x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Road rage and petulant intolerance have no place here

A viral video shows an incident that is atypical and unwelcome in the UAE.

It is a shocking video that has been widely linked to on social media. Within the 94 seconds of the YouTube clip an Emirati man loses his temper and abuses an Asian driver, repeatedly beating him with his agal in what appears to be an act of brutal road rage.

In this hot weather, and perhaps heavy traffic, it is understandable that people may be tired and on edge. But a display of anger like this one is unacceptable and unexpected in our peaceful and tolerant community.

In the UAE, we live side by side with people from completely different backgrounds, who may share few of our beliefs and little of our lifestyle. Yet we respect each other, and must continue to do so.

In this incident, fortunately, the Asian driver maintained his calm, and the situation was eventually cooled by a wise and considerate passer-by.

There are many lessons we need to learn from this unfortunate incident, starting with the point that arrogance and anger go hand in hand.

Anyone who strikes another person in a public place in such a way very likely believes, at some level, that he or she is more important, smarter, better, than the other person.

Only someone with a false sense of entitlement would assume that he or she could hit another person and get away with it.

Think about the incident this way: if the Asian driver had been driving a costly sports car with a two-digit licence plate, would the other driver, however angry, have responded in the same way?

The reaction we saw on the video may well have been provoked; it is possible that the Asian man was in fact driving dangerously and breaking the law.

However, anyone who sees an incident of reckless driving has a better option than striking anyone: just call the police and notify them of the licence plate number of the offending car.

We must all learn that it is not acceptable to take the law into our own hands. Older members of the community remember a time when the UAE was a village, with no mature organised law enforcement. People would use their own means to police their communities.

But this is no longer the case. Today we must all follow the law and remember that no one is above it.

The Dubai Police quickly demonstrated this by arresting the Emirati man and transferring the case to the public prosecutor.

There may still be a few misguided people who believe that, because they love their country, they are free to enforce laws by taking matters into their own hands. But this is not the role of the general public.

The reason that this particular case has gained so much attention is because it was caught on film.

The scene is particularly alarming because of the demeanour of the Asian driver, who absorbed the violence without striking back, and of the passer-by, who intervened calmly and wisely, thereby saving the day - and probably shortening the length of the ugly video.

Today, when so many people have smartphones, everyone has become a citizen journalist. And an individual's actions can have ramifications not only personally but across communities.

Social media has a huge influence on the thoughts and behaviour of people in all communities, and can be used as a tool to incite emotions and gain support for causes.

We must learn that our words and behaviour may well be recorded at any time.

People have short memories and a handful of witnesses will soon forget something silly or irresponsible; but once that same offensive phrase or action "goes viral" it can become a talking point for many people for years to come.

It is important to note that recording video of a person without his or her knowledge may be an infringement of privacy. And it may be irresponsible to make a certain kind of video recording public.

The legal process will hopefully prevail in this case.

But every such expression of rage also creates a cost, large or small, that must be borne across our community.

The key fact here is that this kind of display of bad behaviour is uncommon and unacceptable in the UAE. We must keep that in perspective.


Reema Marzouq Falah Al Ahbabi is an Emirati homemaker and MBA graduate

On Twitter: @rm_ahbabi