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Road to preaching tolerance littered with many potholes West-educated Arabs marginalized

It is obvious that those who promote tolerance in an intolerant society usually face discrimination, prosecution and sometimes death threats! Considered by many of their fellow compatriots as ‘agents’ of the West, those who received their higher education qualifications in Western universities tend to advocate equality, religious tolerance and human rights. However, it is sometimes quite dangerous to promote ‘Western’ ideas of progress, human rights and equality due to the fear of immediate reprisal. Bigots, religious fanatics and remnants of Arab chauvinism will attempt to suppress any progressive voices in their society. Some Western educated Arabs, especially those who call for the establishment of an egalitarian society, do not just get marginalized in their own communities, but if it happens they do not belong to social elites, they might fall victim to repression.

It is difficult sometimes to implement in conservative Arab societies some of the democratic ideas one learns in a Western environment. Intolerance has deeper roots in some Middle-Eastern societies to the extent that encouraging religious tolerance for example will be considered as a threat to national security! If they do not fall victim to political oppression, some progressive Western-educated Arabs may fall victim to religious radicals and zealots. Western countries, especially those that are considered as beacons of liberty, progressive ideals, human rights and equality have moral and historical responsibilities to protect tolerant voices in the Middle East. For example, it is challenging sometimes to campaign for sectarian or religious tolerance in a very conservative ME society.

Religious radicals and extremists who wish to have a full control over religious discourses in society will always be watchful of those whom they consider as a threat. An enlightened Arab individual already equipped with Western critical thinking skills can see through the veil of deception of extremists. A free-thinking individual will not be easily fooled by inflated slogans of martyrdom because he already knows the amount of human suffering and anguish such fanatical ideas cause. A Western-educated Arab who truly believes in the supremacy of human rights, equality and tolerance above intolerance and bigotry cannot be easily silenced. Perhaps marginalization is the least harmful effect of promoting tolerance and peace in a bigoted environment. However, it is quite often in the ME that oppression and prosecution follow marginalization. Yet, truly tolerant Arabs and Muslims already know the price they have to pay for supporting ideas of equality, freedom and religious tolerance.

By: Khaled Aljenfawi

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