Let’s reteach the basics of tolerance
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from a male and a female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another” — Surah Al-Hujurat (49:13). Are there any words more hopeful, more encouraging and more optimistic than these? The message behind these words can be the solution to so much unrest and misunderstanding.
Today’s world is imbued with hatred and racism and, although it is an inherent part of human nature to harbor these feelings, we — as civilized human beings — are usually capable of controlling them and keeping them in check. However, it takes little to awaken the dormant and, in a wave propagated by provocative political discourse as well as unforgivable, heinous actions in the last few years, these emotions have surfaced and shown that man can be odiously inhumane toward his fellow human being. The “civilized” is indeed uncivilized.
We as Saudis, or more specifically as Muslims, should not fall into the trap of racist generalizations and propagate feelings of sectarianism. We should use our history as an example and apply our inherent rules of generosity, welcoming openness and acceptance of people’s differences.
Children are by nature accepting of others, inclusive of the baggage they bring with them. As they grow, they are told how and what to think, too often a mini version of their parents’ thinking. How sad if the parents are prejudiced. What kind of examples are our children absorbing? What kind of society are we creating where a faction believes it is right and everyone else is wrong; where an individual believes he has the right to impose his thoughts on others because he cannot accept — and, more to the point, cannot understand — the thoughts of others; where violence is used instead of words to convince and influence? There should be no room in our societies for judgmentalism, self-righteousness and intolerance.
We as Saudis, or more specifically as Muslims, should not fall into the trap of racist generalizations and propagate feelings of sectarianism
As we bring up a new generation of youngsters, basics need to be retaught. We need to obliterate the possibility of seeing them consumed by feelings that may lead to hatred or racism. And it is the duty of educators as well as of parents to teach children (and adults) that coexistence requires more than breathing the same air: It requires acceptance of others; respect for their ideas however different they are from their own; understanding, empathy and consideration; and, most importantly, it requires tolerance. And tolerance is nothing more than the control of anger in the face of opinions and behavior that is inacceptable in one’s own view.
Education is key in this matter. Learning about different peoples and different cultures, understanding the reasons behind the way they think, speak and behave will bring value to the way we look at others and delete the stereotypes that are so damaging to relationships.
So many problems in the world are the result of a lack of acceptance, lack of understanding and lack of discussion. If something is unclear… we should ask, request an explanation, try to understand.
If it goes against our grain, we should accept it as a difference of opinion. It’s legitimate to differ and it is natural to be different because that is the way we were created.
• Hoda Al-Helaissi is a member of the Shoura Council since 2013. She is also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee within the Shoura.