A little over a week ago, there was quite the controversy when the US Embassy wished Jews in Kuwait a Happy Hanukkah on Instagram. The Ambassador was trolled by some commentators, and anyone who responded to the message in a spirit of love was verbally abused. Some argued that there are not many Jews in Kuwait, so why would the US Embassy post such a message? The commentators used the message not only to accuse the ambassador of having an agenda, but to attack Jews as a whole.
What is this cringe-worthy fear we have toward Jews? We cannot use the excuse that we don't celebrate the festivities of other religions, because many Kuwaitis love to celebrate Christmas, and a few celebrate Diwali with Hindus. We cannot say we are protecting Islamic principles, because Kuwait is filled with people of all faiths and no faiths. As such, in a country whose heritage prides itself on coexistence, is this who we have become? What a pity. What a loss for us. How heartbreaking for our forefathers, a few of whom were Jews who lived here alongside us.
For those of us who are fortunate to have Jewish friends and acquaintances, most of the Jews we know live abroad. This is because Jews who live here do not announce their religion for fear of being ostracized or offending the "sensitivities" of their cousins in religion. Or because they are such a rarity that, as a local Jew once stated, they don't even know about each other. We could be sitting next to a Jew in a café and never know it.
How did we get here? And more tellingly, why are we not ashamed?
If we do not want to partake in the religious holidays of Jews, because some of us are, sadly, not ready or have been conditioned to harbor resentment toward them, what is our excuse for the absence of synagogues in our country? Again, if the argument is a religious one, aren't Jews mentioned throughout the Koran as People of the Book? Don't many of the narratives in the Koran stem from the Old Testament and even the Talmud? Don't we share most of the same prophets? If this country claims to follow the Islamic principles, what justifies this blatant discrimination? Isn't the Torah mentioned as a sacred book? In case we have forgotten, here are a couple of examples from the Koran to ponder:
"We have revealed the Torah, in which there is guidance and light” (5:44).
"We [sent] Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, [confirming] what had been revealed before him in the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, which contained guidance and light...” (5:46).
Also, didn't the Koran say that we were created as races and tribes so that we may know each other? (49:13). After reading the comments on the account, is it possible that the majority of religious people here blatantly ignore (nay, rebel against) this verse? And if people can objectively (or subjectively) find aspects of the faith which do, in fact, discriminate, then why are we not focusing on the parts that do not? We tried the former. It resulted in wars, hatred, and divisiveness. Why can't we focus on what brings us toward coexistence? Isn't it overdue? Way overdue?
What if Moses, who Muslims consider as a prophet, lived in our country today? Would we permit him to teach the principles of the Torah? Would we allow him to speak of his religion publicly or announce his beliefs? Most of us would say of course we would, because we hold him in high esteem. Then why are we not respecting his followers or the descendants of Abraham, for that matter?
And now, let's take religion aside. There are many here who do not even practice religion, but still hold a caustic hatred for Jews. What is their excuse? Is it politics? If that is the way we think, then why are we judging others for being afraid of us? There are Muslims who have used religion to justify and perpetrate attacks on innocent civilians. Did the world ban mosques? Of course not. In this part of the world, we know what Islamophobia feels like. We know the pain of being punished by people who discriminate against us because of fear. And we have learned, slowly but surely, that a person does not define religion (nor does religion define a person, for that matter). So why do we inflict our pain on others? More importantly: Why can't we rise above discrimination and admit that we, too, are afraid of other religions?
All in all, the time has come to set aside fear. One can continue to support Palestine without fearing Jews. Many Palestinians themselves coexist with Jews. And many Jews support Palestine. One can embrace Jews without having a political agenda. This can arise when we are no longer proud of wearing hatred as a badge of honor.
Where has hatred gotten us besides beneath rubbles left behind by bombs, violence and antagonism? Let this desire to be a more open and welcoming society not be a pipe dream. It is our responsibility, each one of us, to become ambassadors of humanity, beyond our belief systems, beyond our political inclinations.
In short, there is no justified reason for the prejudice against Jews. And there is no other time but now to wake up from this stupor of separation.
Now. Let's take the wait out of Kuwait.
(This blogpost appeared in Fanack).