That is where I think we as a society are trapped. In this small, gloomy dark box. No one is trapping us (well, you could say some policies are), but we play the biggest part. Our own ‘norms’ and ‘cultural habits’ have gotten way out of hand and I say this now without doubt, we functioned better 30 years or more ago. Nowadays, we just think we have developed, you know with our cool digital gadgets, international companies all around the capital city of our country, shopping malls which have ‘international’ outlets (OMG!), food franchise (OMG we can now eat what they eat in the USA!)….etc. This is all good and beneficial for tourism, the country’s economy and stuff (maybe, I don’t know how that is going for us), but that does NOT mean at all that we are now a developed society and most importantly a ‘civilised’ one. You can build commercial buildings which are up-to-date with the latest technology in every neighbourhood, and still that does not mean we are the city that never sleeps, or that we are the country which is blooming midst an erupting volcano. We, and I emphasise WE (because I sometimes fall in the same trap of thinking) need a reality check. We NEED to wake up and realise that we have still not changed, our public policies are still the same, our ‘traditions’ (& I use that word with a lot of care because I am very proud of my traditions as an Arab but believe we are misusing them) still enforce taboos on us as an effective community and our judgemental selves still serve as an obstacle to many many aspiring citizens. The reason I write about this, is that each week, and by every seminar I attend while I study at uni, I am reminded of how many steps, or rather miles, we have to go forward before we even reach that stage where we can START by calling ourselves a developING society. Today, my two seminars were about sexual violence and the importance of children’s views. The former was a rough topic with so many grim stories about women who were sexually abused and did not report it to the police. But then, you can see a hopeful increase in women reporting and the fact that marital rape is illegal in the UK. This made me think. How many women would dare to go to a police station in your country and report an allegation of rape against her husband? Law 308 in Jordan allows a rapist to escape a conviction when he resorts to marrying the victim..how would then marital rape be taken seriously?…The class went on discussing ‘touching’ and ‘groping’ of women in pubs/clubs, and how it is really a neglected issue, and that if it happens at a place of work, it is then taken seriously, but when it happens in a place at night, it goes unreported and ignored. Here I thought, what a funny thing..they are fighting to increase reports of sexual harassment in clubs, and to decrease the victim blaming(where was the victim and what was she/he doing), while we only focus on asking the victim what did you wear, why were you there, what did you say, how did you act?. I remember I was 13 years old once and walking with my sister in a public place when one guy threw his other guy friend on my sister so he would bump right into her, she was maybe 11 at that time. There were a lot of people around us, and I never forgot what they did. They stared at HER, what she wearing, or what she was doing. Not him, they did not blame him. I guarantee you that that boy grew up to believe that publicly verbally harassing females is OKAY, and that it is not his fault if a girl walks past him. When child law’s turn came up, I was really surprised as to how much detail they are researching and putting into application in the UK to give the child his/her own rights, and how they are trying step by step to lessen the abuse children might be facing. How many cases have we heard of child abuse in schools? in homes? in neighbourhoods? the bullying, the cyber-bullying ( new NEGLECTED issue), smoking, hookah serving..etc. (don’t get me started at how the smoking laws are STILL not applied in Jordan, and I am starting to get really furious at the MPs, who legislated the law, but do NOT abide by it). A short discussion also went around about sex education and how it needs to be implemented in cirriculums even more. I thought about that, and concluded that this ‘taboo’ perspective we have towards the topic ruins the basic relationship between males and females from a young age. Younger adults end up being ‘educated’ about it through the television or the internet (which can definitely be misused, especially by hormonal teenagers), and that is one of the most dangerous things. It would not be wrong if doctors visit all schools and explain the biological perspective, and then a child psychologist/expert would explain the social aspects of it. It is better than leaving a child confused and resorting to other sources. A ‘conservative’ society does not mean that children (who grow up to build the next generation) should be left in the dark, at an age where they want to know everything, and the only route is google, or talks with their friends. I hate comparing between countries, nevertheless comparing societies. I understand that societies have been constructed differently, and I told you at the beginning of this blogpost, I wouldn’t trade the cultural traditions and norms of my country with any other. But I want to say this, because I do not want to keep living in the bubble that my country has developed and is blooming just because we pride ourselves with having Dominos Pizza or a Starbucks drive-through. I want to be proud of my country because it progressed with time, is able to change unfair laws that are outdated, is consciously aware of the dangerous situation that primary/secondary schools are going through, serious about community reform and capable of tackling and improving the huger obstacles which face cities & villages, and not only the capital city.
