Is your mind open or just foreign?

Deena Douara
5 Min Read

CAIRO: The nice thing about the word open-minded is that it is not one of these ostentatious, pretentious words that are hard to spell. Its definition can be clearly deduced as most of us know the meaning of both open and mind (and can spell them quite effortlessly).

Despite this however, the word seems to be completely misused. In Egypt, anyone who drinks alcohol, frequents Sangria, and speaks more often in English than in Arabic is automatically labeled open-minded.

Ironically, it is usually the most educated of Egyptians who most often abuse this term.

Presumably, an open mind is one which is accommodating of a wide spectrum of beliefs, ideologies, and lifestyles. It should imply openness to hearing other people s views and positions with an aim of tolerance and acceptance.

Of course, one can only live one life and usually with just one set of beliefs. It would be difficult, for example, to be a devout believer of both Islam and Hinduism, or capitalism and communism. I can just picture rallying the proletariat laborers while dressed in an Armani suit.

But at least the open mind can understand and sometimes accept why people do believe in different things – an acceptance of the ‘other’.

The open mind recognizes that it is not foolishness that governs others ideologies.

But, alas, almost the opposite is actually applied.

Why not just apply the term Western-minded, and discarding any imbedded biases that this will translate to evil-, corrupted-, or wanna-be- minded.

There is nothing wrong with being more Western, Eastern, Scandinavian or Tex-Mexican if these are more accurate descriptors of our ethos.

“Open-minded is used as either a most desirable attribute in a potential partner (“Oh he’s so open-minded ), or as a sign of corruption (“she’s a little too open-minded if you ask me ).

What? Does that mean she’s sexually active? Doesn t cook? Does it mean he goes to the Latex club and will let her talk to boys? A better descriptor would be “he goes to Latex and let s me talk to boys and she s sexually active and doesn t cook.

I don’t think it really means that he, or she, seek better understanding of Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism. Or Bahaii at the very least. It probably doesn’t mean that they listen closely to Republicans, Israelis, or Mormons to assess whether or not there is any value or rationality in their beliefs and actions.

My cousin is quite convinced that because I have lived abroad, I need a partner who is open-minded. I think this is true but I m certain that we don t have the same definitions of the concept in mind.

The attitudes of many Westerners toward this part of the world do not indicate any open-mindedness on their part simply because they abide by more liberal norms.

On the other hand, neither do the attitudes of the more local open-minded individuals my cousin is referring to.

So maybe, just maybe, it would be fairer to say that those who think religion is irrational or the niqab inexcusable are no more or less open-minded than those who think religion is the only thing one needs to study and that only the religions interpretations conveyed on TV are accurate.

As for myself, I have not decided yet how open my mind really is but I know that I am not very good at taking strong stances, always defending the other side.

It s rather annoying sometimes to be honest and I thank God that there are people who are not open to every angle capable of having more vehement and impassioned debates than myself.

So as girls continue to seek open-minded partners and parents watch out for overly-open-minded girls, I will continue to ask these girls and parents what those minds are really open to.

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