Statues and such

Nejoud Al Yagout – — Photo by Djinane Alsuwayeh

There seems to be a disconcerting new trend of raids in Kuwait lately. First, it occurred at a 3D printing shop selling figurines (deemed cultish idols) by men who raided the shop and closed it down. Everyone knows that selling idols is not permitted in Kuwait and nobody in their right mind would sell them in a renowned store! Anyone who wants to use a statue to pray in Kuwait has to go underground (and risk being deported as was the case of 25 Hindus a couple of years ago) or save their prayer for when they go to places that have freedom of worship.

Mostly, people of other religions pray privately, unless you’re a Christian (apart from mosques, only churches are allowed in Kuwait). Anyways, upon closer inspection, the authorities realized that they were really just figurines, which even ultraconservative people use to decorate wedding cakes, as my cousin’s wife (a very religious lady) pointed out. If a religious person has no issue with figurines, then who are the authorities representing? And what happened to the issuance of warnings prior to storming a shop? And what happened to courtesy?

On another occasion, a local woman called the authorities to complain about a stall at a holistic market selling “statues of worship” which actually happened to be pendants. Oh sensibilities and statues!

And I wonder, what would happen to a Muslim person living in a non-Islamic country if a citizen complained about Qurans being sold in a market? It would be attributed to Islamophobia, no? Why is the irony still lost on us? Where is the Kuwait of my forefathers? My maternal grandmother, a devout Muslim, coexisted with her Hindu domestic helper, whose idol I saw more than once in her room in my grandmother’s house. Her houseboy had a tattooed cross on his hand. How beautiful is that? Nobody in the house was “offended”.

It’s not just culturally offensive markets or shops that are being raided. What made another splash was the recent closing down of Qout Market. What was the excuse this time? Qout Market, which has been in business for six years, did not have the right license. So, let’s give the authorities the benefit of the doubt for a mere minute: If Qout Market didn’t have a license, why did they wait until the day of the event to raid and close down the market? Where were they in the weeks preceding the event, or even, as one of the organizers suggested, the night before? If this doesn’t sound like a power trip, then what constitutes one? We are not a totalitarian state, are we? Then why are we behaving as such lately? Where are the names of these people who seem offended by everything from yoga to unveiled women, concerts and art, books and healthy interaction between all people?

I urge us all to awaken. I am optimistic that we are going through an evolution of consciousness, and the days of the ego are numbered. But, in the meantime, the fearful ones are tightening their grip, and it is our duty to remind them and ourselves that we are a nation that was founded on tolerance, acceptance and respect. And we cannot stay silent when our values are being threatened.

By Nejoud Al-Yagout
[email protected]

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