Us and Them – A Redneck Muslim Teacher’s Perspective on Racism in International Schools

This article is part of an earlier Blog. We feature it here for your comment.

Let me begin by stating that I am a full-blooded Texan with redneck roots (not to say that I’m proud of that latter part of the description).  Despite that, I am a convert to Islam and fairly observant in my faith.  Outwardly, this is apparent in my groomed beard and head-covering in addition to the combination of my first name, which is Arabic, with my last name, which is from England.

I entered into teaching to make a contribution to my community. My first administrator in Texas public schools was African-American and, ironically, about the most bigoted person you can imagine. He had once made a comment that a district initiative, one that  people were grumbling about, was “Like Islam, out to get you.” He also had numerous grievances leveled against him with the union from other minorities and women.

I entered into teaching in international schools in the Middle East in hopes that I might work in a quality institution where I assumed employees and students would be more open to diversity. To some extent this has proven true. But generally I have found that, perhaps more than the host culture, expatriot parents at schools in the Middle East are racist, n0uveau-riche elitists whose extreme distaste for the places in which they live lead them to live lives in a bubble where they move compound, to work/school, to mega-mall, to compound. When they have to engage with locals or non-Western expats outside of these contexts, one never hears an end to the complaints. I actually heard a colleague in Qatar describe her shady Indian repair man as “having a very foreign look.” When I replied, “Aren’t 75% of us here foreigners?” she said with a look and tone that could freeze mercury, “You know what I mean.”

The fact of the matter is, despite mission statements that hope to “draw upon our diverse community” and “honor our status as guests in the host culture,” many expat parents want more from an American or British school than a quality education; they want to preserve the bubble, exemplified in many schools’ celebration of traditional Western holidays to the neglect or total avoidance of local ones important to their significant national student populations. My experience as a White American Muslim is that I represent an intrusion into that bubble. I read a post which commented about having every comment and action scrutinized. That is what has happened to me.

I have been accused of denying the holocaust, despite being proud of my grandfather that was at Normandy and a great-great grandfather who was an Orthodox Jew. I have been accused of promoting my faith in the classroom, despite  another group of teachers taking a field trip to a visiting sea-faring missionary organization aboard the Duolos. Parents with a McCarthy-style paranoia complained about a comment in my International Relations class that China is no longer a purely communist country. And finally, I was fired with 6 weeks left in the school year for discussing both Western and Muslim radicalism in my Middle Eastern studies class, a discussion which offended the daughter of a senior military officer in the Iraq war, and was given the rest of my package through August on condition that I did not attempt to contact parents or students for support (because there were many who did express their support).

I have often heard and read on this site a great many complaints about Middle Eastern schools and host cultures. I too am disgusted by the racism one sees from Arabs, all the more so because I am a coreligionist with most of them. Nevertheless, I think those of us living in this situation should use it as an opportunity to reflect upon our own cultural biases. Racism is intolerable anywhere from anyone. But how often have I heard my American and Canadian colleagues refer to a male domestic servant as a house-boy, a term which is reminiscent of derogatory names for house slaves? How often have I seen expats criticize legitimate but different cultural practices in East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East? Why are they living in these places if they find these differences so intolerable?

Bigotry is rampant in international schools, even in monocultural ones, like the one where I currently teach in Egypt. I think it comes with the views predominant in affluent, particularly newly affluent, families. I remember when I saw my second African-American teacher in an international school setting (the first was introduced to a school in Saudi Arabia) my me, at a conference in China. That this sticks out is noteworthy. My experience indicates that it is likely due to discrimination in hiring practices, but my African-American colleague in Saudi suggested that many African-Americans (and probably Latinos) desire to work within their communities to help these groups cope with the problems that prevent them from accessing the American dream.

What I do know, is that bigotry is an issue. I have seen it; my colleagues have seen it. Still, it exists everywhere, as evident from my experience in the States. Ethnic, religious, and other minorities must often make tough choices. We should not see ourselves victims but as ambassadors. If people don’t wish to give you the chance to make a difference, find people who will; there always are.

37 thoughts on “Us and Them – A Redneck Muslim Teacher’s Perspective on Racism in International Schools

  1. I taught 20+ years overseas and often cringed at the racism and religious bigotry I witnessed. My decades on the international circuit (6 schools on 4 continents) and in light of this article just confirms for me, that despite the flaws the USA may have when it come to race relations and religious tolerance, it is still a place I am more than happy to call home.


