It’s time for the next installment of my series of interviews with my Saudi in-laws! This time I sat down with my brother-in-law, Suleiman. I first met Suleiman when he was maybe 15 or so, and now he’s all grown up and graduating from college this spring! He’s a good kid, and as you could probably glean by reading the interview, he’s the Mostafa who is most serious about the development of my Arabic language skills; he quizzes me constantly and always pushes me to get better, which I appreciate, even when he’s a pain in the butt about it. Like before, I started out by asking him a few basic questions, and then moved on to questions submitted by readers. Here’s what he had to say.
Okay, here we go. Introduce yourself.
Why would I introduce myself? You know me.
You’re not introducing yourself to me, you’re introducing yourself to the readers!
Okay. My name is Suleiman Mostafa. I study industrial engineering at King Saud University in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. I’m 22 years old. I’m single. I’m a full-time student. That’s my life.
What do you think about my blog?
I’ve never read it.
Have you ever had a blog or have you considered starting one?
No. But I like reading some blogs.
But not mine. (Laughs)
No, I mean, I don’t like, look for blogs. But if I saw an article or something like that, I might read it and like it.
So there aren’t any blogs that you, like, read consistently.
If you could meet any famous person, who would you choose?
I don’t know. You know, my friend told me, like, when he was in the U.S., they always have these questions, like, “What’s your favorite movie?” “What’s your favorite color?” “What’s your favorite whatever?” And it bothers him. And that’s the kind of question he was talking about. (Laughs) Why would I choose a single person?
Just answer the question!
Okay. Um…dead or alive?
Dead or alive.
It changes. One of them…maybe Abraham Lincoln. If we’re talking about, like, foreigners. And if it was…domestic, it would be Prophet Mohammed. I know that’s cliche, but I would love to see, like, his political views or whatever. Abraham Lincoln was a great leader…even though he was a religious government leader, he had great points…like, about anti-enslavement and all of that. But Prophet Mohammed…I just want to see how he views the world. How he views it differently than the people. Abraham Lincoln…you know, he had people with similar views around him from the beginning. But Prophet Mohammed didn’t.
Okay. Let’s cover all the bases–sports. Who is your favorite football (or soccer team) and why?
Real Madrid. I just grew up loving them. I have no idea why. Maybe because Saleh supports the team. If you asked him which team he supports in the Spanish league, La Liga, he would say Real Madrid.
Okay. What’s your favorite American sport, and why?
American sport? Hmmm…basketball makes more sense than the other two, baseball and American football. Those don’t make sense. But I like how Americans stick to their sports even though they’re not so popular around the world. They appreciate their culture.
Okay, those are all my questions. Now on to the reader questions. These are all questions that readers submitted that they wanted me to ask you. Ready?
How do you feel about women in Saudi Arabia eventually gaining the right to drive?
I support it. That’s it, really. It’s a normal right; it’s nothing to talk about. It’s not…it’s not a debate. It’s stupid. Women should drive. Even if they don’t want to, they should have the right to drive.
Has having a foreign sister-in-law affected your views on marriage? Are you more open to marrying a non-Saudi/non-Arab/non-Muslim?
No. Even when I was younger, I didn’t mind the idea of marrying a foreigner. So it didn’t really affect me. I remember one time I was with Wala’a and Marwa (his cousin) and they were talking about Saudi women for some reason, and I was like, “I will marry a foreigner, anyway.” And Marwa said, “Why would she marry you–for your money?!” (Laughs)
Let’s just hope she speaks Arabic, God love her! (Laughs)
No, I wouldn’t marry an English-speaking person if she doesn’t speak another language.
Another language? It doesn’t have to be Arabic?
I see. So she has to be bilingual.
No, let me correct my answer. If she is willing to learn my language as much as I speak her language, then that would be great.
Okay, well, you have to be willing to help her learn, because I am totally willing to learn but your brother just thinks it’s easier to speak English to me! But I’m learning a lot more now that Lavender is here. Okay. Next question. What was your first reaction when you found out that your brother wanted to marry a foreign wife? How do you feel about it now?
Well, I knew you.
So you weren’t terrified?
No. Why would I be terrified? He can marry whatever nationality, whatever girl, whatever woman he wants. Indian, American, Saudi, whoever. Whatever. A tree, a dog, a camel…(Laughs)
Shut up! (Laughs) How do you feel about him having a foreign wife now?
