As many westerners call for Arab/Eastern accepting “the other”, what do they mean by accepting? Do you mean accepting their mere existence? Do you mean discovering them? Do you mean discussing the deep cultural / religious details? Do you mean mingling between the cultures? Do you mean absorbing one culture in the other?
Let me explain 2 sides of a coin in the Egyptian society, the 2 extremes. We have extremely religious people who require some rituals to be strictly done so that you are in the “righteous” side, like having a long beard with a short galabeyya or whatever. We have extremely non-religious people who think religious people are so wrong and “regressive” so they want to require their neighborhood to do some rituals strictly like forcing them to drink wine, have premarital sex when they don’t want, either that or they don’t believe in freedom, etc..
Both are extremists in a way or another, both do not view freedom as a way of living. Both do not see the other, they just want to be “the one”, “the ONLY one”.
The same applies between people from different countries, though one thing adds here is the stereotypes between different people like I mentioned in the beginning of my last post. BUT, there are still a major difference westerners usually do not realize till they visit countries like Egypt or other countries in the Middle East.
I heard many stories about racism against Arabs, Muslims, Eastern people in general in Europe or the states. Racism not just through extra security measures issues by the governments, but worse, racial actions committed by normal citizens, and they are not a few incidents. Hate crimes are illegal by law, but they are there, they happen, they exist, they exist with a considerable ratio.
When westerners come to the Middle East, and they feel the hospitality they receive, not only from their hosts, but from the average citizen, when the opposite isn’t usually happening, at least not in the same “warmth”.
There is a story of an American Jew who visited Saudi Arabia where you can read here, and how he was thrilled by the tolerance he experienced. This is a very awkward situation to think of from a western point of view. An American Jew going to Saudi Arabia, just imagine that? He is not dead yet? Nope! Those was his own words:
Every man was generous, seemed delighted to be talking with an American, was open-minded or at least willing to have a frank conversation.