x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The Ali Column: Modern life can test family values

Fear can often threatent the fabric of family values

I have come across some significant news coverage about how families worldwide are struggling to maintain their family values either due to economic, political, social or cultural circumstances. These cases highlight how family values can become a major concern. Let's take a closer look at different examples.

As many people know, nannies are common in many families who live and work in the UAE, whether they are Emiratis or foreigners. Someone needs to take care of the children while the parents work full-time. Opinions differ in regards to what extent nannies actually interfere with family values. For those families who choose that kind of support, their help can be a relief and the nanny is treated as an extension of the family. Other families might think a nanny is just too much of a hassle to deal with and don't want someone interfering in their matters.

Besides a nanny, there are so many other ways of intervening in a family that have to do with different "world perceptions" that collide. Take a look at the Turkish demonstration in Lelystad, Holland, a few weeks ago against the Dutch social services due to a recent case where a Turkish boy was taken away from his family by the Dutch social services without a known reason and given to the foster care of two non-Muslim lesbians.

Now, what does this example show us? It shows us that both parties are struggling with fear. On the one hand, you have the families, who fear for their family values, who want to hold onto their "we-identity", and make sure that their family values, but also religious values, are maintained. On the other hand, Western authorities seem to react out of fear that their own identity will be overwhelmed by foreigners. Such reactions should be questioned for the sake of the children, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.

Do we have similar cases in the UAE? Here, the governmental authorities only interfere with family matters if it has something to do with breaking the laws. For example, there was a recent case of three women who lived in shared accommodation without legal status and had given birth to several children out of wedlock. Here, you have illegal and religious factors. As punishment, the court decided that both the mothers and the young children have to stay a couple of months behind prison bars. If you think about it, only some special facilities in the West allow the mother to have her child with her when she has to stay in prison. This kind of measure reflects how much our culture values the family.

Family values are so important to us Emiratis that it is very hard to think about not having them in our lives. Of course, we want to protect our family no matter what, but at the same time we carry a great responsibility that affects the lives of our children. A nanny can be a great help if the family decides to make that choice, while governmental authorities everywhere should question whether they are actually fulfilling the needs of the family or their own interests. This is a reminder of how important family values are despite one's nationality and how holding onto them can help families stay together.