Terrible. Terrible. (Laughs) SHE IMPOSES THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE UPON THE FAMILY. (Laughs) No, it’s okay. I don’t see a difference. But what I notice is that…if he married a Saudi woman, I would have less conversations with her. Because Saudis are more conservative. Even the most “free” ones…well, I mean, I have some friends who have Saudi sister-in-laws, they speak to them, but I don’t think they would…
Like, talk about stuff?
Yeah. About Titanic and stuff like that. (Laughs)
Okay. Did Nicole change your views about Americans?
How do you contribute to your community? Like volunteer work, for example. And to your society? (Like voting, or writing a blog, or something like that.)
I’ve never done anything. That’s terrible. Well, hmmm…maybe like, in the university, if volunteering was part of the curriculum or part of a class, but I’ve never done volunteering just because. That’s really terrible.
Who are your role models, and why?
Role models. That’s very general…it’s one of those questions like asking who you want to meet. It’s very general. Many people are my role models.
Who do you want to be like?
Well, everybody has their pros and cons.
Oh, good Lord.
Okay, I get that, but…you have role models!
Hmmm…I don’t know! My role models…I don’t know. I can’t answer that. It changes. Like, you might think a person is amazing or really smart or whatever, and then they turn out to be terrible.
Okay, so what’s a person who you thought was amazing but turned out to be terrible?
Like, these aren’t my role models or anything, they’re just examples, but like…Martha Stewart.
But I like Martha Stewart.
Or what is name, that guy, an actor…Bill Cosby. That guy.
Okay, yeah. I get that one. So you don’t have any role models?
No, I have! But they change. And I can’t think of one right now.
Okay, so this next question is specifically about French people, because I think the person who asked it is French. French people believe Daesh is financed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. How do you answer that?
Well, that’s a false accusation. I don’t know who actually funds them, but I’m sure that countries who have an advantage if the Syrian government stays broken are the ones who keep it going. One way or another. There’s no advantage for Saudi Arabia. Why would we support Daesh if there is no benefit? If Daesh didn’t exist, that would be a much bigger political benefit for Saudi Arabia. Actually, we would benefit more if we supported the Assad regime or the rebels since their views have more in common with Saudia’s views and in general Saudia always looks for stability of the whole region because that helps contribute to the stability of our own government.
Okay. What would you say to the French people in general about being a Muslim and living in Saudi Arabia?
Um…I’m just a person?
Okay. (Laughs) How do you defend the rights of people in your daily life? Women, immigrant workers, the elderly, children, etc.
I just…like, only verbally. I don’t really get involved with political protest because that would be stupid to do in Saudi Arabia. Because, like…I appreciate the country, but sometimes they don’t let people speak. Even, like…the last time the Shoura Council was in session, they were talking about women driving, one of the men in the Council was for it, and the majority were against it. And so they kicked him out, just because he was against the majority.
Yeah…I don’t think that’s how the Shoura Council is supposed to work.
The meaning of “shoura” is to…converse with each other. Not kick each other out because you don’t agree.
Okay. What Western/American cultural things that Nicole does (or did) do you think are weird?
Not speaking another language. It’s weird that Americans don’t speak another language.
Okay. What else?
For example, how Saudis eat goat, how Americans use toilet paper, difference in family sizes, etc.
I think you are very cultured and…you were aware of the culture and almost every aspect of the culture before coming here. So, you even knew, like, you just shake hands with men if they offer to shake your hand, and you don’t kiss men on the cheek like you do with women. You knew the little details. So, no. You didn’t do anything weird.
Really? Because I felt like I was totally clueless when I got here.
No, you knew everything.
Well, that’s not true, but that does make me feel good. So there’s nothing I do that’s weird?
Because, I mean, like, you’re cultured. You know about other cultures. You’re not…ethnocentric.
Awww…that’s, like, the best compliment ever! Thank you.
Next question: do you cook?
No. Well, I can cook…like, some stuff.
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
Pasta. Or eggs. That’s the easiest. Either sunny-side-up or scrambled.
What about pasta? How do you cook your pasta? (Laughs)
You can do anything with pasta. Pasta and sauce.
Okay, well, I guess the next question is related. But also kinda not. What’s your favorite food?
That’s the third terrible question you’ve asked me! (Laughs) There’s no such thing as a favorite food! I don’t know! If you asked me, like, a general cuisine, I would say maybe Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. Mediterranean/Middle Eastern.
Okay. Do you have anything else you’d like to say to the readers of my blog?
If you go to another country, learn their language.
I’m going to punch you in the face. (Laughs) Anything else?
Have a better view of other cultures and don’t be ethnocentric.
Okay. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed!
Thank you for interviewing me.