There seems to be a disconcerting new trend of raids and cancellations of events in Kuwait lately. The first raid occurred at a 3D shop selling figurines (deemed cult idols) by a board of men who raided the shop and closed it down. Everyone in this country knows that selling cult 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 twenty-five Hindus a couple of years ago) or save their prayer time for when they go to places that are a bit more tolerant when it comes to freedom of worship. Mostly, people of other religions pray privately, unless you’re a Christian (apart from mosques, only churches are allowed ). Anyways, upon closer inspection, the authorities realized that they were really just figurines, which even ultra-conservative 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 one of the stalls at a holistic market. The stall was selling pendants, but the authorities were unconvinced, insisting these pendants were not of our religious inclinations. Two ladies began preaching to the stall, and then the news reached the world of Twitter, where a renowned man tweeted his discontent which, in turn, led to a lecture by the hosts of the stall being canceled on the same day as the event. The event was about self-empowerment and the speaker was visiting from abroad. There were six hundred people in the lobby of the hotel who were waiting to enter the room to hear the loving message of a woman who wanted to share her pearls of wisdom. There was no written warning, just a phone call. One phone call that ended a lecture. Is that the way we treat our guests? And is this the way to treat members of the community? This is what happens when we censor any material that is different to our beliefs. Fear arises. And I wonder, what would happen to a Muslim person who was living in a non-Islamic country and a citizen complained about Korans being sold in a market? It would be attributed to Islamophobia, no? Why is the irony still lost on us? Western countries, who we criticize, are doing their best to make the lives of Muslims as comfortable as possible. Political correctness has become so extreme, all in an effort to protect the sensitivities of minorities, but we have a lot to learn here.
Where is the Kuwait of my forefathers? My maternal grandmother, a devout Muslim, coexisted with her Hindu domestic helper, whose statue I saw more than once in her room at my grandmother’s house. Her houseboy had a tattooed cross on his hand. How beautiful is that? Nobody in the house was “offended”. Because all paths of the divine are praiseworthy. We are all just searching for something higher. Why do we try and knock others down on their routes to heaven? Why can’t we put ourselves in others’ shoes instead of expecting everyone else to wear ours and only ours?
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 the authorities wait until the day of the event to raid and close down the market? Doesn’t add up, does it? Where were they in the weeks preceding the event, or even, as one of the organizers suggested, the night before? Isn’t written prior notice protocol? To just show up when an event is about to start or has already started is intimidating and forceful. If this doesn’t sound like a recurring pattern, then what constitutes one?
We are not a totalitarian state, are we? Then why are we behaving as such lately? And who is responsible for all this hellbent anger? 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 males and females, bars and expatriates?
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 and acceptance and respect. And we cannot stay silent when our values are being threatened.