x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Festivities symbolise our shared purpose

Today's celebrations are just the surface of deep reservoir of common feeling.

Sitting with my friends, our conversations tend to roll from one subject into another. Recently I learnt that two of my close university friends lived in houses that were little more than shacks in the late 1970s.

Despite this challenge, today both are highly productive individuals and senior ranking officers serving in the UAE military. One of them is an aeronautical engineer who has travelled the world to support the UAE Air Force's development programme; the other is an IT postgraduate who was recently awarded the Medal of Honour.

Listening to their stories, a sense of belonging arose in my soul. Each of us needs to examine how the social values associated with the UAE's 40th anniversary reside in the thoughts of each of us. What qualities and beliefs do we share?

The social values of the spirit of the union are evident in the actions of UAE citizens - young or old, male or female. They are the simple expressions of Emiratis striving to do their best for their peers and fellow citizens, voicing their opinions with respect and diplomacy to support the social development that is essential for national progress.

We can see aspects of this social consciousness everywhere. Recently on Abu Dhabi TV, I saw Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, at his palace greeting prison inmates who were ready for social inclusion after graduating from the work readiness programme. Despite their previous brushes with the law, these inmates had been given a new opportunity - and were welcomed back into society as seen at Sheikh Mohammed's palace that day.

Another example of this sense of nationhood was evident in the humble campaign led by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister, who urged Emiratis to put a flag on every household throughout the country, using Twitter under the uniting phrase "fog baitna alam", translated as "a flag on our home". Thousands of people responded by mounting flagpoles to raise the UAE flag high into the sky. Each person who participated experienced a surge of emotion for the UAE that formed a common bond.

We can find many inspirational figures across the country. One example is Mohammed Al Braik, the creator of the social initiative ThinkUpGCC, who is focusing on highlighting the talents of a new generation of Emiratis and young people across the GCC. There is also Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, the prominent UAE commentator on Arab affairs, who aims to share his opinions about how to develop stronger, more ethical Arab states in the Gulf and across the Middle East. Such individuals have a social conscience that nobody can question. They all believe in a greater good for the nation and maintain a bond of goodwill with the people that benefits our cohesive society.

As we celebrate National Day, we can see how the UAE has been able to collaborate with local and international businesses and encourage them to participate by aligning their brand values with the UAE's colours and emblems. There are thousands of Emiratis and residents who have built upon the country's strengths for future generations.

Our love of the UAE didn't emerge in a single day. It came about by uniting the seven emirates, raising the flag, respecting the law, enlisting for Takatof volunteering, valuing the elderly, protecting the environment, expressing our opinions and sometimes facing people who disagree with our thoughts.

One person did not do it all. We saw lapses during the global crisis and projects stopped. But the social values of the spirit of the union kept us strong, enabling us to be imperfect as we envisioned the larger goal. They motivate us and keep us working to realise our dreams.


Sheikh Maktoum bin Butti Al Maktoum is a social commentator based in Abu Dhabi. Follow him on Twitter: @maktoumbinbutti