x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

How Emirati girls get their names, and football bullies

How Emirati girls get their names and how to deal with bullies on the football pitch.

Andrew Henderson / The National
Andrew Henderson / The National

Dear Ali: I would like to know more about female Arab names. Is there any specific reason why names such as Ayesha, Fatima or Amna are so commonly used? I keep on meeting Emirati women with these names as if there are no other options. EQ, Abu Dhabi

Dear EQ: Female Arab names, like their male counterparts, are confusing and give us headaches, too. The approach we take as Emirati or Arab Gulf people is influenced by two factors, our tribal past and religion. Arabs in the Gulf region are almost all Muslims. When it comes to naming our children, we consider our ancestors. The eldest son or daughter would traditionally name their children with at least one of their father's or mother's first names. So in a family like mine, the names Ali and Salim appear three or four times. I'm Ali, the son of Abdul Karim, who is the son of Salim, who comes from a tribe called Al Saloom.

Now let's pray I get married soon and I have a child. The names that would be first choice would be Abdul Karim or Salim, to cherish my father's name. It is expected of me, as the only son in the family, to bring the name back into our family. It is the same for females. We use the names of our mothers, sisters and those we cherish as part of our religion. These are Ayesha, the name of the wife of the Prophet (PBUH); Amna, the name of the Prophet's mother; and Fatima, his beloved daughter. The religious influence also extends to Christianity and Judaism, since we have names such as Maryam, which is Arabic for Mary, and Sara, who was Father Ibraham's wife.

More than 35 per cent of female students have the names you've mentioned in your question but also names such as, Sheikha, Maitha, Noura, Shamma, Hessa, Mona, Reem, Hamda and Afra. Some of these girls' names will also have the word "bint" after them, which means "daughter of". Again, such names are influenced by our Islamic and Arabic heritage. Dear Ali: I'm an Indian kid who plays football with a lot of Arabs. Whenever I make a mistake, the Arabs get mad and call me names. I try not to get mad but I do. How do I respond? AK, Abu Dhabi

Dear AK: I also love football. I hope you enjoy it and also play it safely, ie not in the streets. And, of course, cheer loudly for Manchester City. As for your problem, I can relate to it. When I was growing up, I had some difficult moments with some Arabs too. Can you believe this? Some of these boys would call me names such as Mama's boy, because I wasn't hanging out late with them. When I played with them, they would always tease me about not smoking with them, and how I wasn't a real man. Guess what? I'm happy I was a Mama's boy. I grew up with manners and got a great education, and I hardly think a few cigarettes were worth giving all that up.

I understand the insults you get are probably more personal, but I want you to know that while it isn't pleasant, it is pretty normal. Kids are just trying to fit in, and I'm sure they don't really mean what they say. As hard as it is to contain your emotions, I would try not answer back with insults, though if they are calling you something like "Indian boy", you should just retort, "OK, Arab boy". You can probably see how silly all of this is just from reading that. The best thing to do is to ignore their taunts and use your anger to play better. Or just walk away and don't play with them. There are plenty of other football lovers out there, like me, for example. Good luck.

Arabic: Min zamaan English: A long time This is said when someone asks you a question regarding time, such as: "How long?" or "When?". So if your answer is, "a long time", you may say, "min zamaan". For example: "How long has it been since you got your last bonus?" You would reply, "Min zamaan" .