In the past generation or two, our region has witnessed a rising trend in forced “political correctness.” Tempering confrontation with diplomacy is indeed a responsible approach because it makes living and working with one another regardless of our backgrounds, opinions or belief systems - easier and more comfortable. It makes conflicting positions less abrasive. This makes sense in theory, but in practical it can get messy. As with any real-world application of a theoretical concept, there is a wide range of practical approaches, but in the modern-day Middle East, we seem to have taken the worst possible one. Theoretically, being politically correct or diplomatic should translate into being sensitive to other views and being tactful in presenting conflicting opinions. Practically, however, this often translates into one of two extreme approaches. At best, it translates into excessive politeness - being too sensitive to too many things, constantly worrying about possibly offending anyone with the smallest gesture or remark, and diluting language to a string of clichéd euphemisms. At worse, however, it translates into simple hypocrisy, and this is where the trouble starts. There is, and always has been, a world of difference between politeness and hypocrisy - and it baffles me that, particularly in our part of the world, the two are so often interchanged. We seem to have decided that, to be diplomatic, we must agree completely with what others, particularly the ones in power, think, say or do. We must not offer any constructive criticism, voice an unpopular (or even different) opinion, or in any way disagree or (even appear to disagree) with current thinking. Ironically, Islam teaches us to do exactly the opposite. In fact, Muslims are preconditioned to be “anti-hypocrisy.” The Qur’an has many verses discussing hypocrites, referring to them as more dangerous to Muslims than the worst non-Muslim enemies. In fact, there is a whole chapter -called Al-Munafiqun (the Hypocrites). It really does surprise me that devout Muslims continue to ignore such clear instruction and refuse to recognize a key component of the religion. We seem to have taken the lofty concept of being politically correct to mean being a crass hypocrite, and of being diplomatic to mean being a bland conformist, which, frankly, is demeaning. This type of hypocrisy, despite possible good intentions, is extremely destructive. It kills any chance to nurture leadership within our communities, and leaves us facing a bleak future with no real prospects of meaningful improvement. It effectively robs our efforts to move forward of all traction, leaving us instead spinning pointlessly in the same spot. If we cannot challenge current thinking, if we cannot propose alternative ideas, if we cannot point out and address weaknesses, then how can we possibly move forward? If we continue to agree blindly - perhaps while also suffering silently - with everything just to be “diplomatic” or “politically correct”, how can we possibly expect a better future? This issue has become such an integral part of our lives in the Middle East that we’ve developed our own Arabic term just for it: “Khalak diplomasi” (literally, “stay diplomatic”). This is tragic advice being thrown around among almost every social circle, in almost every community across the region. This is only going to make matters worse as our youth, who account for the largest part of our population, are robbed of critical thinking and taught, instead, to play along as silent hypocrites. Conformity is not diplomacy, hypocrisy is not political correctness. These are fundamentally different things. The sooner we learn to recognize that, the sooner we can, through mutual respect, work together to shape our collective futures.