immigration officer at Washington international airport. I wasn’t sure I would be welcome after reading stories of how our fellow Muslims, Arabs and Saudis are treated in America since 9/11. I was in for a pleasant surprise. The officer welcomed me, politely explained that certain procedures are required for Saudis, which wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes in a nearby office. In an apologetic tone, he asked me not to think of this routine as anything more than standard procedure.

I was treated with similar politeness in the office he directed me to, and was given similar assurances and explanations. Fifteen minutes later, I was on my way out.

Like millions of immigrants and people of color, I just blended into the American melting pot and went about my business as usual.[...]

My visit is not over yet; I am here for two weeks to cover the 2004 elections as a guest of the foreign press center in the US department with a group of Arab journalists. But if my previous experiences are any guide, the actual situation is much better than what we anticipated. Accidents do happen, of course, and incidents of aggressive investigation and treatment of Saudi students, in particular, do occur. However, the overall environment is as welcoming as ever. And the American people are as hospitable, open, generous and beautiful as they always were.

This conclusion confirms my earlier conviction that American foreign policies are one thing, and America the civilization, the dream, and the great nation is something else.


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