Non-Religious Doesn’t Mean Open-minded, Religious Doesn’t Mean Close-minded. Got It?

There’s so much talk of religions nowadays and many, especially in the West, seem to presume that being religious automatically makes you close-minded, while being non-religious automatically makes you open-minded. Even if being faithful to a religion usually comes with a pattern that you will want to follow (sometimes not, though), this doesn’t necessarily make the faithful person close-minded and unwilling to accept other people’s lifestyles. And even if a person claims not to be religious, this doesn’t make him or her an open-minded, liberal person.

We are in an international fragile situation right now where some automatically make a connection between religion and closed minds. I believe this is a dangerous road to take, so I wanna straighten some things out. Ready?

Drinking alcohol doesn’t automatically make you liberal.

Sleeping around before marriage doesn’t automatically make you liberal.

Moving to a Western country doesn’t automatically make you liberal.

Having a mixed circle of friends doesn’t automatically make you liberal.

Claiming you don’t want to hang out with people from your country of origin, to score points with white people, does absolutely not make you liberal.

Close-minded, or can we call it hypocrite?, is the man claiming to be liberal, but who makes a girl he got pregnant have an abortion since he can’t tell his family he had a child outside marriage. Or if she still keeps it, he never tells his family he fathered a child, tucks the child away as a secret. I have met many of these men and girls who have had a baby by these men, it’s not a nice experience.

Open-minded is the religious woman who doesn’t condemn her girlfriends when their life choices dramatically differ from hers. I have met many such women who were believers and who weren’t bothered by my lifestyle (important note: I also wasn’t bothered by theirs). It has always been a great experience. A religious Swedish-Egyptian girl who has a special place in my heart, has been supportive of me in some difficult situations, always without being judgemental, despite our sometimes very different values. Another close friend is hajja (she has made the pilgrim trip to Mecca), and she has often been the first one I reach out to for advice.

People don’t impress me when they claim not to be religious. People impress me when they have non-judgemental, egalitarian values and stick with them, stay honest with who they are. Some of our values might always clash, but there can still be mutual respect and friendship. I’ve had this proved many times.

Forget about people having to be close-minded since they’re openly religious. Forget about people being open-minded since they claim not to be religious, or play down the role of religion. If we want to tackle the challenges of extremism and alienation between groups, we have to widen our gaze and see people’s actions and acceptance for other people. That is what really tells us who a person is. That, rather than the label of a religion.

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