The tragic consequences of intolerance

Nejoud Al Yagout
Nejoud Al Yagout

This week alone, two disturbing stories made headlines here in my country. The first one was regarding a woman who “caught” a man praying to a statue by the sea. She was so distressed, she chased him down the beach and reported him to authorities. At the call center, the woman who responded said that she cannot interfere with someone’s right to practice his religion. A noble answer, but now the woman is calling to have her prosecuted.

I have compassion for both the worshipper, whose sacred prayer was interrupted and this woman, who was so terrified of another person finding his way to the Divine that she lost herself. In short, she was taught fear and this is what led her to react in such a shockingly violent manner. I want to hold her and whisper: Where is your love? Who blinded you to the ways of the heart? I want her to sit in silence with this man and embrace his stillness and honor his journey. I want her to imagine what it would feel like if she were in a non-Muslim country and she decided to pray publicly, but someone chased her down the beach and threw her praying mat in the sea.

Nothing and I repeat, nothing can justify terrorizing a soul for worshipping in a different way. When will we stop this madness? We wonder why the world is terrified of us yet are oblivious to our intolerance. Are we also oblivious to how we impose ourselves on our community and go on the defensive when we are minorities in a country? Are we oblivious to the irony of making sure mosques are built in our neighborhoods when we migrate to non-Muslim countries, but not allowing others to worship here? I know I speak of intolerance often, but I will keep reiterating it, because writing helps me release the pain I feel within me. Writing mends my heart that breaks each time I hear stories such as this one. Call me an idealist, but I have hope in love.

Antiquated beliefs
The second story that broke my heart was a man getting raped for having a relationship with a woman. When her relative found out about this relationship, he beat her up and then locked her in the house. Shortly after, he lured the man to meet him under the pretext of an appointment and raped him (after kidnapping him and beating him up, to boot). I am crying inside as I type this. This is an absolute tragedy. A man lives his life and gets punished by a fellow human. For what? For having a relationship with his female relative. What gave him the right to intervene? Isn’t this a form of madness? And where, we may be asking, did he learn to be responsible for the actions of a woman in his family?

Unfortunately, he learned this by living in a patriarchal society based on antiquated beliefs that stipulate that a man has to guard the honor of any woman he knows. Because, to him, honor is tied to the physical. It has nothing to do with spirituality. I want to hold him and whisper: What if you were born a woman? Did you ever put yourself in a woman’s abaya? Do you know what love is? This is a consensual relationship between two adults.  And someone who is not involved decided to traumatize another individual for something that has absolutely nothing to do with him.

Hope for Kuwait
My hope for Kuwait will never falter, because regardless of what I read in the news, there are countless humanitarian souls here whose hearts are open to all. What upsets me at times, though, is our passivity and silence. And because of this, the tolerant souls are slowly becoming a minority. We all have an active role to play in transforming our country. All that we need to do is spread love infectiously around our community and remind ourselves and others that hate crimes and violence are not welcome here.

We are lucky that our crime rates are relatively low, but as other societies have taught us, when we are too complacent, the crime rates slowly increase until we will forget we were ever one of the safest countries in the world. Too often, we look toward the past. And, yes we have a glorious heritage and our ancestors were a shining example of tolerance. But, those days are over and the world is changing. All we have is now. We can only bring forth a society that inspires others when we focus on the present and let others know – peacefully – that intolerance has tragic consequences.

We need to awaken. This is imperative. We need to become aware of all the pain we are inflicting on others in the name of tribalism, patriarchy and intolerance. I beg you. I beg myself.  I beg us all to awaken. I know we can do this. Together. As one.

Nejoud Al-Yagout – Photo by Djinane Alsuwayeh

By Nejoud Al-Yagout

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