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Four years ago, I had a strange business meeting with a western institution operating in the Education sector in Kuwait. The meeting took place in our law firm. We were fully prepared and presented our legal services as we clearly understood the requirements of the potential client and responded to all their questions except one; ‘Is there a white person that works in your law firm!?’. We did not understand the query at first, but then they clarified that they preferred to work with a western person! I suppose that they used the term ‘White’ because of the racialized classification that is ideologized in many outdated mindsets.
Anyhow, we did not bag the contract. Yet, we witnessed a usual datum that racism is a global ideology based on the inanity of the superiority belief. Hate could be often noticed in the conversations where it turns to hatred talk against a race, gender, religious identity, or sexual orientation etc. Sometimes it could be deepened in the system, such as when lawmakers criminalize certain sexual preferences which are predominantly witnessed in the Middle East.
In the past18 months, I have perceived a rise in bigotry locally and internationally. Hate speech was raised by many supremacist people that I thought I knew. A switch in their dialogues towards detestation appeared at the beginning of the pandemic and grew over time. This made me classify their problematic behavior as ‘coronavirus- related racism!’. The classification is based on a fake hope that they would eventually change to a normal tolerance behaviour and a broad-mindedness! The racism behavior is not only observed in an individual level but also on a state’s level where many countries took self-interest policies rather than humanitarian international ones.
On a macro level, it is a global phenomenon, for example, it can be seen in US border policies and Brexit status as they had a ‘major influence’ in racism and hate crime which elevated as reported by BBC on 20 June 2019. While on a micro-level the local policies around the world illustrated a significant partiality in policies between citizens and expatriates.
For example, the policies in Kuwait against residents speaks for itself. The unequal positioning between the citizens and residents can be seen in the different rules on basic matters such as the priority of vaccinations, the rights to travel after vaccinating, and even regarding the right of speech when it comes to complaining against the weather as a recent Egyptian resident was deported for such behavior!
Today,discrimination is motivated by hate speech. Overlooking such prejudice triggers louder racial hate voices against residents. The Kuwait Law no. 19/2012 regarding the protection of the national unity criminalize hate as per article 1 which states that any hate or contempt, to any category of the community, such as to raise sectarian or tribal disorder or to propagate ideas calling to the excel of any race, group, color, origin, religious faith, gender, kinship, broadcast, or publish any content by any means of expressing may lead to the imprisonment for a period of seven years and a fine that may reach one hundred thousand dinars or by either of these two penalties.
Even though hate is classified as a felony which is the most serious type of crimes, yet, enforcing the unity law is rarely seen as the government is more focused on social media accounts that are related to the criticism of government or the acts that are against what is so called the public morals.
The social-media related criminal cases reached 4000 cases last year; which demonstrate a need for a change in the strategic prioritization of the Ministry of Interior. There is a necessity to switch to more pressing priorities during the epidemic such as to stop hate crimes and enhance the equality and unity of the people.
My message is to work on controlling the feelings of anger, hate and racism, and to rethink more about the reality of our inner fish; about the journey of the 3.5-billionyear history of our humankind as explained by Neil Shubin.
Or at least more recently about the six dissimilar species of humans that occupied the earth in the previous one hundred thousand years! and ended with only one specie (the homo sapiens), which was well explained by Yuval Noah Harari. No one has super pure blood, nor special genetic superiority.
We need to rethink about the Pedagogic system and, in the high levels, of our social disorganization. Until then, let’s just take a deep breath and stop hate crimes against each other!
By Attorney Dr. Fawaz Alkhateeb,
visiting assistant professor at Kilaw