The importance of tolerance

IN February 2010, I was on a leisure trip to a beautiful place known as the "Blue Mountains" in Australia. I was accompanied by my mother, wife and 20 other people on the bus.

 


Fahd Al-Ahmadi

Al-Riyadh


 


IN February 2010, I was on a leisure trip to a beautiful place known as the "Blue Mountains" in Australia. I was accompanied by my mother, wife and 20 other people on the bus.



On the journey back, a man and his wife sat near me. The man had Middle Eastern features. After an hour of complete silence, the man turned to me and asked where I was from. I was surprised by his effrontery (you will know why later in this article). I told him quietly that I was from Saudi Arabia. I did not ask him where he was from but we entered into a lengthy conversation in which our two wives joined.



When we entered Sydney and he was preparing to get down at his hotel, he shook my hand and told me that I was a nice man. He then asked me in a wicked way where I thought he was from? I told him that he was from Israel. The friendly smile disappeared from his face and he asked if I had known this all along. I said yes. He looked surprised and got down from the bus with his wife without saying anything more.



What happened here was that I treated the man with the nice manners I was brought up with and not according to the manner the Israelis treat the Palestinians. Treating him nicely was the best and most effective option for me. Actually it was the only option open before me because I would not be able to change his ideas about Arabs if I was rude to him. The Arabs would not have gained a better reputation if I verbally abused him or physically attacked him before people of different nationalities in the bus.



What I want to say here is that there is a big difference between loving someone and treating him with etiquette and good manners. You are not supposed to love all people around you but you are expected to treat them all nicely and politely regardless if you like them or not. When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) defeated the infidels in Makkah and they were apprehensive that he would be vindictive against them, all that he said to them was "Go. You are free". They could not believe their ears.



In fact, everyone who adopts this principle will be triumphant at the end of the day. Look how Mahatma Gandhi liberated India from the British through non-violence and peaceful means. His peaceful resistance garnered him the love and respect of millions of people in Britain. Nelson Mandela pardoned the whites who tortured and imprisoned him for 30 years. Ask any Saudi student in America how the Jews there treat him, he will tell you that American Jews are the nicest people in the world. (This is not because the Jews love us but this is their strategy to win over hearts and sympathy of others).



I advise you to adopt this strategy: Treat people nicely and you will receive from them the same treatment. I am not asking you to be weak or submissive but to raise you your head and be nice to people, especially your enemies.