In a column titled "The Christian Here and the Muslim Over There" in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, liberal journalist Ahmad Al-Sarraf called for greater tolerance towards religious minorities in the Arab world. He recommended to learn from countries like Senegal and Ethiopia, in which members of religious minorities served as heads of state, and from Europe and America, where Muslims serve in prominent positions.
The following are translated excerpts from his article:
Ahmad Al-Sarraf (image: twitter.com/ahmedalsarraf1)
"The following text is attributed to the late Sudanese MP Muhammad Ibrahim [Nugud]: 'If a Muslim governs me, this will not guarantee me a place in Paradise; if an infidel governs me, he will not keep me out of Paradise, and if I am governed by one who guarantees employment, freedom and self-respect for me and my children, I will stand up to show him my respect and appreciation.
"'The issue of [attaining] Paradise depends upon my faith and my actions. [So] stop fighting for power in the name of religion, believing that this will lead you to Paradise. The government's job is not to get people into Paradise, but to provide them with a Paradise here on earth, which may help them attain the heavenly Paradise.'
"Reading this text, I remembered the great African poet Leopold Senghor, who served as President of Senegal for 20 years, from October 1960, when [Senegal received its] independence [from France] until 1980, at which time he voluntarily stepped down in favor of his successor, President Abdou Diouf. Senghor is widely regarded as a world-renowned writer and one of the most important African thinkers of the 20th century. Although 94 percent of the Senegalese are Muslim and only 5 percent are Christian, they elected the Christian Leopold Senghor (b. 1906) to be their president, and reelected him several times before he stepped down of his own accord, and died in France in 2001.
"On the other side of Africa, Ethiopia [recently] elected Abiy Ahmed as its new prime minister. Ahmed is a member of the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group, which led the three-year protests against the previous government. He is a proud Muslim in a country where 66 percent of the citizens are proud Orthodox Christians. Muslims constitute no more than 30 percent of all Ethiopians, but here too, professional ability overcame backwardness and religious or sectarian fanaticism.
"These two examples, and many others, demonstrate that religious and sectarian fanaticism often exists only among us [Arabs], while for others, [religion affiliation] is the last thing on their minds, as the saying goes. If we go to Europe and America, which are Christian and consider Christianity as a continuation of Judaism, we find that dozens of important and honorable positions are held by Muslims, despite the growing hostility towards the Muslim immigrants.
"We must change our attitude towards others, in practice, and allow all the minorities among us – Muslim, Christian, Bohra [a sect within the Isma'ili branch of Shi'a Islam], Hindu or Buddhist – to practice their religions as they please, as long as they do not offend others. The change cannot happen overnight, but requires a decision, as part of which the discourse in the mosques, on state television and in the school curricula will be involved in the process of change."
 Al-Qabas (Kuwait), August 15, 2018.