Reem killing must not change our way of life

A mourner shields a candle flame for murdered American Ibolya Ryan. (Antonie Robertson / The National)
A mourner shields a candle flame for murdered American Ibolya Ryan. (Antonie Robertson / The National)

Sometimes it is shock that forces us to look at ourselves and consider what needs to be preserved or changed. The hideous stabbing of an American teacher, Ibolya Ryan, in a public toilet at the Boutik Mall on Reem Island has shaken many people – in part because the woman charged with her killing was wearing a niqab. That fact alone has provoked a lively debate on the garment. But it is important not to let a single criminal act, even one as despicable as this, derail our lives.

As The National reported yesterday, Michael Corbin, the departing US ambassador to the UAE, has described the incident as an “anomaly” while praising this country’s record of security and stability. He is right. This is an exceptional case for this country and the UAE continues to be one of the safest places to live in the world. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, has emphasised at a press conference that the UAE would never tolerate any action that threatens its security or compromises the safety of those living here.

However, the discussion on the niqab is revealing because it has shown up the limits of civil debate in UAE society. Many of the discussions on social and traditional media did not respect – or accept – differing points of view. Add to that the unhealthy conspiracy theories and rumours circulating on social media networks and you have all the ingredients for a particularly toxic brew.

That said, the Federal National Council discussion about the niqab was both robust and healthy and posed several important questions. Do we really need a wide-ranging law that bans it? Would a ban on the niqab prevent the murder of innocent people? What safety measures could be introduced to enhance people’s security in this country?

Put simply, many women in the UAE wear the niqab and would be affected if there were a ban. As FNC member Noura Al Kaabi said, banning the face veil would be an “extreme” measure because it would restrict freedom of belief. Instead, she suggested that other suitable security measures be considered. We must not let this terrible but anomalous act change the course of our lives.

Published: December 9, 2014 04:00 AM

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