Diversity is the key to success
Whenever anybody tries to raise this issue at an event, a TV show or through a write-up etc., the result is usually disappointing and we realize that we are still decades away from accepting the idea of living with those who are different from us. Nowadays, one can clearly see it on Twitter or in family and friends’ gatherings when a controversial topic of a comic show or a religious show is brought into discussion.
The spectrum of differences is very wide, and that in itself is not the problem, the real problem reveals itself when expressions like “this is not us,” “who allowed this guy to come up on TV and say those things,” or “this guy does not represent us the true Saudis!” start to replace any logical or meaningful argument.
Throughout history, societies in which people from different roots and backgrounds were able to live in harmony were the ones that produced and vividly added to the body of human knowledge, culture and heritage for example, ancient Alexandria, Rome, Baghdad and Damascus in the early decades of Islam. These cities were vibrant and lively because they could strike a balance between the natives and the strangers living in them. The primitive instincts that push us to like those who look like us, think like us and live like us retreat and in its position new links and connections are born; links that are based on mutual interests and virtue.
Even in the modern times, the superpower of the world, the United States of America, has built its greatness by effectively utilizing the talents of immigrants. Regardless of its long struggle with racism, the country transformed and progressed when people from different roots and backgrounds learned to live in harmony and work together. Shockingly though, the very thing that made America great, its diversification, is the one aspect the current presidential aspirants are playing around with.
Understanding that the Kingdom has a society with diverse people with different skin color and religious sects is very important.
We need to instill in our kids the respect for diversity at an early age. Needless to say, attitudes toward others are usually formed in the early years of growing up. In those years we seek belonging and usually find it in the closed circle of family members; those who look like us and live like us. Add fear and suspicions of those different than us to the mix and youngsters will grow up carrying the same fears and suspicions we planted in them.
A field experiment could not be easier, go for a kid in a Sunni family and ask him about Shiites and vice versa. Both kids, without understanding the very basic differences between the two groups, will mimic to your ears the beliefs of their parents and extended family. And they would mostly grow up with the same ideas, fears and suspicions.
It is a journey of knowledge to understand that at the heart of it, we are all the same despite our differences and that to grow and prosper, we need to find the link that brings us all together. It is a journey we are all responsible to take and prepare our kids to take in order to have a better future.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view