Once upon a time, it used to be a description many people aspired to. Once upon a place, it was a phrase that was quite straightforward.
Here in Qatar, it takes on a whole new meaning.
On last count, there were some 150 odd nationalities living here. Which means people of different faiths, tongues, race and ethnicities living bumper to bumper in a country that quite clearly says it’s an Islamic state.
If you are at this point thinking, ‘poor expats’ or ‘ but no, Qatar is not like Saudi’, or ‘but they are quite open-minded here’ or ‘they are becoming more open-minded’… bingo! I am talking about YOU.
I’ve grown to despise this phrase ‘open-minded’.
Because, in the context of Qatar (and maybe the region), it’s a close- and narrow-mined expectation.
When someone says I wish they were ‘open-minded’ here, it invariably is from a position of extreme privilege.
The urgent plea for open-mindedness is always from those blind to their own privileges.
And the plea is always on these lines…
- I wish they were open-minded enough to see my point of view.
- I wish they were open-minded enough to be influenced by my worldview (from my country).
- I wish they were open-minded enough to let me lead my life the way I’ve always done (in my country).
- I wish they were open-minded enough to not expect me to understand their culture and contexts.
This plea for ‘open-mindedness’ fits in quite nicely with the stereotype we are exposed to everyday about how Islam and open-mindedness are mutually exclusive. What we forget is that all religions are fundamentally opposed to open-mindedness. Their survival is dependent on you believing that that particular faith and none other is your path to salvation; on you believing that you are blessed enough to belong to this and not another faith.
So, this plea for open-mindedness reeks of the purest form of ‘I am right, you are not’ reasoning.
There are two parts to the conversation here.
One from Qataris, Arabs and some Asians, who diffidently say “You should respect our culture.”
I use ‘diffidently’ and ‘should’ in the same sentence, because for some strange reason, they seem to seek your respect of, and not your open-mindedness to their culture.
The other part of this conversation is the demand not request. “You should be open-minded.”
Asking you to disavow your close-minded belief system, to allow them to live their life exactly how they’ve always done.
Though this post has been a long time coming, discussions over the past several weeks have finally gotten under my skin enough to write this.
- Wish they were open-minded enough to allow more Christmas celebrations.
- Wish they were open-minded enough to allow more Halloween publicity.
- Wish they were open-minded enough to allow alcohol everywhere (why don’t we set up public taps?).
- Wish they were open-minded enough to be just like us, from **insert ‘open-minded’** country.
If this plea is heeded to, then we will have one homogenous, dead boring, world. Let’s toast to that.
Edited to remove repetitions and typos.