As per the Indian embassy of Kuwait website, in statistics released by the Kuwait Ministry of Interior in March of this year, there are 977,897 Indians in Kuwait. Indians have always celebrated a close bond with the people of Kuwait. There are many families in Kuwait who speak Hindi, and who still have relatives and homes in India. Many merchant families lived in Pune and Mumbai during the 1950s and 1960s. Many of our dishes owe their heritage to Indian cuisine, such as the incorporation of basmati rice and gravy dishes.
Today, on the 12th of November, Indians celebrate the Festival of Lights, more commonly known around the world as Diwali. The spiritual significance of Diwali is the practice of inner purity and reflection. It is a time for Hindus to invite illumination or enlightenment. Indians used to celebrate Diwali in the streets of Kuwait, but lately there have been attempts by religious leaders in the country to put an end to the celebrations because they supposedly go against our values. The question remains: Whose values do they go against? And why are we proud of values that deem other religions inferior to us? If we have fears of others, it shows us where we are lacking, not where others are lacking. As Wayne Dyer states: "Judgment means that you view the world as you are, rather than as it is."
Muslims complain about Islamophobia, and yet we have phobias of all other religions, even while fear creates divisiveness, even while fear creates a sense of us vs. them, where it is our way or the highway to hell (literally). If Muslims were not allowed to practice their faith abroad, there would be protests and lawsuits. In Kuwait, if a practicing Hindu (or a member of any other religion besides Islam) were to organize a protest, s/he and all the participants of the protest would be deported. As a result of the deportation, most of the people of Kuwait would either remain silent or thank the government for deporting people who had a so-called agenda or were "disrespectful" to our traditions. It is disconcerting to know that we have mosques in every corner and a handful of churches, and most of the population wants it to remain that way. Where are all the other temples of worship? And who decided that they should not be allowed? And why are we okay with that? Many of us here enjoy celebrating Christmas and Easter, but it is frustrating when people try to issue fatwas or raid underground houses of worship, such as a gurdwara a few years ago, as though members of other religions were criminals or pariahs. There are only a few countries in the world where religious intolerance is still a source of pride for the nation. And it is heartbreaking that we are one of these countries.
Diversity is the waltz of nature. All we need to do is look around and witness the beauty of diversity in all creation. Why is diversity of thought considered such an existential threat to us? Incorporating religious freedom will only bring harmony to our community, and it will help us evolve from an insular, xenophobic nation to a tolerant and harmonious nation.
Each of us has a different dance with the divine, and it's time Kuwait surrenders its phobia of others so that we can enjoy a diverse nation which is inclusive of all cultures and walks of faith.