I have always believed in Arab unity, you know that we should all be one in the face of our ‘enemy’. I think I was living in la la land, as when the world became ‘smaller’ through social media, I realised that not everyone thinks of himself/herself as Arab first, but they introduce themselves according to their religion or political party or cult. Some, and I will use the word ‘majority’, think that Arab Muslims are the only ‘real’ Arabs in the Middle East and that Jews and Christians are just immigrants or people who found themselves surprisingly in the Arab World. I will not talk about Jews in this blogpost as that religion has been long gone from our part of the world, sadly of course. I will talk about Christianity, and how if we keep moving in the same path, it will follow Judaism’s eradication from the Middle East.
When I first visited the Western part of the World, and got into conversations with people of my age, I realised that 99.9 % are not aware of the existence of other religions in the Middle East except Islam. You could blame the media? the politicians? school curriculums maybe?. but you could also blame us Arabs.
Christianity as a religion started off from Palestine, hence Arab Christians are as original as it can be. There are more than 13 million Christians residing in the Arab World, but day by day this number is decreasing, and media outlets remain silent on what could be a very dangerous phase. The exclusion of Christians from their homes and countries is one of the most under covered stories globally and they are, as a puzzle piece, missing, with no hope of being found ever again. I am not saying that the recent wars and disasters that the Arab World has been facing did not include everyone, it did. It is killing any human with a human heart without asking about his/her religion, but it is also leaving Christians with no where to go. In Syria, tens of thousands of the 2 million Christians are seeking refuge else where. Just recently, Musil, a city in Iraq, was attacked by militants who knocked on Christian doors (after their neighbours outed who was Christian and who was not) and told them that if they do not convert to Islam, they will be beheaded and their women will be taken as slaves.
The largest Christian population in the Middle East is in Egypt, with more than 10 million people who define themselves as Copts. There have been also countless attacks on churches, homes and areas where these people reside. I have read comments saying: ‘let them get out of here!’ or ‘we have no place for foreigners in our countries’.
WHAT?! How can a person who claims to be a doctor in Islam, call ARAB CHRISTIANS foreigners? Christians have existed since the Middle East was created, and they have been living hand in hand, in the same homes as Muslims, since the ‘Arab’ world have been created. What is also extremely wrong, is how the media portrays the situation. They insist on calling the Arab World ‘Muslims here, or Muslims there’. They do not acknowledge that there are OTHER religions in the Middle East, even if they comprise less than 10%. It is also EXTREMELY disheartening when you see than NO stable country in the Middle East called for a demonstration or at least a moment of silence and mourning for all the Christians who have been forced to leave their homes, or for all the churches which have been torched, or for Saudi Arabia which does NOT allow churches to be built and arrests any person who it knows is holding a bible. Do you know what the ARAB WORLD called for today? It called for a demonstration to condemn the cartoons published in the Charlie Hebdo’s most recent copy. YES! They think that a stupid magazine which publishes stupid cartoons which offend ALL religions and that should be ignored, is MORE important than ARABS who are being murdered because of their religion. Well, do you know that the killing and exclusion of Christians who are FIRSTLY arabs, insults Prophet Muhammad more than a bunch of stupid drawings in a newspaper that probably no one ever reads if you did not make a big deal out of it? Don’t you think that the Prophet would be more insulted if he knew that HIS people are being silent about the massacres which are happening to their fellow neighbours?! HE is the Prophet of PEACE, and WE ARE ONE, AND SHOULD NOT BE DIVIDED.
Why should you feel closer to Muslims in Burma, in Indonesia in in in…..and not Christians in Syria, Iraq, Egypt…etc? They are, and YOU are, Arabs. (not my intention to say you should not sympathise with this or that, EVERY human deserves sympathy empathy and support, but that should not be based on religion or nationality)
One last note, if Christianity continues walking on the same road it is currently on, then we know the destination. It is the death of millions of Christians, and the birth of a new kind of refugees in Europe: ‘Arab Christians’. The Middle East would be ‘functioning’ with one religion only, and Israel would be completely able to build its country on one religion also (Judaism). Because you know, you were able to create a whole region based on one religion and you killed and excluded every other ideology, then why shouldn’t they be able to do the same?