Thursday, April 17, 2008

2008 is UAE National Identity Year

Gulf News:
The conference is being hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development and it comes in line with President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan's announcement to mark 2008 as National Identity Year, and in support of the federal strategy that aims to reinforce national efforts to protect and promote national identity," Afra Al Saberi, General Coordinator of the conference told a press conference yesterday.
Proud Emirati makes a good observation. There is a basic inconsistency between lipservice given to concerns over demographic imbalance (UAE natives comprise 20% of the population), and the construction projects announced:
The real question is: do our decision makers really believe in what they say? Last time I checked there were dozens of projects lunched that would attract millions of laborer to the market. So I don't know whether they really mean what they say.
"Our future and national identity are strongly connected to the demographic structure issue, which requires collaborative efforts and teamwork," Shaikh Mohammad said.
I don't know exactly what they have in their mind but what every Emirati would expect is an authority that would put regulations to increase the number of Emiratis, either by encouraging marriage and having children or by naturalizing limited selected number of people. Their objective should be to increase the number of Arab speakers by importing Arab laborers, restricting the number of other nationalities and forcing the Arabic language.
I note that while lipservice (no pun intended) is given to Arabic, the UAE shifted from use of Arab to Asian imported labor after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. The reason is the imported labor in Kuwait demonstrated an allegiance to Saddam. Asians are more compliant and cannot claim a common Arab heritage as a basis for a political hearing in the court of public opinion.

The inaugural issue of The National has an op-ed on the question of national identity which bypasses the demographic imbalance issue altogether.

At the spot poll of the day is "Do you agree that foreign workers pose a threat to the security of GCC countries?" These sorts of voluntary (i.e. unscientific) polls annoy me, but at least the question is being put out there. Currently 63% of respondents answer "No, foreign workers are important for the future of the GCC countries." If you don't like that, you might want to rush over and bias the result in some other direction.

See also this at Middle East Online:
The growing concern of Emiratis about being a minority in their own country surfaced again last week, with a senior official warning that it could lead to the collapse of the regime.

"I'm afraid we are building towers but losing the Emirates," outspoken police chief General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim said on Tuesday, referring to a construction boom in the emirate, fueled by foreigners buying property there.

The article has generated over 80 comments at UAE community blog.

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