  2. As the Redneck Muslim himself, I am pleased to say that at least one organization seems to be challenging the status quo of diversity in international education. Based on what I can see from Facebook postings of new hires (like myself, in the interest of full disclosure) on TeachAway’s page, the Abu Dhabi Education Council appears to have gone out of their way to hire a diverse workforce of teachers. Granted, ADEC is not an international school per se; but the representation of African Americans, Latinos, and people of diverse lifestyles indicates, at the very least, a commitment to something other than “if it’s White it’s right,” an attitude held as often by nationals overseas as it is by expatriates.

    The causes for this are many, it seems. I’m sure the current economic situation, in which thousands of teachers across the U.S. are losing their jobs, has something to do with teachers who would not ordinarily consider overseas teaching pursuing the opportunity. The above par pay offered by ADEC as compared to other international schools must also play a role. But whatever the reasons, while I recognize the potential challenges posed by an international environment with so few who have worked internationally before, it is with great pleasure and anticipation that I look forward to benefiting from the perspectives offered by working with a more diversified group of colleagues more appropriately representative of our professional community.


  3. Racism,elitism is rampant in international schools. Minority teachers often find it hard to gain acceptance and are often dealt with as servants . They may eventually “win over ” their harassers which may include kids, parents and admin. Even in Nigeria where white admin and their condescending view of Africans are a relic of the 1950’s


  4. Phil, I find your comment “With the amount of knowledge and information which is so easily assessable these days, it is unbelievable that an educated white American would choose to become involved in Islam.” extremely offensive. In case you missed it, Islam is the fastest growing religion on the planet despite the plethora of information you refer to. I hope you are not questioning the sanity of those masses in favor of yours. You make it sound like witchcraft or Greek mythology not compatible with today’s day and age. You can disagree with it all you want, but I would try to walk the fine line between that and publicly disrespecting others’ faith, because if you do, expect people to talk about your faith (regardless of what it is) with equal disrespect.

    “Racist card”! This word is used loosely all over nowadays. People use it to refer to ethnicity, faith, way of life, you name it for the lack of a better word, something like antisemitism, which really refers to an extremely heterogeneous faith based non-race related group of people.

    Your comments speak of the kind of intolerance to others’ opinions and cultures this very thread is discussing.


  5. The majority of teachers who go to the middle east do so because there is an opportunity to earn a lot of money. Nobody I have spoken to has gone there for any other reason (though I am sure some do). I guess they try to put up with it while they’re there and insulate themselves from it as best as they can as middle eastern culture is largely seen as poisonous to us in the west. Let’s face it, people can be executed for committing adultery or being gay in many parts of the middle east.

    I certainly would not be a part of it so I moved to Europe instead.

    Of course if my children went to an international school then I certainly would not want one of their teachers trying to make some comparison between radicalism in Islam (a HUGE problem with unspeakable consequences for the whole world) and the occasional bit of radical behavior we have from Westerners.

    The author has chosen his own path. With the amount of knowledge and information which is so easily assessable these days, it is unbelievable that an educated white American would choose to become involved in Islam. Anybody who does this should expect a certain about of scrutiny.

    By the way, Islam is a religion, and should not get to play the ‘racist’ card whenever somebody criticizes it.


  6. I have taught in many countries, Islamic and Christian and my job is the education of children and nothing more. Of course a teacher comes with their own cultural baggaage, but the more we teach and the further we roam ;the quicker we shed it. Don’t accept a job a job in a country in which you feel uncomfortable – and if you choose to stay then you should adapt or stop taking the pay check and go home.
    Children are all the same – use your intelligence to go beyond the petty irritations of the administators that plague us all – and make a contention with the children, as one human being to another. Then you will be a real international teacher.


  7. I find it incredible that anyone would complain about western people being racist in the Middle East, especially the Gulf. In my years spent in the Gulf teaching, I saw acts of racism perpetrated on people from places like India, Bangladesh and the Philippines by Arabs that would get one thrown in jail in the west.

    Of course American/Canadian/British/Australian schools promote those cultures. Which culture would you have them promote? A parent should know that, if they send their child to one of those schools, this is the slant those schools will take. If I sent my kids to an Indian school, should I expect them to be instructed in the western fashion?

    I think the author is a bit too precious about his religion. Please remember that Islam (and Judaism, Christianity, etc.) are religions, not races. If I am critical if Islam, it does not mean I am racist. Frankly, I don’t care about your religious beliefs, I care about how you instruct my children and whether you are forcing your beliefs down their throats.


