Do what you like, but stay away from my camels

Rym Ghazal thinks about the politics of judging people in her column this week

A screenshot of the video posted on Youtube by AmmanAlyoum on the wedding of Nadia Hussein and Salem Al Muraikhi. Courtesy: AmmanAlyoum
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‘We just wanted to do something different .”

Most of us have been raised to be tolerant and loving and yet the minute someone does something out of the ordinary, many of us jump in and judge that person.

A bride and groom in Abu Dhabi who decided to ride their Harley-Davidson motorcycles as part of celebrating their special day are still reeling from the attention they’ve received on social media. A video capturing their day riding along the streets with other biker friends has reached more than a million views since it was posted on Sunday.

The video has caused a stir. There were those who supported their “fun” choice and there were those who criticised them for “not respecting” Arab and UAE culture. The bulk of the backlash focused on what the bride wore.

With help from the biker community, I finally managed to reach the bride and groom. The couple were quite distressed and just wanted to be left alone.

“It was never intended to be a gesture challenging values or culture,” Nadia the bride told me. “We love biking and we wanted to do something special for us with our friends.”

She was upset over comments about what she wore, and said she was fully covered and that they picked on her especially as she was wearing the hijab.

Nadia, 29, wore an all-white outfit including a hijab, wedges and trousers under a tulle skirt, bedazzled gloves and an elaborate beaded jacket with spiked epaulettes. Salem the groom, 32, wore a scarf and black T-shirt that bore a skull motif.

“How did you expect my wife to ride the bike? In a long dress or thoub? That is not possible,” said the groom.

I have seen this sort of fuss over and over again. Not only do we generally judge people on appearances, we are particularly picky about what they wear. If a woman is wearing something too revealing and is not wearing the hijab, some members of the public will dismiss her with a label or two applied to her character.

Others may say that she is not conservative or aware, and may let her know she should cover up out of respect for the values of the country she is in. If a woman is wearing the hijab and is wearing something “too tight”, you should see how many heads she turns as she walks into a place. Snap judgment appears to be the name of the game.

I am reminded of an Arabic proverb: “He pronounces judgment upon a needle, and at the same time swallows a large pole.” It is used to describe a person who is quick in making judgments, but guilty of wrongdoing.

We tend to judge others by arbitrary measures. I find this interesting because, for example, no one can choose to be born into a specific family or status. So it is best if we just let people be.

Unless harm is being done to others, there is no need to get involved and take other people’s actions so personally and make an issue out of it.

One time, while I was sitting in a tent with a Bedouin family – they live in the city but also go out to the desert to reconnect with their roots – they shared their wisdom.

“We watch people pass by, in different shapes, sizes and backgrounds, we just wave at them and wish them well,” said one of the elders. “But ... as long as they stay away from our camels.”

So, unless someone actually tries to hurt your personal camels, what do you care about what they do as they journey along the paths of their lives?

On Twitter:@Arabianmau