The Case of The Missing Identity

Posted on December 28, 2010


A certain prominent member of higher authority has very recently (and publicly) called for a systematized curbing in the number of non-Arab expatriates in a bid to ‘preserve’ the UAE’s national identity. He went on to attempt to justify his statement by labeling said expats as a threat to the identity, culture and heritage of the nation.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but since when is fortifying a certain national identity (wherever you choose to apply it) brought about by a mass grouping of nationals and a region-wide purging of anyone claiming allegiance otherwise? Instead, this proposition serves only to highlight a possible weakness of said identity, in having to resort to a measure such as this in order to regain foothold.

Rather than driving residents away from what is in fact a beautiful culture, contrarily should it not be made fair-seeming instead? Any identity, let alone a national one, is not propagated solely by strength of numbers, but a cultivation of patriotism so strong that it can embrace any outward influence and prevail with its own individuality at the same time.

What is with this sudden concern over dying cultures anyway? First we blamed the French for being Xenophobic, then the Swedes for being prejudiced, and of course the Americans solely because we love to bash them. But can we really afford to preach?

It’s a shame that a majority of readers will walk away after having heard of said persona’s proposition, with a great sense of resentment towards a country that has played host to most for many a year. Even more pitiful is that many will be quick to formulate the assumption that the opinion of this one man is representative of every single Khandoura-clad individual that walks the sand-laced streets of the Emirates.

For the problem with living in a nation as culturally diverse as the UAE, is the frequency with which fingers are prone to point. As opposed to our respective motherlands, we’re put in a ‘situation’ that has us dealing with a system of co-existence that involves working, mingling and possibly living with people from a completely different country, and subsequently, culture.

It’s not just afore-mentioned high positioned individual that is quick to single out a particular ethnicity in deference to another though. In everyday conversation we ourselves are quick to blame an entire nationality for a shortcoming of maybe only one of their kind. Too eager are we to pedestal one over the other, and equally eager to have another labeled scum. I believe I might have mentioned previously that we seem to function better with a hierarchy mapped out, and appear to love the occasional indulgence in derogatory banter.

Say we are to stick with the stereotype. In that case, Emiratis are arrogant and intolerant beings with a penchant for luxe handbags. Sure there’s always the black sheep that ruins it for the rest of us, but I for one have had the opportunity to get to know a lovely bunch of (no, not coconuts) Emiratis who genuinely work hard for a living, enjoy the occasional south Indian Thali or two, and treat their house-help like one of their own – all that while being ferociously patriotic at the same time.

Similarly, a large number of non-local residents have over time learned to become almost as patriotic to the quatro-coloured flag as their Emirati cohabiters, while maintaining a steady link to their homelands as well. They too deck their cars flashily for National Day, and rub their bellies satisfactorily after a few good servings of Mandi.

Emiratis are arrogant, Indians are too loud and Egyptians are stubborn,’ are among few of many similitudes we are quick to pass around.  It’s disgusting, arrogant and downright petty. The worst part being that most of us don’t even realize that we are at least subliminally transmitting this message of intolerance to our children.

Any excuse to ensure that the prison-guard’s spotlight of condescension is aimed at anyone but us – any assurance at all of an elevated position on that flotilla of oneupman-ship.

So though the outwardly proposed marginalization has come as quite the shock to most of us- with the shadow of xenophobia now a defined silhouette -it’s about time we take a good look at our own set of underlying prejudices.

For as much as I hate to admit it, I’m pretty darn sure at some point along the line and on more than one occasion, I’ve been unfairly judgemental.

And that is not my national identity.


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Posted in: Identity, Racism, UAE