By the end of 2017, a Hindu temple will be completed in Abu-Dhabi, sponsored entirely by the UAE government. A Hindu temple of worship is nothing new in the Emirates. Dubai already boasts two temples, and the Sikhs had cause for celebration circa seven years ago, when they were also finally granted permission to resurrect a gurdwara for worshippers to gather together. Additionally, one can worship in a Buddhist temple in Oman; and in Bahrain there is a synagogue, the only one in the Gulf. It is almost tragic that permission is needed to build temples of worship in this region; but, nonetheless, there is much cause for celebration that acceptance is victorious in these countries.
Here in Kuwait, on the other hand, there seems to be more reticence when it comes to other belief systems. We have a handful of churches, but that is about it. Yet I have faith — pardon the pun — that we, too, will step up to the plate, because our heritage is one of diversity and acceptance. Lately, we are witnessing both a rise in intolerance, and a simultaneous rise in tolerance. It almost seems as though all our prejudices are being brought to the surface to be examined, healed and released. It does not have to take eons for us to take the next step, but if we remain stuck, progress — though inevitable — will be slow and torturous.
Sadly, a report in the Washington Times in May of 2013 (Chasmar, J.) reported that 10 out of 15 of the most religiously intolerant countries in the world are Muslim nations. This part of the world knows the pain of Islamophobia, but cannot expect to be treated in a way that is, sadly, not always reciprocated. And especially when there seems to be an underlying phobia of every other religion and ideology that is considered different.
Human beings, regardless of their belief systems, cannot afford to allow fear to be a guide. The state of the world itself is a testament to the consequences of doing so. For those who adhere to religion, here lies an invitation for scholars and followers to quote religious tolerance inherent in scripture. And for those who do not, there is a calling to remember that tolerance is imprinted in our core.
Essentially, the time is upon us, as we evolve in consciousness, to remind ourselves that silence keeps the status quo in place. We have a moral responsibility to express our dismay if we were born here, without blaming or protesting, to invite ourselves and others to tolerance.
By Nejoud Al-Yagout