Who would have believed that a day would come when we, from the heart of the Gulf, would wish Jews Happy Hanukkah and Christians Merry Christmas.
Or that a reputable newspaper, such as Arab News, would publish on its front page greetings, text and pictures congratulating people from other faiths.
Stopping at the apparent meaning of these congratulations is not intended in and of itself. Rather, it is only intended to indicate how the Arab mind in the Gulf region faced violent sectarian and ideological incursions before reaching the surprising and admirable reality it is now experiencing.
Historically, Gulf thought has been subjected to the violent exchanges of very harsh discourses, one of which is sectarian Persian politics and the other Arab nationalist.
Many leaders paid with their lives for daring only to dream of change, reform or renewal, and many leaders did not even dare to approach or think about confronting such transformations!
The dream of change taking place now in the Gulf region was a kind of immediate or imminent temporal impossibility, such as the impossibility of recognizing the return of the soul after leaving the body, and if someone talked about such a change perhaps only a few years ago, they would have been described as either mad or an atheist, and either of these accusations would have constituted a license or fatwa to kill the accused.
The data and paths of history confirm that making such a decision is very difficult and that just thinking about it based on intellectual residues, as well as the violent ideological and sectarian tensions that the region has witnessed, is in itself a decision that could be costly.
Taking such a decision in the first place requires a brave leader who is strong-willed, believes in his people, has a deep understanding of history and can handle the distorted religious texts that were entrenched in the Gulf and Arab consciousness by groups that have worked for decades, making it difficult to understand anything properly.
In the end, we cannot but express our appreciation and admiration for those who led this transformation, and who resolutely confronted the agendas of everyone rejecting it with a false religious or societal claim.
- Yasser El-Shazly is an Egyptian journalist and author.