  8. About the holidays: I taught for two years at an IS in Tanzania, during the first two years of a new principal’s employment. We had time off for the religious and local national days. Additionally, what had for years past been called “The Christmas Celebration, (although half the students were Muslims!) was renamed “The End of Term Celebration,” a fully non-denominational perfromance put on by the students. I was very happy with this, because the Muslim secondary students told me that in previous years they were forced to sing christmas carols. These being the easy-going kids they were just laughing about it, even sang a few verses to prove they did it anyway. The new celebration was a hit and I just bring it up to show that not all schools are cultural enclaves.

    Re: a comment about people forced to live away from home. What about the teachers? We take our families to far off places to expose them to new ideas and ways of living. I’m an Air Force brat and thank my lucky stars I got to live in and travel to many countries in Europe. I can empathise with those who don’t want to leave home. To each his own. It is a shame to live in a different country and not try to enjoy what the culture offers. But this is why we find these old relic golf courses club houses high in the Southern Hills of Tanzania, and other places no doubt. There was the “Iringa Club” which had a large room with a massive snooker table and a crumbling dartboard. It was fun, and a bit odd, playing snooker in an atmosphere that reminded me of my grandfather’s pub in the UK.
    It all boils down to one’s approach to difference: do you put up your hands in a defenseive posture, or do you open them, as if acceping a gift.

    Rambling Rant Complete


  9. Dear sir,
    Your comment revolves around the idea of ‘normalcy’. I agree with the first part of the post that most people move to other countries not by choice and they expect to go back to ‘normal’ life in future.

    You stated:
    “They want “normalcy” for their children and expect the expat teaching staff to provide that.”

    But there’s one problem. Different people have different ideas about what’s normal. Let’s say we take Kwait as a host country and in an international school there are students from China, Europe, US and Australia. How come a teacher provide ‘normalcy’ to all the students when they have totally different mindset and background. The parents’ expectation would also be very diverse. You can’t make everyone happy, but what’s important is you should understand the culture of the school and get along with it. If it doesn’t suite your teaching style then move on.


    1. Dear Sher Khan,

      You bring up a valid point but the name of the school that you are sending your child to should give you a good starting point about what the culture of the school will be and what “normal” will be. If you send you children to the Anglo-American school of such and such or the Australian school of so and so it gives you a pretty good idea about the environment of the school. I can guess that the original poster, to whom I was responding, was teaching at an American or British school because there was the daughter of a high ranking Western military officer from the Iraq war at the school who took offense at the idea of “Western Radicalism” (we can assume that he wasn’t an officer in the Iraqi army under Saddam). Normalcy then, becomes a pretty easy thing to predict.

      You are correct in that you can’t make everyone happy but you can protect yourself in the workplace by watching what you say and to whom you say it. The original poster should have assumed that what he was discussing would not be taken in the best light by some of the students families (particularly given their backgrounds) and discussed this issue with the school administration, sought out their council and then proceeded on an agreed course. If the school administration had given the green light for a discussion on Western radicalism, the teacher would have been protected (if the administration had any moral compass at all) and there wouldn’t have been an issue. The problem here is that we sometimes act as if we’re back in the West where we can say what we want when we want and are protected by the government and a strong labor union. This isn’t the case and we all need to be careful when teaching overseas.

      The problem here is that the teacher in question didn’t fit in at the school and was “moved along” not out of choice but through compulsion. The point that I was trying to make is that, given that we’re all intelligent human beings, we can make assumptions about what will work in our schools and what won’t. We need to analyze before we speak in class and make sure that we don’t rock the boat so much that we fall out.


  10. I’m not sure that I’m seeing the sense in a lot of these comments about Westerners living in different areas wanting to keep some sense of their “Westernness” for their children at their school.

    Many of the people who live overseas do so out of necessity, not out of choice. Most of them have no desire to live in a foreign country but one of the family members (usually the husband) has been transferred by his company on a climb up the corporate ladder. This leaves the other spouse at home, a stranger in a strange land, unhappy about being a prisoner in their own back yard. They feel overwhelmed by the experience and simply want a “normal” education for their child. They know that this is a temporary glitch on their career path, that their children will not live in a foreign country after their stint is over and the best thing for the child is to have as “normal” an education as possible. Your expecting prisoners and victims of circumstance to be accepting and happy with their situation and this simply isn’t the case in most circumstances. These people, the parents of the children that we teach, just want their life back and are putting up with this situation for a short time. Normalcy is what they want and they have every right to expect that from the school that they send their child to.

