Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Kuwait, Let’s Unite, Not Divide!

Kuwait Let's Unite
A Filipino couple takes a picture during a sandstorm in Kuwait City on February 18, 2018. YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP

Nejoud al-Yagout

A religious society is one that prides itself on harmony and diversity — a society that is inclusive and not divisive. In the past, Kuwait was known for its hospitality and acceptance of people of all backgrounds and orientations. 

However, lately, conservatives and fundamentalists in Kuwait have been trying to reshape this narrative of a harmonious community. And, more distressingly, as the government is increasingly infiltrated by such divisive ideology and rhetoric, many liberal Kuwaitis feel helpless and deluded. 

On June 2nd, a day after the start of Pride Month, the US embassy in Kuwait posted a rainbow flag with the caption: ”Pride Month June 2022.” More than 22,000 people made their thoughts on the post known — the overwhelming majority spewed hateful and discriminatory comments and even used vomit emojis and thumbs down signs to express their dismay. The positivity of the very few who left encouraging comments was drowned in the sea of negativity. 

The comments on social media were already indicative of how LGBTQIA+ rights are viewed by many in this country, but the official reaction to the embassy post exacerbated matters. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kuwait summoned the US embassy’s chargé d’affaires over the post and handed him a letter asking the embassy to respect Kuwait’s culture. Thankfully, the embassy did not remove the post. 

Mere weeks later, the Ministry of Commerce released a statement, accompanied by photographs of all flag types associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, asking citizens to report sights of any such flags. They even explained on Twitter that the ‘ordinary’ rainbow flag has seven colours while the one going ‘against public morals’ has six. The Ministry wanted to send a clear message that the rainbow flag and all other flags associated with the LGBTQIA+ community threaten our religion and culture. In fact, the Ministry even raided a shop displaying rainbow-coloured items – seemingly unrelated to LGBTQIA+ rights – to let Kuwaiti society know it meant business! 

But for every person who argues that belonging to the LGBTQIA+ is against religion, there are others who believe in a harmonious society that not only thrives in diversity but cherishes it. 

In essence, true religion is based on compassion, mercy and love. True religion embraces all living beings, regardless of how they were born. True religion is unconditional love, no matter what the ego claims. True religion unites. It does not divide. 

Besides, religion is not monolithic. Each person has a different interpretation. Some religious Muslims search for a transcendent version of the religion, a mystical one that reflects and aligns with the loving attributes of the Divine Reality. 

And for those who argue this goes against our culture, there too are Kuwaitis who argue that they do not want to be part of a culture that prides itself on prejudice. Culture must evolve with the times. If it remains rigid or does not bloom, it is no longer culture but a cult. A society can remain grounded in its culture’s roots, but not when it gives citizens and residents an excuse to discriminate. 

The homophobic responses to the US embassy’s post, but especially the Ministry’s subsequent statement, are a scary reminder that Kuwait is in danger of spiralling into the abyss of darkness and regression. After all, a country that does not promote pluralism and acceptance does not align with the values of modernity. 

In fact, open-hearted Kuwaitis are cringing in shame at the emotionally abusive reactions to an institution celebrating an individual’s right to be who they are and the actions of a Ministry that, instead of celebrating pride, is now celebrating discrimination. With such an approach, it takes pride in dividing members of the community based on who they are attracted to and who they love. 

The LGBTQIA+ community has already suffered by coming out to their parents and friends. As if this is not enough, they are being sidelined by a government telling them they are to be rejected by everyone and that anything representing them is evil and unwelcome in Kuwait. 

What the Ministry does not realise, however, is that hate and judgement have an expiry date. What conservative MPs do not realise is that democracy is not a platform to control the population but an opportunity to listen and to accept all members of society. 

Even though the majority of people in our country are against the LGBTQIA+ community, Kuwait has no choice but to rise in harmony and unity to ensure that all those who are ostracised will eventually find a way to integrate regardless of colour, gender, religion, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or, in this case, sexual orientation. Until then, open-hearted Kuwaitis cannot afford to remain silent. 

 

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The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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