United Arab Emirates – Post #3

Nationalism

In a nation with a native population comprising of only ten percent of the population, can there be nationalistic sentiment? Emiratis have been the minority on their own land since before the UAE was even formed in 1971. In the early 1970’s when large oil deposits were found in UAE, there was an influx of immigrants and workers from India and beyond that diluted the population.  In fact, the influx of immigrants strengthened the sense of nationalism among the locals, who referred to themselves ‘Dubayyans’. (Yasser Elsheshtawy, Dubai: Behind an Urban Spectacle (New York: Routledge, 2010) 65.)

In 2006, some 20 years later, the same “suburbanization of nationals” was continuing forward. The article, “Booming Dubai Alienating Natives” discusses the Mizher 1 & 2 develops on the edge of the desert, just north-east of the new airport. The expansion is estimated to cost $4.1 billion dollars and is built to house Emiratis only. The residents speak about why they moved out of the historic district to get away from the expatriates who they see as threatening their tribal and family values. The city center is becoming westernized, with not a mosque in sight. In contrast, if you travel out to the Emirati suburbs you will find upwards of 20 mosques in a development.(“Booming Dubai Alienating Natives.”)

Migrant workers in Abu Dhabi
“Temporary Workers” from Bangladesh in poor housing

The concerns by the government about the Emirati people becoming 1% is a major factor in the labeling of foreign laborers as “temporary workers”, as discussed in the transient blog. (Yasser Elsheshtawy, 213.) Many of the laws being implemented to restrict immigrants from permanently residing in Dubai is part of the plan to increase the Emirati population and generate a stronger nationalism amongst the ten percent. The article mentions a marriage fund offers financial incentives to Emirati to marry Emirati women to maintain a clean blood line. (“Booming Dubai Alienating Natives.”)

 

The entire situation is quite the paradox. The government continues to give free plots of land to Emiratis to build homes in the Mizher developments so that they can build a strong nationalism together but struggles with the idea that the city is slowly becoming entirely Emirati free. Additionally, there are concerns about the architectural language of the city losing its historical image and beginning to resemble India. (Yasser Elsheshtawy, 213)  Yet because the government has encouraged Emirati migration to the suburbs, the historic districts are inhabited by the transient population who are slowly making it their own.

Another question that arose from this investigation into Dubai nationalism was whether or not nationalism could exist without the tendency to

Housing development area for ‘Pure’ Emirates

segregate. In Dubai, both the past and present nationalism was supported by the segregation of Emiratis from the expatriates as a way of preserving their culture. However, the unique situation in Dubai is most likely the driving factor for this extreme notion of segregation. In a country where the native population is in the majority, there is most likely less anxiety about the disappearance of one’s race.

 

Inequality

There is some inequality in the UAE amongst the different states, and amongst genders. However, the gender gap in the UAE has narrowed in the past year, a worldwide study shows – The Global Gender Gap 2014 compiled by the World Economic Forum gave the UAE a score of 0.64 – where 0 is total inequality and 1 is total equality – compared with 0.63 last year.

The WEF found the UAE ranked high in education and literacy levels for

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Dhuha Fadhel, an Emirati who works at the Dubai Economic Council

women, and with their average wages.  Compared with the United States’ score of .74, the U.K.’s score of .73, and Italy’s score of .69, the UAE does better than my expectation – just above South Korea, and just below India, in terms of gender inequality.

 

When the UAE was founded in the 1970’s, nearly four decades ago, the poorer emirates — Sharjah, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain and Ajman — lost much of their autonomy in return for the financial and political stability that joining Abu Dhabi and to a lesser degree Dubai could give them. Compared to the glittering, glass, skyscrapers decorating the skylines of Dubai, In Ras Al Khaimah, many of the residential streets are lined with single-story homes with unsightly exterior air conditioning units, peeling paint and tin-roofed garages. Though the UAE’s constitution grants each state equal voting rights, economic pull definitely plays a role in policy making, and much foreign policy proposals are discussed in regards to how they will affect the richer states of Abu Dhabi, and Dubai, with these poorer states being almost an after-thought.

Sources:

“Booming Dubai Alienating Natives.” Aljazeera. 31 May 2006. Web. 8 Nov 2011. <http://www.aljazeera.com/archive/2006/05/200849144441381718.html&gt>

Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai: Behind an Urban Spectacle. New York: Routledge, 2010

“Dubaization.” Prakāsh. October 2011. Web. Feb 16 2016  <https://dubaization.wordpress.com/op-eds/nationalism>

“The United (but not equal) Arab Emirates” Fenton. Web. Feb 16 2016                                <http://arabist.net/blog/2011/8/11/the-united-but-not-equal-arab-emirates.html>

“UAE improves gender equality in global study” Khaishgi. Web. Feb 16 <http://www.thenational.ae/uae/uae-improves-gender-equality-score-in-global-study>

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