    Having high ideals is all well and good but you have to realize that, particularly as an American Muslim convert, you are on stage 24/7. We all walk a tight rope when living in a foreign country because anything that we say or do can be construed as something “wrong” by the host country locals just as it can be by Westerners. A very good friend of mine and an excellent social studies teacher was fired from an Egyptian school for teaching a “wrong” version of the Six Day War. I have a friend from Mexico who, when visiting in Egypt, because she had olive skin and black, wavy hair and was assumed to be Egyptian, had small stones thrown at her by Egyptian men because she didn’t have a head scarf on! Talking about Western Extremism in a school where you have a particular audience was a very risky undertaking which you opted to do working under a Western umbrella of free thought and the honest exchange of ideas. Don’t forget that the discussion of ideas, wherever you go is a risky proposition when not protected by a union or an open government. Remember the British teacher in the Sudan who was almost killed because her students decided to name a teddy bear Mohammed? You only got fired; think of what the consequences could have been in some places if you had talked about Islamic radicalism with too free a tongue.

    Fact of the matter is, many of the parents of students attending international schools would rather be at home than in some far off corner of the world. They want “normalcy” for their children and expect the expat teaching staff to provide that. When we don’t, there is friction and, since we are the soldiers standing in the front line of education, we are the ones who get the bullet when we do something wrong. A harsh truth, but true none the less. Learn from the experience (as we all should) and move on. You were the sacrifice that the school needed to make to maintain “normalcy”. There isn’t anything wrong with that, you simply learned the hard way.


  11. Allow me to interject! My children go to an international school in the Middle East. The author’s comments rang with a lot of things we experience here. Western expats tend to be more intolerant to the local culture here than in their own home countries. Very strange, but very true. My theory is that they strongly resent that culture and try to go out of their way to shield themselves from it by overdoing their loyalty to their own backgrounds. I have seen it and experienced it. Middle Easterners are far more tolerated in a multicultural society in the West as opposed to an international society in their own homelands!!! Very strange.


  12. So,should I be offended by the fact that teachers I know are given Ramadan holidays in the Buddhist country of Thailand or the Catholic country of Philippines.
    Wake up to yourselves, Western countries and people are probably the least racist in the world due to their relatively open door policies and freedoms.
    Besides, racism becomes a non-issue if you have the economic means to ignore it – paraphrasing Marx.


    1. Dear Lindsay,

      I’ve been following along the post comments. You mentioned;
      “Western countries and people are probably the least racist in the world due to their relatively open door policies and freedoms.”

      It would have been better if you could give any specific reference or evidence to your such claim. Or you are trying to imply just because Western countries are rich so they don’t ‘need’ to be racist. The world’s worst war (WWII) was fought in the West and the cause was most probably national pride.


    2. Dear Sher Khan,

      If I may interject here and give you a couple of examples. In Western countries there is a guaranteed right to freedom of religion which, we can all agree, is not the case in much of the world. Because there is freedom of religion, guaranteed by the national governments, there tends to be very little overt hostility for people with different religious views from the general population. Ask a Sikh in India or a Zoroastrian in Iran if they find this to be the case.

      Much of the Western world had become color blind; overtly anyway. Are there still problems with race relations? Certainly. Are they becoming smaller and smaller in the West? Certainly. Very few people that I know consider race as a factor when making plans to go out or with whom to socialize. This is not the case in much of the rest of the world. When I was in Egypt there was a definite dislike for people from Sub-Saharan Africa. My Nubian housemaid, a wonderful, energetic woman, was looked down upon by most of the Egyptians that I knew simply because of the color of her skin.

      As for the Second World War being caused by national pride I think that you may well have missed the mark here. Europeans fighting other Europeans has little to do with racism (lets leave the anti-Semitic issue out here because it wasn’t a cause of the Second World War) and much more to do with the political philosophy of fascism adopted by Adolf Hitler from Benito Mussolini. The Second World War also started with the Japanese invasion of China, not in Europe.


