Razan Khatib's commentary on life on/off the web

The case for being liberal

Over the years I’ve gone through the path from being a moderate religious conservative as a teen into a full fledged liberal as I like to call my self today. The journey was not an easy one and through which I came to learn that people around me understand liberalism in different ways, the ones who call themselves liberal that is.

From one side some think being open minded is equal to being liberal, others think that having a westernized-Arab mindset is liberal, while some think that the acceptance of other people’s religions is what makes them liberal.

You can read this Wikipedia article of what liberalism means and the history associated with it.

But what i want here is to share what I think being a liberal individual means (not to confuse this with political parties that call themselves that).

As a liberal it’s about really really believing in your individual freedom and of those around you and treating them as equals in their right to exist and be.

What they wear, where they want to go, where they live, what they do for a living, who they pray for, who they want to sleep with, who they want to love …

By freedom I mean everything that does not result in harming other individuals.

Yes those were BOLD. And those as many debates I’ve read, witnessed and participated in is where the confusion comes and where you hear stuff like this:

“I am generally a liberal person, but really someone sleeping around is something I am totally against, it’s harming for our society“.

“I am a liberal person, but really someone wearing an Islamic Hijab (scarf) is something I am totally against, she’s definitely oppressed”.

“I come from a liberal mindset, but really walking down the street wearing such tight short miniskirt and a transparent sleeveless shirt is definitely inappropriate! we are not in Europe!”

“Gosh this girl is wearing a scarf with such a tight jeans, she either wears a full hijab costume or take her scarf off and spare us her pathetically portrayed conservatism!”

“As a liberal, gays and lesbians can do what they want, but really I don’t think its my job or if it’s the right time and place to go defending their rights! there are more important things to fight for these days than that.”

“My wife and I are liberals, but you know how things are when you have kids, it’s the mom that has to stay home definitely not the dad.”

Those statements can not in any way, shape or form be statements coming from someone calling themselves a liberal. They can call themselves “moderates”, they can call themselves “cool”, “easy going”, “open minded” for all I care.

What do you think?

(If you are not a liberal or hate liberals and think they are the promoters of sin in society. I ask you gently to spare me your comments this post is not for discussing anti-liberalism. Thank you.)

6 Comments so far

  1. diala on October 1st, 2009

    i think a liberal needs to continuously ask oneself questions of right and wrong of reality and not to take things for granted or assume that they understand it all. it is a continuous state of asking oneself what do i think of this and what do i feel about it… i think that is why it is not an easy job to be liberal, there are no set rules or value system to make the decisions for a liberal.

  2. Deena on October 2nd, 2009

    I think I am a liberal because, whilst I firmly believe in my principles, I wouldn’t want everyone to believe in the same things I do. I think I am a liberal because I am allergic to uniformity, and intrigued by diversity and its possibilities.
    I think I am a liberal because whilst I respect what was and what it, I am always inspired by what can be. The question ‘who am I’ and ‘who are we’ doesn’t interest me. Life , to me, is defined by continuity, not end results.
    I think I am a liberal, but I am not sure, because there are many who test the limits of my liberty. Nationalists are the worst. People who claim there is only one way to progress, one way to be non-Zionist, one-way to be truly Arab, and one-way (a very slow one) to open up. They have only heard of Gibran, but actively listen to Nasrallah. When they think ‘empowerment’ they think the empty promises of Jamal Abd el-Nasser, not the emancipatory beliefs of Nizar Qabbani.
    And I find myself angry, frustrated, and worst of all condescending. I find myself an illiberal person.
    Sorry for the long comment – thank you for the post :)

  3. Razan Khatib on October 2nd, 2009

    Diala, what you said makes total sense, I feel being liberal a continuous self learning experience of what your reaction is, should be or you want it to be. Things do get confusing at times.

    Deena, I understand totally; the one meaning for a label paradigm, agonizing and here I am trying to do so for being liberal. I think this post came from my frustration as well, hearing those statements i listed makes me angry at times or cynical at others.

    Being liberal starts with having a liberated mind. A mind that asks, quests, explores for its own self beyond the “one” book, philosopher, leader rather a mixture of all.

    Thanks for posting the-not-that-long-at-all-comment :)

  4. The Clandestine Samurai on October 2nd, 2009

    You said you went from being a moderate religious conservative to a full-fledged liberal.

    I’ve went from being nothing of the sort to a Liberal Christian, and I agree with everything you’ve said. Especially the bold type. I especially agree with the statement that one cannot call themselves liberal if they push the homosexual issue aside as an unimportant issue. That’s the mindset conservatives use to continue bashing and abusing them out of their own closeted and confused sexuality.

    Almost all valid studies show that a liberal/truly Democratic world would be healthier, wealthier, with much less war, and as a tighter community, which is what I think Christ wanted ultimately.

  5. Ghassan Yonis on October 4th, 2009

    Agree with most of the article, and that what I always say about the right of Hijab all the time. But..

    It’s also my right to criticize people’s double standard and hypocrisies, same they have the right to do it, no? (e.g., the Hijab with tight jeans, gays who defend Islam, people who keep talking about freedom and democracy and support normalization with “israel”)

    Usually, I don’t like calling my self liberal, so I won’t be stereo-typed with the Arab liberal masses who attack everything Islam related, and support anything Western liberals support, without seeing the big picture (e.g. Obama, the Iran protests).

    To me, I believe that everybody have the right to do and THINK what they want, as longest it “does not result in harming other individuals”; so if a guy think homosexuality is wrong, fine, he’s free to think so, and we can argue about. If someone wants to deny the Holocaust ever toke place, let’s hear what he has to say with objectivity. If my women and I both agreed that she’ll stay home and I bring back the bacon, so be it. We’re free, after all!

    P.S. I know we disagree on Obama, Hezbollah, and Iran, my point is, to be free from the “western liberal package” that have its own political agenda, don’t mind if someone thinks Obama going to make a real change, or his claims and methods dealing with the Iranian election issue, as longest he’s not fanatic about, which is the case of most Arab liberals.

  6. shalabieh on October 5th, 2009

    I agree that liberalism is not only enjoy the freedoms of choice but to respect other people’s freedoms too.

    And like you I cant stand it when someone values their own choices above the others and thinks they are better. We all have different life journeys and make our own choices. And like you I went from Muslim conservatism to what I am today- I dont know wht to label it so I wont.

    But I have learned that we are all human, we all make mistakes and the best response to that is two quotes from Gandhi “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” and “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

    If each of us focuses on him or herself and gives others the same space they want to grow, to be… I think the world would be a better place.

    As for Ghassan’s comments, if people believe in hate, and violence as a manifestation to that hate, then no I disagree about that. And if there is a solution then education, awareness and compassion are in order to say the least.

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