x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Ask Ali: Raising the UAE flag for National Day

Why raised flags signify our special anniversary.

Dear Ali: I see a lot of UAE flags being raised almost everywhere in the country. Does it signify anything specific? GJ, Abu Dhabi

Dear GJ: Well-observed, and this weekend I'm sure you will see even more flags all over buildings, by the side of the road, and elsewhere. It's our National Day, and raising the flag is one of the important ways to celebrate our national identity. Respecting the flag is essential.

And I believe that, being Emiratis, we feel how important it is to show our patriotism. This was demonstrated last year when we responded to a Twitter message posted by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, when he tweeted to all residents of the country: "Let's raise our UAE Flag on top of our homes."

That was the birth of the great campaign of "Fog Baitina Alam" which means "A flag on top of our home" and it became a trend hashtag on Twitter.

As a result, many Emirati homes are being decorated with huge UAE flags, and many expats are also participating by raising the flag. This has become a huge thing among our people, and signifies our unity and the birth of our united country: black for oil, green for fertility and gardens, and the white and red that were found on former flags found in the region, according to Abdullah Mohammad Al Maainah, the man who designed the flag in 1971. The flag is part of our national identity and dignity. God bless the UAE.


Dear Ali: Why do you see so many Christmas decorations in Abu Dhabi if, as Muslims, you don't actually celebrate Christmas? KT, Abu Dhabi

Dear KT: Why not? OK, that answer might upset some of my Muslim followers, so let me now explain it in a better way.

First of all, please note that Emiratis are not necessarily the ones behind decorating the stores inside the shopping malls, the private schools or clinics or the hotels and restaurants.These are venues owned and managed by international people whose cultural beliefs we respect and appreciate.

Therefore, we don't mind them celebrating Christmas. When we as Emiratis decorate our homes with coloured lights and tinsel, we are actually imitating the Western way of celebrating it. But as Muslims, we do not celebrate it in our own homes in the same way that they do.

Even people who do not follow a religion celebrate the traditional Christmas holiday in honouring the birth of Jesus, and some people don't know what this celebration is really about.

Obviously, Christmas is no longer only a Christian and Western holiday; it has become an "international day" that attracts so many people from around the world, regardless of their religious denomination.

However, in the UAE there is one major difference: it's warmer here during Christmas time than in many other places in the world, which enhances this holiday feeling and joy everywhere in the region.

So, if this generates joy among our expat friends and their communities, then why not? A true Muslim wouldn't and shouldn't feel influenced negatively by celebrating Christmas. I also don't think celebrating Christmas would cause any damage as long as we handle it with respect and appreciation.

As for all the Christmas decorations, they will follow on from the spectacle of our National Day.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.