  13. I totally agree with you! Ex-patriot parents and students in the Gulf are elitists who live in a bubble where they move compound, to work/school, to mega-mall, to compound but I strongly believe this is more of a class issue than Western supremacy!
    However You seems to be forgetting about overwhelming elitism of the host Gulf Arab culture. I have countless examples of openly racist comments towards Nepali/Indian workers at school. I cant forget bullying poor Filipina nurse by Khaliji students. Believe me that was driven by hate and superiority.
    I disagree with Maha who complains about celebration of Western I assume christian holidays in International schools in The Middle East. Those words about “potentially weakening Islam…” What? “A Merry Christmas” at the end of the lesson before the holidays or Christmas tree in some classrooms are going to weaken the fastest growing religion? You converts to Islam are clear beneficiaries of Western secularism and by itself a product of as somebody could say “eastern indoctrination”. Your statements are being simply hypocritical.
    I guess you would like your kids being taught in the West something about the holy month of Ramadan, the meaning of fasting, the pillars of Islam etc. In the UK for instance they do teach about it in the schools and nobody I believe will oppose bringing by your child to the school a Ramadan lamp.
    People like you who have insides to both cultures and religions should better understand sensitivities on the both sides. Less of a preaching, more of a dialog.


    1. “I disagree with Maha who complains about celebration of Western I assume christian holidays in International schools in The Middle East. Those words about “potentially weakening Islam…” What? “A Merry Christmas” at the end of the lesson before the holidays or Christmas tree in some classrooms are going to weaken the fastest growing religion? You converts to Islam are clear beneficiaries of Western secularism and by itself a product of as somebody could say “eastern indoctrination”. Your statements are being simply hypocritical.”
      As stated, I am not in an International school, and as my follow up comment states, our students are 100% Egyptian and 99% Muslim. Why on earth would anyone tell a Muslim, “Merry Christmas” or expect them to celebrate a holiday like Halloween? YES, dear, this confuses the children. They grow up thinking it’s ok, their parents don’t know about these holidays because they are NOT a part of this culture (my Egyptian in-laws had never even heard of Halloween) so they think it’s ok. Only after someone tells them WHY Muslims don’t celebrate these events do they become irate enough to speak to the admin. The kids are being asked, even encouraged to do something that their religion forbids. Some follow and participate, not knowing any better.
      Having taught in public school for over 10 years in the US, I can say that if I lived there, my children would not attend public school. 😉


  14. I also taught and lived in Egypt for several years. And although I love Egypt, I am not comfortable with Egyptian racism. My landlady frantically phoned me to confirm a message she received, that I had allowed “black people” into my apartment. She went on to say before I could even answer, that this is not allowed. I replied that yes indeed I did have a “black woman” in my apartment, my Ethopian cleaning lady. My Egyptian landlady then replied: “Oh if she’s your servant, then it’s OK.”

    I moved out of her apartment the next day. Humdalliah not ALL Egyptians are racists…



  15. Thank you for your article. It provided many laughs for me. Racists constantly refer to others as racist if they hold different positions than their own. Your writing reflects your hatred and racism. Try to be more tolerant and hate less.


    1. Allen, I’m not sure we both read the same comments. Please point out specifically what the Author said, or even implied that you consider to be racist or hate driven.. Have I missed something? I find the gentleman to be open-minded and tolerant.


    2. Allen, I too find your understanding of the author’s writing contrary to mine. Please clarify the points that he has raised and you understand to be racist and hateful.


    3. This is an innocent question. I am interested to understand how you inferred that the author is racist? Because, I totally missed it!


  16. You make a lot of interesting and relevant points and a lot of what you say rings true. Particularly in American and British schools which try to replicate a curriculum and attitudes which are ill-suited to the environment in which they work and the cohorts which they teach.
    For the first time I am working in a school which is IB all the way through and find it refreshing not to have to :pretend: to be British or American anymore!


  17. You simply did not give enough specific information. Exactly what was said that is so alarming to you? The issue should always be “Is it true?” not is it racist or biased or stereotypical?


  18. Assalamu Alayikum,
    First of all, MashaAllah you have reverted and moved overseas. I am also an American revert living and teaching in Egypt. Fortunately, Alhamdulliah, I have not had any negative experiences in the classroom or on the street. I stick to the curriculum as best I can and do my job to the best of my ability. I am not in an International school, as I think they typically seek out the “cookie cutter” type ExPat to fill their teaching vacancies. The problem I continually observe, however, is the indoctrination of the western culture (upon the students) as opposed to teaching just the western curriculum. Celebrating “holidays” that are without doubt not Islamic and in fact, totally forbidden has no place here in the Middle East, unless of course the students and teachers are all western. I see this confusing the students and even potentially weakening Islam.
    I wish you the best, don’t give up. Alhamdulliah they gave you your package through August. Things could always be worse. 😉


    1. Thank you for you for your comments and to all the posters. I find it interesting that ISR chose my post as a featured blog at this particular time but am nonetheless humbled that it should have been selected as a jumping off point for something of an esssay competition. I should say though,that while it is catchy, I did not identify myself as a Redneck Muslim nor did I title the blog “Us vs. Them.”

