The term “open minded” is widely, but carelessly and incorrectly used in Egypt. Egyptians will all claim that they are open-minded, but the majority of them will reveal their true biased and prejudicial colors when they’re in a situation where they’re expected to exhibit their so called open minded nature. Egyptians tend to only pick the aspects that appeal to them from Western ideologies and ignore the rest as if it’s not a whole package deal. But the truth is, you either take it all or leave it all.
First of all, let’s build a correct foundation…What does it mean to be open minded?
Being open-minded means that your biggest asset is your capacity to understand others. It means detaching yourself from your own personal beliefs in order to understand the perspectives of those who hold different opinions. It means you let others be, because you understand there is no right and wrong way and that your way may not be what’s best for someone else. Only a truly open-minded person would understand and respect the viewpoints of others, no matter how contradicting they are from their own set of beliefs.
So contrary to popular opinion in our society, being open-minded does not translate to adopting provocative ideologies and living life with no rules. And the opposite is also true. If I say that I drink alcohol, have premarital sex and support gay rights, that does not make me an open-minded person. I would be an open-minded person if I do engage in these activities but still accept and respect those who think alcohol and premarital sex are haram. Being open-minded is a two way street!
The Situation in Egypt
The term is used loosely and out of context
The term has come to be synonymous with leading a certain stereotypical lifestyle that includes clubbing, sex, smoking, alcohol, etc. Therefore, the term has been diminished to be used loosely and more often than not, out of context. For instance, declare in front of someone who you know to be closed-minded that you are an avid supporter of gay rights and you will hear a “ahh inty 3amla fiha open-minded ba2a” or something along these lines. The term open-minded does not entail engaging in any set of certain behaviors except that you live and let live.
It’s harder on girls than on guys
There is no denying that being open-minded in Egypt is harder on girls than on guys. Egyptian men are affected by our society’s hypocrisy too, but girls suffer majorly and terribly harder due to the infesting double standards that are the backbone of our country. If a guy and a girl have the exact same lifestyles, the girl will be shamed far worse than the guy ever will because “boys will be boys”, but girls have their “womanhood” to protect and behold for eternity and above all else. If you uphold any ideology that is not set in stone with the Egyptian culture such as your different choice of attire, they will claim you are “too westernized” and in their book, that’s “bad”.
Being open-minded falsely translates to engaging in promiscuous behavior
As stated, being open-minded has come to be known as the more respectable phrasing of “engaging in promiscuous behavior”. It is a prevalent notion in our society that open-mindedness equates being a person who is immoral, oversexed and of easy virtue. What they fail to acknowledge however is that a person could live a life of debauchery and corruption and at the same time be closed-minded, because they simply refuse to respect how other people live their lives.
Our society frowns upon those with ideologies and lifestyles that don’t adhere to the Egyptian culture
People in Egypt will tell you they’re open-minded, but don’t believe them because once you do something that’s against their beliefs, they will immediately write you off as “shemal”. Yet, keep in mind that they claim to be non-judgmental and open-minded. The key to surviving in Egypt is to do everything in secret. Those who look down on you and shame you for drinking or interacting openly with the other sex, do all of these things behind closed doors. So, if you live your life with a “f**k it” approach and do whatever you want, you will be shamed because you prefer to live your life out in the open. How messed up and backwards is this?
Why aren’t Egyptians open minded?
This is the million dollar question. There is no single reason why Egyptians are not an open-minded bunch but, it stems from cultural and religious notions that were instilled in all of us as kids. Most Egyptians also have limited life experiences and education leading to a great inability to see things in different colors. The most aggravating part, in my opinion, is not that we’re not open-minded. It’s the fact that most Egyptians don’t even understand what open-minded means and still shame everyone who claims that he/she is.
The outcome of this charade is…
The misinterpretation, misuse and misunderstanding of what an open-minded person looks like has made us foster the habit of wearing masks and leading double lives. We’ve all seen people hiding beer cans and wine bottles in pictures so that their parents wouldn’t find out they drink. We know people who have sex and feel dirty because they’re only allowed to do it in secret. They have hushed conversations about all the taboo topics with their best friends because it goes against all the preconceived notions of right and wrong in our society.
The way to live is to have an:
Human beings are never finished; we’re all a work in progress. And the only way humans are expected to grow is if they expand their mind and keep it open to the infinite possibilities out there. Being open-minded is not based upon what you do with your life; it’s based upon how you let others live their life.