ABU DHABI // When an ant saw Prophet Solomon and his army approaching, she cried to her fellow ants to run to their homes or they would be crushed.
This Quranic parable is something the UAE needs to heed when dealing with globalisation, says the prominent US Muslim scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf.
Sheikh Hamza was speaking at the first of a series of Ramadan lectures held at the Majlis of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The ants, he said, symbolised the Arabs, who should be cautious about the effects of globalisation.
Hundreds gathered on Wednesday night for the lecture, including Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
"Prophet Mohammed in several hadiths emphasised the importance of the Arabness of Arabs," Sheikh Hamza said in classical Arabic.
He said many conservative Arabs think of globalisation as a conspiracy against Islam and Arabs but it should not be seen as such.
"If they could steal your identity and Arabic from you, then you do not deserve them," said Sheikh Hamza, who was born in Washington and converted to Islam in 1977.
Although he is more accustomed to lecturing in English, he spoke in Arabic to emphasise the importance of the language, and because the first time he came to the UAE he did not speak Arabic but he studied it in Al Ain until he became fluent.
"One of the most important things in the country is to protect the Arabness of the country," Sheikh Hamza said. "Singapore developed so much but they made English their official language. It has its positive and negative effects. You are Arabs and this is your tongue."
He stressed the importance of holding on to culture and traditions, including architecture.
Khuloud Al Nuwais, an official at the Emirates Foundation, said the country's large population of non-Arabic speaking expatriates made the lecture even more important.
"For a foreigner to come and emphasise the importance of the Arabic language and lecture in Arabic, it is very important for us," Ms Al Nuwais said. "We need to hear this, people tend to forget."
Sheikh Hamza said the UAE had managed to protect itself from too much outside influence.
"The UAE excels when it comes to identity," he said."
Sheikh Hamza said the adherence to its traditions and identity was part of faith, as were patriotism and love of one's country.
"Evidence for this is Prophet Mohammed's love to his country," he said, brushing off the idea that the Muslim world was one nation.
"One Islamic nation is not true. Passports have been available for a long time.
"There is no contradiction between national identity and religious identity."