      I think the title is misleading. Who is “Us” and who is “Them”? If “Us” is teachers and “Them” is parents and school leadership, then that is definitely not anywhere near what I’m trying to convey. If that’s what came across, then I really did fail short in expressing my sentiments. On the other hand, if “Us” refers to those who see international education as an opportunity for a “Dialogue of Civilizations” (as Koechler put it) and “Them” as those who refuse to acknowledge the pluralistic nature of our modern world, then the title is fitting.

      My commitment to pluarlism and dialogue in the context of international schools in sincere. I have a general principle of not offering my own opinions in the classroom, though no one can offer a truly objective perspective; that’s why it so important for students to have a variety of perspectives over time.

      I am replying to this particular post because, while I am appreciative of the feedback from someone in a similar situation, I must distance myself from a few of the comments made therein. I understand the need for non-Muslims to be able to celebrate their own holidays while residing in Muslim lands. In the modern context of a private international school, they have every right to do so, even under rigid interpretations of Islamic law, but this is not the place for a discourse on Islamic jurisprudence. What concerns me in international schools with a stated commitment to diverse cultures and values in their charters, missions, and visions is the celebration of such holidays to the neglect of those important to the students of the host culture, who often make up a significant minority or majority of the student population. To say that these holidays have “no place here in the Middle East” is to deny the right of millenia-old Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq, and the Levant to worhip according to rights that were guaranteed them by most rulers of these lands throughout history, including Muhammad’s successors themselves.

      The problem of preserving meaningful concepts of personal identity, particularly for our children, while tolerating, understanding, and sometimes embracing the differences of others, is a major challenge for people in our globalized world; whether they be Americans, Arabs, Chinese, Hispanics, Muslims, Christians, or Athiests. People have every right to set up schools according to the values of their community within the confines of locally-defined tradition and law. I myself am taking a professional development sabbatical in hopes of entering into such an endeavor in non-profit educational entreprenuership. What I ask of such schools, is that they stay true to their stated mission and values and that, if they don’t, conscientious stakeholders hold them accountable to what they promised to deliver. I know it is a tall order to fill, but the healthy function of expatriate communities of globally dominant Western cultures and communities of all kinds depends on nothing less from sane people in a sometimes insane world.


    2. Thanks for the post. As I stated, I am not in an International school. Our students are 100% Egyptian and 99% Muslim. Having said that, I stand behind my statement that ExPat teachers have no place celebrating or promoting their holidays in the school. Of course they can celebrate them outside of the classroom. Muslims don’t celebrate Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc. Nothing wrong with learning about them though, however the school is promoting such holidays without any follow through. High school students have come to me asking me why it’s allowed, and my classroom has been a place for students who don’t want to take part. The admin is going to have to find me a larger classroom, because it’s full during these events. They (the admin) are, in fact, promoting Western culture as opposed to the western curriculum they’ve chosen. Fine line there.
      I also stand firmly behind my comment that this has the potential to “weaken Islam” but I think that statement was too broad. What I mean to say is that the students have become so interested in celebrating some non Islamic Western holidays that they don’t even get excited about Eid, etc. Yes, that IS a problem indeed.
      Most of the Egyptian staff, especially the older teachers (>35) stand with me and oppose celebrating Halloween, Christmas, etc. in the school. Nothing wrong with learning about them as I said, but these are not Islamic holidays and not celebrated by Muslims who observe their religion. These children have no “personal identity” as Egyptians or Muslims. The only time they get excited about being Egyptian is when the football team is playing in a match.


  19. Intolerance, racism and antipathy towards local communities characterise international schools across the world, incluidng in Europe. Most international schools proclaim the IB vision and values, whilst tolerating or even promoting xenophobia. Has anyone researched the impact of the IB on students after they leave their schools?


