What's patriotism


Al-Watan newspaper

NATIONALISM is a term that symbolizes everything beautiful in human life. It reflects man’s innate love for his land, people, nation, history and culture. They have taught us in the past that the love of homeland is part of faith, therefore our endeavors to protect the nation and our death in the way of defending it and raising its reputation would be considered a noble act.

During the period when we failed to deepen our belonging to the smaller nation (the state of Saudi Arabia) while focusing on the largest homeland (Arab and Islamic world) the situation reached such an extent that some school students, especially girls, did not get an opportunity to hear the national anthem.

Fortunately, we were alerted about this problem before it was too late and have begun to deepen the values ​​of patriotism in the minds of students. I would like to assert that the National Day celebrations, which we started organizing in recent years, are similar to festivities of American Independence Day, which are held on July 4 each year.

These are positive things, which should make every citizen happy. Unfortunately, this national affiliation and pride have deviated from the right path through the conduct of abhorrent practices that harm the homeland and its citizens before any outsider.

I would like to highlight some instances to support my argument.

First scene: A citizen humiliates a security guard in a facility simply because he is a Yemeni. He accuses him of forgery and carries out an investigation as if he has got the judicial authority. Out of foolishness he considers it an act of patriotism and heroism. He accuses that Yemeni of stealing job as if he was hired by himself.

Scene two: A young Saudi man meets two women while walking around and declares they are from Iran and makes inappropriate gestures at them as if he has done a great job to show his patriotism. He thinks foolishly that he is not different from those soldiers who fight Houthi rebels and Iranian agents on the Kingdom’s southern border.

The young man also thought that by attacking the two women he did a great job similar to intercepting a missile that targeted Riyadh. He has forgotten the fact that these two women have nothing to do with what their authoritarian government was doing. Moreover, respecting women is part and parcel of our culture and men often avoid implicating their women while fighting each other. The two women were not young, and respecting age of a person is part of our culture. Above all they have not done anything wrong to him and he has no right to attack them without any genuine reason. After all what gain he has made by that unbecoming act?

Third scene: This may be the most dangerous, because it is a collective action by a group of journalists who attack a person or a group or a state in a hysterical and convulsive manner to defend the nation. But Islam does not condone such despicable actions even toward disbelievers.

They abuse our brothers and sisters in Islam and talk about their poverty and political differences and highlight the material and moral support provided by our country to them, forgetting the fact that Saudi Arabia extended the aid to protect its national interest.

Some may argue that others also do the same by harassing and abusing their opponents. We should know that Saudi Arabia has suffered a lot due to strident smear campaign launched by Arab media mercenaries for decades. If we respond we would become fools like them. Instead we should confront them with reason and logic, especially when evidences stand in our favor.

I have gone through many such situations while I was staying in the UK; two of them occurred at the British House of Lords and the London Press Club, where I replied to their allegations and apprehensions quietly and won the respect and applause of those present.

Should we give opponents who abuse us more attention than they deserve? Why we give value to every trifle thing they say exposing their hatred? Ignoring such attacks would be more painful to the enemies than making substandard statements.

I don’t know when insulting or underrating others have become a sign of patriotism. We know that such a response goes against the teachings and culture of Islam as well as Saudi customs and values of generosity, courage and hospitality.

How we describe the new media response? Is it a sudden cultural opening or a new social media strategy?

I am afraid that a whole generation would come up believing that these bad deeds are the be-all and end-all of patriotism. If that happens it would be a moral disaster and educational fallout because it would only harm our blessed country and undermine its reputation and spread mutual hatred among peoples of the region.

We have to denounce every individual or collective act of bullying, and every media campaign that aims to abuse and insult others. We should teach younger generations that these evil acts are not patriotism, but acts of thugs. We should review lessons of national education and provide students with real examples to show them the difference between the real patriot who strives for the development of his country and enhance its reputation with their achievements and ethics, and between the uneducated and morally backward individuals who seek a popular cover for their despicable deeds and strange ideas.