x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Mixed marriages discouraged but not banned

Whatever the reasons, the trend for mixed marriages involving local women seems to be upwards. At the same time, the issue of any Emirati marrying a foreigner still provokes debate.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 737 Emirati women married foreign men in 2010, the latest year for which figures are available.

That compared with 643 marriages in 2009 and an increase of almost 15 per cent.

Whatever the reasons, the trend for mixed marriages involving local women seems to be upwards. At the same time, the issue of any Emirati marrying a foreigner still provokes debate.

Opponents say that mixed marriages create cultural problems, can weaken the Arabic language, are more likely to end in divorce and produce troubled children. At the same time, many such marriages seem to be perfectly happy.

In a Ramadan message last year, Dr Ahmed Al Haddad, the Grand Mufti of Dubai, called for restrictions on mixed nationality marriages, saying that while "in Islam choosing your life partner is a personal freedom", in most cases "personal freedoms can be restricted for the benefit of public interest".

Dr Haddad described the 10 per cent increase in mixed marriages observed by the Dubai Statistics Centre of the past four years as a "negative trend".

Government policy discourages Emiratis from marrying foreigners, although it does not ban such unions.

Men who marry foreign women become ineligible for financial support of up to Dh70,000 towards wedding costs. At the same time, the cost of a marriage to a local women can be much greater than one to a foreigner.

With women, the penalty was much stronger. Emirati women married to foreigners were unable to pass on citizenship to their children.

That policy ended in December, with passports and citizenship papers issued to the first of 1,117 children with Emirati mothers earlier this month, once they had reached their 18th birthday.