Free Kuwaitis From The Shackles of Radicalism
by Amer Al-Hilal
Reprinted from ‘Arab Times’ (10th December 2010)
Respect for human rights, democracy (embodied in our Diwaniyas and later in our Constitution) freedom of speech, gender equality, and religious and cultural tolerance – all these traits were ingrained in the Kuwaiti culture and person for hundreds of years.
These days we witness media reports of MPs attempting to pass legislation to ‘ban bikinis,’ ‘female sportswear,’ or completely eradicating the legal and constitutional presence of female Parliamentarians – as if all major problems of the State: Ahmadi gas leaks, Mishrif Station pumping sewage into our waters, expired meat, visa trafficking, development and all the other major issues were already dealt with.
Some of those same individuals wouldn’t even run for Parliament in the 1970s because they regarded democratic public office as ‘UnIslamic.’ Now, they are not just attempting to run the show, they are attempting to re-write history and modify the political and social structure of the State, by using Democracy as a means to eradicate Democracy.
These same ‘religious’ MPs who abhor even the National Anthem and refuse even to stand in respect to their State, these ‘Sharia Sheikhs of Swing’ who observe female groups and file police reports about ‘lesbian gatherings’ – even though the assembly of women was at a wedding – and who attempt to free rapists and child molesters from police stations, visa traffickers, expired food merchants and other lawbreakers and criminals, not to mention defend terrorists who threaten the State and the troops of our Allies; hypocrisy at its finest.
Additionally, treating women, employees and compatriots with disdain and disrespect looking the other way whilst corruption seeps and takes hold of society – nullifies any Sharia degree or religious gravitas an individual might have.
Let us be candid, If Kuwait truly was a civilized society the MPs would have been sued, prosecuted and kicked out of Parliament for such inflammatory-jumping-the-gun statements and for attempting to influence criminal investigations. But politics is politics and deals are made, always at the people’s expense. Furthermore, tribes and political groups – some who report to and coordinate with foreign entities – currently dwarf the power of the State (much of this is the State’s doing).
Right wing critics who slam progressive Kuwaitis for encouraging respect for other cultures and religions are dismissed as “agents of Western propaganda” or ‘Liberals’ – for wanting to highlight those ideals and reinforce them – are obviously unfamiliar with Kuwait’s history and background, and are apparently not familiar with the basic tenets of Islam which value and guarantee the aforementioned rights. Maybe some are unfamiliar with history because they just got the Kuwaiti citizenship; others are familiar but think we were living in the Dark Ages then.
In any case, they are certainly not familiar with Kuwait’s real ‘tradition and customs.’ Kuwait was more of a trading and commercial hub before oil than it is now; one of the many reasons why Kuwait was a merchant city and trading post – a haven of culture and commerce for hundreds of years even prior to the advent of oil – was tolerance and openness.
Men and women shared equal responsibilities; toiling away from dawn till dusk, women taking care of the household, educating their children and were active in producing goods (i.e. embroidering the ‘Sadu’) and in commerce – they kept things together, while their partners embarked on six month or longer pearl diving or trading voyages to places as far as India and Africa. They were partners in the true sense of the word. They were equals.
We were no less Muslim then. In some ways, we were superior Muslims; we weren’t arrogant like we are now, with that wretched ‘holier than thou’ attitude; we were broke – desperate for sources of income. Kuwaitis had to interact with other cultures, learn their language and customs; it was an issue of survival, whether it was opening a trade route for water, dates, gold or otherwise. We needed others and that taught us humility and real tolerance of cultures, peoples and religions.
That great Kuwaiti attribute is being diminished by the day in this day and age.
Ultimately, Islam should not be measured by the amount of Mosques that are built (even though this is a blessing to any society), how many expatriates are converted, or by the amount of Quran memorization schools (even though this is a noble activity) but by treating your fellow men and women, irrespective of whether they are native or expatriate, with respect and dignity, accepting their views and their way of life even though you may disagree with them and by combating inequity and corruption.
That is real test of democracy and Islam is all about Democracy, its real targets are oppression, corruption, intolerance, injustice, not impeding the construction of Churches, wiping out pictures of the Virgin Mary in magazines, removing Christmas trees, impeding foreign National Day celebrations, removing horse statues from a Chinese bistro at the Avenues, forced segregation and so forth.
It is truly outlandish when Kuwaitis – true citizens of the world with their astute, cultured predispositions – have to travel to a neighboring Gulf state to see a banned film, watch a concert or buy a book. It boggles the mind. Thirty years ago we did all that here and more, without any problem – which means our original ‘traditions and customs’ were much more broadminded.
If only people took the time to learn about our beloved Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) and his kind, good-humored, patient, compassionate and tolerant ways, instead of blindly following self-imposed Judges, Juries and Executioners of society – who pass ethical judgments on so-called ‘moral pariahs,’ restricting people’s freedom of expression and worship and stifling their personal choice – Kuwait would be in a much healthier shape than it is now.
What’s happening these days in Kuwait is tragic. The potential for greatness is there but in order for us to meet the vast economic, cultural and intellectual benchmarks, our current State-wooing of extremists alongside their Parliament-supported xenophobia has to finally end and justice applied to all.