Multiculturalism: A Passport toward the Harmonious Middle East.
A Personal Reflection Written By Sara Afifi.
The Middle East is one of the most boiling geographical areas that rarely effectively utilizes its diverse elements to enhance aspects of life on many levels. Opposite to the Western communities who urge the interaction among diverse cultures as a means for innovation, most of the Middle East policies encourage avoiding differences. Yet, multiculturalism can be used as an effective method to achieve harmony towards a cultural mosaic rather than a melting pot. A whole set of to do and not to do methodologies should be generated for a more harmonious Middle East.
The first ‘not to do’ action in the Middle East to promote harmony through multiculturalism is to stop any kind of ethnocentrism, which means to stop judging other cultures by our standards on any different aspects of life than ours. In the Middle East, a generalization is easy to be generated, for example, all who pray are moral people. Moreover, racism should be avoided, as well as the belief that one racial group is naturally superior to another which creates more tension and misunderstanding.
In addition to this, religion as another element should not be imposed in conducting any judgments. Dubai was sharply criticized when they asked foreigners who live there to stop wearing sleeveless tops and shorts during the holy month of Ramadan to show respect for Muslims while fasting; a declaration that questioned Dubai’s so-called multiculturalism. Customs, traditions, and rules of behavior are not there to be imposed on or be followed by different cultures just because religion calls for that.
On the other side, language, arts and literature could be positively used to promote mutual understanding between nations. Music is well known as a universal language, and most of the Middle Eastern countries are rich in this element, but music use is so limited to have a great impact. Most of the artistic productions are mainly used to achieve materialistic benefits for the producers, and even the existing art is not highly utilized towards that purpose.
I should note that governmental support is the number one protection for any multiculturalism improvements in the Middle East. Policies weigh more than good intentions. While people share some norms, languages, social classes and economic backgrounds, the government represents the number one supporter or oppressor of any kind of free multiculturalism activity in the Middle East. Yet, it takes individuals accepting and respecting diversity since the government is unlikely to push for multiculturalism on its own. Individual choices matter. If we want harmony, we must choose to live in harmony with each other for a better world.