Tolerance needed [Archives:2003/643/Viewpoint]

June 19 2003

I have been in the last few days bombarded by hate emails and other letters saying how biased I am against the West in general and the USA in particular. Those readers interpreted my editorials as anti-USA and anti-West. It is normal to have anyone speak up his mind openly and have others criticize him or her. But at the end of the day, we should all tolerate and respect each other. This is what freedom of expression is all about.
Besides, I personally like many things represented in Western culture. As a matter of fact, I urge Arabs to learn from the West. Yes, we are not enemies, and no one should understand that I tried to promote enmity. Expressing ones mind openly is in fact a very common Western practice in the media and daily life. I am indeed a supporter for many -but not all- Western traditions, which are actually humane traditions.
We can learn from the West how to love work and dedication. We can learn from them how to respect others' opinions and be tolerant. We can adopt – we already have been adopting- democratic systems that originated from the West.
I admit that some Arabs bring us down in trying to ignore or fight Western values. Yes, some Western countries may have legalized prostitution and abnormal sexual relations. After all, it is not a matter of “either take it all or leave it all.” Yes, some Western countries are too open to be a model for many other conservative countries. Yet, there are also many other Western values that can serve us well.
In fact, one can name those values “universal” because they come in harmony with human needs and necessities. Having justice, enforcing the law, allowing freedoms are not necessarily Western values, but have been adopted widely in the West. May be we ought to learn from their experiences and try to avoid their mistakes.
Our readers should separate between Arabs who are open minded and look towards modernization and building a civil society, from those who still hold on tight to out-dated traditions and customs that do not serve us well any more.
However, that does not mean that I do not have an opinion of my own, which I can and should express freely not only in Yemen Times, but through any other medium as well.
Just as well tolerate hate mail and strong criticism to the way we Arabs think. Some of our readers need to understand that this is the cost of any democracy. You can have pro and con views on all things happening around us, and the war against Iraq (or in Iraq as some American friends insist) is no exception.
We live in one world and on one planet and we need to live together in tolerance and peace. Only then will we be able to learn from one another and help each other.