Shame and defame

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I RECENTLY came across a video clip of what appears to be a Saudi man questioning a security guard working at a hospital. The video clip reveals the man excited, angry and shouting at the guard, and even claiming that ‘he was not Saudi and that he was an Arab expat from Yemen impersonating as a Saudi man.’

The agitated man in the video clearly accuses the security guard of faking his identity while taking on the Saudi identity. The helpless security guard is seen replying respectfully that ‘he is from a tribe in the south within the Saudi border, with a special case.’ He also said that his paperwork for citizenship was still under process.

Not only that, the Saudi man kept accusing the security guard of being a Yemeni hiding under the garb of Saudi nationality. At one point he even told him that he was one of the Houthis, the outlawed group controlling Yemen, working in a sensitive position at the hospital. He recorded this video and circulated it in social media, which in my opinion, was just to instigate hatred toward a certain nationality.

Of course this shows that the person filmed the video, conducted an illegal interrogation and then circulated it on the social media in a clear violation of ethics done with deliberate intent.

Another video clip that was taken a while ago is too of a person who, on his own volition, entered a private property without permission where Arab expat workers were preparing food in an environment that was unhygienic and in an unhealthy way. The man went inside the rooms to document the unhealthy process used by these workers while preparing some food content to be sold to restaurants.

I have to say that the clip was shocking. But, instead of handing over the video to the authorities for them to take the necessary steps, he posted it on social media. And it went viral. Whatever the person’s intention was in circulating the clip, it did get a lot of hits. The comments that were posted under this video were totally anti-expatriate, which I think served the purpose of circulating it in the first place.

Some of these comments went so far to question the benefit of having expats in our country since they mean harm to Saudi citizens. Such comments, some really vitriolic, want a stern and sweeping action on expats, a generalized punishment on this segment of people because of the actions of a minority.

What these self-appointed guardians of ethics and morals do not realize is that such independent actions would have a domino effect. The effect of this will not only be limited to expats, as it will also extend to Saudis. There are many incidents of people secretly recording officials or normal people and then publicizing the clip on social media just to harm them.

A famous incident of misconception and overstepping the bounds of duty and decency is that of a man who videotaped a woman in Riyadh accusing her of performing black magic. It began when the woman, at a stationery shop to photocopy some papers, was filmed making copies of a sheet that had some symbols. Without ascertaining the facts, the man accused her of performing black magic and then circulated the clip on social media. The clip triggered a storm of outrage against the woman. However, following investigation it was later revealed that she was innocent and the man was arrested.

We have a serious problem when people start recording from their mobile phones or taking pictures of others and then posting it online with the intention to harm others. Such people sometimes fake the entire news or edit the clip of the situation in such a way to reflect something that is completely out of context just to spread a different message, sometimes even to instigate hate.

In any case, when someone witnesses something negative concerning people or services at a government or private department, it should be reported to related authorities, who are competent and assigned to deal with it. It should be reported to the concerned authority, not only because they are there and will take fair action but the effort of being a good Samaritan might backfire on those taking things into their own hands and circulating such clips, like in the example above.

Defaming people on social media and targeting certain nationalities or a segment of society is a serious crime having serious consequences. It not only instigates hatred and puts the person in harms’ way. In addition, the psychological trauma suffered by the person when they see the injustice done to them is immeasurable. And the damage once done is like the broken vase, irreparable, however, much you try to stick it together.

A person may argue that the government in their operations against illegal activities videotape the whole operation and even release it. That is different as the government departments are official entities with an authority to do so, and even then the video is released only after a detailed investigation and after confirming the incident. It is not done to retaliate, but to increase awareness and instill fear against illegal activities.

To those who have a hobby of spying and defaming others I remind them of a verse in the Holy Qur’an saying, “O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other.”

Also, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “O community of people, who believed by their tongue, and belief did not enter their hearts, do not back-bite Muslims, and do not search for their faults, for if anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search for his fault, and if Allah searches for the fault of anyone, He disgraces him in his house.”

Though the message is clear, the frailties of human beings get exposed repeatedly with people resorting to such acts believing that their upholding of the moral high ground would be condoned. All, I can say, is that they are under a misunderstood belief.

— The writer can be reached at mahmad@saudigazette.com.sa Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng


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