We have to admit that we live in a society where majority of the people do not abide by cultural values and the principle of accepting differences and varied opinions. Most of us deal with this aspect as a sign of prestige or status only.
The principle of ‘Disagreements in opinions do not spoil relations’ is only applicable for the night meetings and is used only for prestige purposes as part of a fake culture. This is a fact that many of us are embarrassed to declare openly in a country that has a 50-year old constitution and has freedom, which is the most prominent aspect of this country.
Even after 50 years of parliamentary activities and a considerable margin of freedom, many of the morals and habits of the political arena have not changed. It seems we need another 50 years to grasp and adopt the principles of freedom of opinion and democracy.
Many of my colleagues asked me to highlight local politics including the parliament and the government through some analyses. However, I always tell them that my voice will not be heard and my analyses will not change anything. Even if it is heard, a case could get filed against it in the court by one of the politicians whom I criticize because they believe in the principle — “If he doesn’t praise me, it means he is against me”. Unfortunately, this is a principle upheld by many of the local politicians.
I hope my colleagues do not misunderstand this as fear because I fear only Allah. However, I believe it is useless to criticize or analyze certain aspects in this regard.
Most of the local politicians do not accept a third opinion from those who disagree with them. In addition, they consider criticism as an insult and disapproval. Under the pretext of respecting the other’s opinion, they will not respond directly. They will instead dispatch a number of Twitter users to insult the writer and respond inappropriately to the criticisms of that writer.
Therefore, if any individual wants to stay away from such situations, they must avoid such weak people as much as possible as the latter do not have the appropriate attitude towards serious dialogue and discussions. They do not deal with their positions from a professional political aspect. They know this fact well, their voters know it well and so does the government. Therefore, they harden the situation by introducing several procedures against certain services that are part of the citizens’ rights and the government’s duties. Eventually, the citizens lose the ability to access these rights except through ‘wasta’ of some MP or other influential people such that the diwaniya of lawmakers have become like government service departments.
Several lawmakers and even some ministers behave as though they are the law. We have now reached the stage where we cannot move a teacher from one place to another except through a lawmaker. We cannot obtain overseas medical treatment without the help of a lawmaker. Lawmakers even interfere in the recruitment process. Thus, a lawmaker has become like the Sheikh of a tribe, not a legislator or a supervisor of the governmental performance.
Talking about the overseas medical treatment, an interesting incident happened to me and I do not know if I should laugh or cry about it. Not long ago, a first degree relative of mine required medical treatment, so I approached the authorized medical committees but none of these committees approved the application to treat my relative overseas.
I later collaborated with a lawmaker in this aspect and he came with me to the concerned officials. His secretary also tried several times but they both were unable to find any solution. I later excused him based on the impression that he might have exhausted his slot for such a procedure. I went to another lawmaker, who did not know me but was introduced to me through somebody. I started experiencing mixed feelings of laughter and tears.
Eventually, I was taken to the undersecretary’s office. As soon as I entered the office with him, the letter was signed and instructions were given to treat the application on an urgent basis. I was guaranteed approval and he wrote a long letter to inform the concerned officials about the necessity to approve the application.
I was elated that the plight of the patient had ended. I rushed to the Overseas Medical Treatment Department with the letter. As soon as I presented the documents, I discovered that a ton of such letters was thrown in the dustbin, indicating that they were not even opened. To them, it was a mere paper that did not add any value. The application was eventually rejected! I remember leaving the Overseas Medical Treatment Department laughing at the turn of the events for the comic lawmaker!
It is useful to note the hostile position normally taken by the government against an opposition member or critic to the extent that the lawmakers speak on behalf of the government, thereby taking the role of the spokesperson in a manner that is constitutionally wrong. Also, when a member of the Cabinet emerges to speak as though he is not a part of the Executive Council, it indicates that administrative issues are in a deep mess, particularly the government’s public relations.
Going back to the basic topic, I want to affirm that the culture of interaction, which requires respect for differences in opinions, is lacking and the civil society organizations that can push for it are not available. I will not mention about the handful of people who have raised their voices to promote this laudable culture among the people.
Just recently, there was a discussion on Twitter about a famous artiste. While deliberating about the history of that artiste, a blogger entered the thread with allegations against a participant in the discussion who is a renowned and respectable poet. He alleged that the latter leveled a series of accusations and curses against a particular tribe. Really, if any of them had studied the topic from the onset, he would not have made the unprintable comments. What impressed me is that the poet did not respond and he had ignored the uncouth statements made by some contributors.
Therefore, it is becoming evident day after day that we have not reached the level of accepting varied opinions in our society. For us to reach that level, everybody should be cooperative, civilized, knowledgeable and convincingly adaptable to the modern culture. It is impossible for us to improve socially, culturally and developmentally without peaceful co-existence and acceptance of others.
Ideal societies are the ones where everyone feels safe socially and ideologically. The culture of single opinion no longer has a place in the contemporary world. Freedom is the most precious asset of human beings. Showing full respect to people is a major characteristic of that freedom, regardless of one’s opinions or intentions and without contradicting fundamental principles of Islamic religion.
By Yousef Awadh Al-Azmi