You may have read recently how the Federal National Council has formed a committee to investigate the rise in marriages between Emirati men and expat women. Hamad Al Rahoomi, a Dubai-based FNC member, said during the debate that he had fears about how the children of "mixed" marriages may be affected, and the values and tradition of our conservative society. "If Emirati men marry expats, who will the Emirati women get married to?" he asked.
These types of discussions aren’t uncommon. A similar debate took place last June, when the FNC flagged the idea of preventing non-Emirati mothers gaining custody of their children if they separated from the Emirati father.
The most recent discussion centres around concerns that children will lose their national identity. Some members even went as far as saying that they believe some women seek to marry an Emirati man to receive a better, more comfortable life here.
The response on social media has been mixed. Some people support the FNC, and agree that one of the main threats to the Emirati national identity, culture and traditions is Emirati men marrying foreign women who come from different cultural and religious backgrounds, and speak foreign languages. Their perspective was this would directly affect the offspring’s attachment and loyalty to UAE culture and Islam. It might lead to a generation of Emiratis with an identity crisis. To preserve our national identity and culture, it was suggested we need to limit this type of marriage.
Others have pointed out the clear and strong tone in these statements, and urged the FNC to speak about the concerns of the people who have elected them, instead of speaking in slogans that stir up feelings and phobias. They have also pointed out that if the FNC’s concerns are really about who was left for the Emirati women to marry, then they should focus on giving Emirati women the right to pass their nationality on to their children – men already have this right.
I know Emirati women who are married to non-nationals, but as happy as they are in their domestic lives, they’re concerned about their children’s futures. What universities will they enrol in and will they get a good job compared to “full” Emiratis? I know many Emirati women whose mothers are from a different country – British, Indian, Indonesian, South African. All these girls are just as Emirati as someone with two Emirati parents. They’re just as loyal and patriotic. I wonder how it makes them feel when they read statements such as this. And how must it make the mothers feel?
FNC members should focus on providing freedom to both genders. A lot of factors go into creating a child’s identity and sense of loyalty to their home country, and it’s not just about their mother’s nationality.
Fawzeya Abdul Rahman works for the Abu Dhabi Government.