Kuwait has been an official state since it’s independence from Great Britain in 1961, further back it was an official political entity since the 1922 Treaty of Uqair. Even further back during the 18th Century, it was a thriving sea port for the busy spice trade between East and West, and even before that, during the 17th Century, it started as a settlement for Bedouin tribes seeking refuge from massive seasonal drought around the Arabian Peninsula. Indeed, the earliest recorded history of the State of Kuwait goes back to the year 1613.
Throughout Kuwait’s history, no religious animosity was demonstrated, no sectarian bigotry was recorded, and indeed, no religious affiliations were bragged about, until Oil created wealth, which in turn created education, which was (at the time) heavily influenced with Arabism and Pan-Arab ideals and values.
Kuwaitis thrived on their own self-disciplined tolerance and peaceful co-existence, not just with themselves, but with other people as well. When the Saudi Monarch Abdulaziz Ibn Saud and his family were overthrown by the Al Rasheed, they sought refuge in Kuwait. When Sa’adun Pasha, leader of the Muntafiq Tribe fled the Ottoman Wali in Basrah, he sought refuge in Kuwait. When the Israelis attacked Palestinian villages and kicked them out of their own homes, Kuwait offered them a temporary home, all 400’000 of them, until some of them turned rogue and bought into Saddam’s lies. The same goes for the Lebanese, the same goes for many others.
This short and brief history describes Kuwait as a haven for freedoms and liberties, and if one goes into more detail in this regard, one can clearly outline the massive tolerance of the Kuwaitis, people and government, throughout its history. All this was done without any Islamic Political Movements like HADAS and the Salafists dictating religion to the masses.
Fast-forward to the present day, and here’s what we get:
1-Women must wear the Hijab when in Parliament.
2-Women must have the authorization of their guardians in order to get a Passport (Edit: This was annulled by the Constitutional Court last week)
3-Voting for women is “Haram.”
4-Women and Men must wear admissible swimwear.
5-All Shisha (hubbly-bubbly) joints, cafes and restaurants are to close by midnight.
6-Females saluting Males is “Haram.”
7-Standing up to the National Anthem is “Haram.”
(…and much more trivial stuff I can’t recall at the moment!)
What is being enforced on us as a people is not religion, nor is it a return to religious piousness, Kuwaitis were always pious, and observed religion (all religions) in ample fairness and respect to all the inhabitants, including Kuwaiti Jews and Christians, not including the many other denominations that came as expatriate workers, who helped build Kuwait up from a mud village into a city of skyscrapers and advanced financial institutions. All lived side by side in peace and respect, for both themselves and to others, ever since the 18th Century. They never needed people like some of today’s MP’s dictating religion and claiming their God-given destiny to bring back the populace to its religious piousness. Those people do not represent me, and as far as I’m concerned, they don’t represent what Kuwait stands for. Moreover, had they truly been Kuwaitis, and had they known Kuwait’s true history of tolerance and respect, they wouldn’t have brought these complications up in the first place!
I believe in Democracy. I believe it can work in Kuwait, and I believe in free speech. I condone these values, as someone who ‘at least’ believes in equality for all. What I don’t believe in, and what I can’t condone, is a weak and fearful reactionary government that responds favorably to idle threats made by socially insignificant malcontents and religious zealots who think that, just because they can hold a group prayer in mosques, that automatically makes them leaders and protectors of the people’s religious values.
Drawing from my own ‘limited’ experience, it’s very hard to be a leader. You need charisma, intellect, objectivity, tolerance, a belief in oneself and one’s plight. Most of all, however, you need a consensus of opinion. This can only be brought about through open, frank and fair dialogue between the opposite sides.
Evoking a Fatwa that restricts personal freedoms, and then forcing the Government to implement this Fatwa, in direct conflict with the country’s constitution, is not a consensus, it’s a dictatorship! At the very least, it’s the beginnings of a state where the power of the few overrules the rights of the many, where the law of the land is the rule of men, not of the Law, where there is no protection for civil liberties, where there is no tolerance for any form of political opposition when men in power invoke religion, and where allegiances are made and created through socialization and blind allegiance.
This type of state is an Authoritarian state, it is the middle ground between Democratization and Dictatorship, and right now, we’re witnessing Kuwait moving through this middle ground towards a Dictatorship. This is a dangerous time for Kuwait’s Democracy, and I fear that MPs such as Mohamed Hayef’s (and other like-minded individuals) recent collective uproars are precursors of even more sinister things to come.
“What is past is prologue”
– William Shakespeare