Grand Mufti of Dubai calls for curb on mixed marriages

While some at the Ramadan majlis where the comments were made agreed with Dr al Haddad, many said his call for restrictions was unnecessary.

DUBAI // The Grand Mufti of Dubai has called for restrictions on Emiratis marrying outside their nationality. More than 30 per cent of Emirati marriages in Dubai this year were to foreigners, according to Dubai Statistics Centre, and the emirate has witnessed a 10-per-cent growth in mixed marriages over the past four years - something Dr Ahmed al Haddad described as a "negative trend".

"In Islam, choosing your life partner is a personal freedom," he said, speaking at a Ramadan majlis on Sunday night. "But personal freedoms can be restricted for the benefit of the public interest."   Mixed marriages are more likely to end in divorce and their children are more likely to commit crimes, some experts at the majilis said. "There should be very specific circumstances for when such marriages are allowed," Dr al Haddad said. "Such as when a man is too old and cannot find an Emirati to marry him, or when he wants to take a third of fourth wife for certain reasons and no Emirati woman agrees to do so."

While some at the majlis agreed with Dr al Haddad, many said his call for restrictions was unnecessary. Sharing the opinion of several speakers, Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the chief of Dubai Police, said not all mixed marriages were a failure: "There are many mixed marriages that are successful and have played a positive role in our society." Social experts have attributed the escalating trend to the large dowries demanded by Emirati women - as much as Dh800,000 - and to high wedding ceremony expenses that have reached Dh1 million.

"Families should stop asking for large dowries and, instead of carrying out wedding ceremonies in five-star hotels, carry out the ceremony in the neighbourhood and have friends and families over for a dinner meal," Lt Gen Tamim said. Dr Mohammed Murad, secretary of the Juvenile Care Association in Dubai, said he had seen figures suggesting more than 60 per cent of Emiratis who marry outside their nationality earn less than Dh10,000 monthly.

Mixed marriages may also create a generation of Emiratis with mixed loyalties, according to Dr Murad. "Many of these children do not even speak Arabic," he said. "This is problematic in light of the country's demographic reality, where Emiratis make up less than 20 per cent of the total population and there is a threat of a loss of identity," he said. Nadia Zaal, 30, is the co-founder and chief executive of the property development company Zaya. Her father is Emirati and her mother is British.

"You can look at mixed marriages this way, or you can look at them in a positive way." she said. "I feel I got the best of both worlds. My mum made an effort to learn Arabic and made sure we were assimilated into this society." Ms Zaal added that she had attended school with many children from mixed marriages who have gone on to become achievers. "The ambassador to the US, the ambassador to Russia ... these are children from mixed marriages who have received Ivy League educations and done their country proud."

Further figures provided by the Juvenile Association in Dubai suggested that more than 60 per cent of Emirati men who take expatriate women as a second wife end up divorcing their Emirati wife. "The large number of divorces among Emirati families is another problem caused by mixed marriages," Dr Murad said. He said mixed marriages ending in divorce leave the children torn between two parents. He said, in many cases, the woman will take the children back to her home country. He went on to say that children left with the husband in the UAE were often unsupervised.

Lt Gen Tamim said: "Many of these children are brought up without their father's supervision and thus become involved in crimes." Dr Murad claimed that a study by the Juvenile Care Association in Sharjah found about 60 per cent of juvenile crimes are committed by children from marriages between older Emirati men and young women from Asian countries. Another social problem caused by mixed marriage, according to Dr Jamal al Bah, the head of the Arab Family Organisation and a former official of the Marriage Fund, is the increasing number of Emirati "spinsters".

Under UAE law, an Emirati man can give his citizenship to both his wife and his children, while an Emirati woman cannot grant the same right to either her children or her husband. According to figures included in a study conducted by Dr al Bah, more than 30,000 Emirati women of marrying age are single.