  20. Your mistake may have been to talk about Western radicalism in a Middle Eastern studies class. What exactly did you say? If you said in any way that attacks on western targets are understandable because of abusive on Middle East countries then I have to agree with your firing. If you were discussing facts of history without excuses for terrorism then you are in the right. A teacher’s job is not to indoctrinate but to let the student form their own believes. Good luck


  21. Americans, not of Middle Eastern origin, who are Muslim are probably more suspect than anyone else to those who are fearful or intolerant. This applies especially to Americans but to some people in many countries throughout the world. Have you been to Israel? Sudan? I’m not sure what present restrictions are but people with an Israeli visa in their passport book were not allowed into Sudan during the years I taught there.


  22. I worked at an International school in the North of Peru and fortunately it was not the rule but some ex pat teachers made racial and offensive comments in front of us Peruvians; a Canadian teacher said that she had come to teach third world people to improve their education and she deserved a higher salary just because she had to live in such underdeveloped conditions (which was not true) She was so unprefessional that at the end it was the local teachers who taught her and tried to make up for her numerous mistakes. Her level of Spanish was very poor and she needed a translator, even so she considered laerning the local language not necessary. The Superintendent surrounded himself with adulators and people who never critizised his ways. Many expats were very decent people but yes, I think there is a lot of racism in international schools.


  23. I sympathize with your experience. I’m living in HK and my daughters are going through the ESF system. I feel that what you have experienced in the midEast much less so of a problem here as HK society tends to be more inclusive. That is not to say there aren’t pockets of such expat elitism, but generally it remains out of sight. I for one, would welcome you as a teacher of my girls purely for the potential of a more balanced viewpoint. I also believe the midEast expat situation is as much a function of the host society that does not seek to be inclusive and in so many ways, is diametrically different in culture.


    1. Actually, can you give more details as I have taught in the ESF system and my kids have attended the ESF system. We are Canadians but our ethnic heritage is Chinese. I don’t remember “racism” being an issue at all in terms of the ESF schooling system. They accept students of all faiths and ethnicity, just as long as they can access the curriculum in English. They might even get extra language support in English if they need it. We tried to celebrate all cultural celebrations whether Christmas, Hannakah, Diwali, etc. etc. The little you have said in your post seems to imply that the ESF school system does not give a balanced view point. But, the teachers are from all over the world now: Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealanders, Chinese from overseas (just like me), Chinese mainlanders, Indians. 20 years ago it was solely Brits. I think your comment was more to say that the HK Chinese tend to stick together and the HK “expats” tend to stick together in their national groups. I think it’s the same in every society but its just more obvious in HK because the Chinese wear their ethnicity on their face so its easy to say they leave out others when they gather in a group. I’m living and teaching in Switzerland now and the Chinese parents don’t tend to come out to school social events. It’s not because they are inclusive but because they are afraid they aren’t fully accepted by “white people”. This stems back from colonial history where the white rulers were revered as being smarter and superior than the rest of us. What you perceive as “being inclusive” may be fear that you won’t accept or like them. It is quite different when you get up close and personal with them and have a common language in which to visit with. I grew up in Canada with an ethnic face so I know lots about feeling left out and misperceptions.

      What prompted me to write this post was your comment that implied things about ESF which I strongly don’t see at all. I think you were making comments about HK society in general so I wanted to ask you to clarify.


    2. I didn’t interpret that post the way you did at all. Mark said that the racial problems were much less of a problem in HK and also that the local HK people there were generally inclusive meaning they invite other cultures into their group, in contrast to the local people in the middle east. Maybe you are interpreting the word ‘inclusive’ to mean ‘exclusive’.


    3. I as African American experienced that here is the US as a college professor all the time in a traditionally white school. It does not have to be radical to be considered “out of place”. For example a statement like DID YOU KNOW MOST COUNTRIES THAT ARE IN AFRICA HAVE RED, GREEN,YELLOW< BLACK AND WHITE IN THEIR FLAG? Or a Black man designed the traffic lights in the US and they are RED.

      I left the US to teach at University in Kuwait. I was accepted by the community however when the White Americans came I was fired because they did not believe I could teach? They did not consider I had 5 degrees of which 2 were doctorates. They failed to recognized I had more awards than any of them put together for my teaching. And they ignored my student retention for the 27 years I taught college.

      I was so hurt that the management sent me home because “the Americans said you do not know how to teach”. I FELT THAT LEAVING THE US FOR RELIEF OF BIGOTRY FAILED, IT CAME TO KUWAIT!


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