x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Nearly half of Arab youth find traditions are outdated

In the UAE, 43 per cent of youth surveyed thought traditional values are outdated, while Algeria holds the highest percentage – 56 per cent.

ABU DHABI // About half of Arab young people find traditions to be “outdated” and are moving towards modern technology.

The Arab Youth Survey found that 46 per cent of Arab youth were “keen to embrace modern values and beliefs”.

In the UAE, 43 per cent of young people surveyed thought traditional values were outdated, while Algeria had the highest percentage – 56 per cent.

The survey also found that youths were more influenced by community leaders, media, music and celebrity figures than parents, family members, friends and religion.

For the first time, the survey included two influential categories – social media and TV celebrities – both of which received high percentages – 35 per cent and 19 per cent.

However, Ahmed Al Omosh, dean of the college of sociology at the University of Sharjah, said the numbers were not realistic.

He said media trends had a role, but families, the community and religion were still present in the Arab world.

“Arab families are still extended. It is still a traditional culture. The family is still responsible – even when it comes to the matters of marriage,” he said.

The survey shows a decline in the importance of families and parents. However, Mr Al Omosh said he “still believes families are truly important”.

He said: “Celebrity figures and social media affect the youth, but they are not the basic social change in the Arab world. Media does not take over the family’s role.

“The family is still playing its role in everyday life. Statistics will never tell the whole story.”

Dr Jane Bristol-Rhys, associate professor of anthropology at Zayed University, also questioned the accuracy of the numbers presented.

Dr Bristol-Rhys said the Arab youth were living in a connected world “and are responding accordingly”.

She said: “I am sure that these figures are very similar around the world. Young people are different than their parents everywhere. There is nothing sinister or radical about that – it is called generational change.”

She said looking into music and sports were important to develop young people’s creativity.

“It is the young people who will be the creative entrepreneurs and innovators of the future – shouldn’t they be looking for new inspirations and new ideas? If they are looking for them in music and sports, then that is more a sign of how important those two forms of entertainment have become globally rather than Arab youth being susceptible to musicians or footballers.”

Emirati Saeed Al Suwaidi, a genealogist who is also interested in preserving culture and traditions, said the UAE was still a conservative society.

“I believe they [the numbers] cannot be true and speaking specifically of the UAE, we are still conservative and that reflects in many things like our national dress,” he said.

He agreed that social media affects our everyday life, but he did not believe “it takes us away from traditions”.

He said: “I cannot see the relation it has with traditions. Smartphones take away our attention, even from our families and I’ll be honest, I am one of them. But it is a habit.”

He said communication methods had changed and they were not necessarily negative.

Sheikhs and leaders were using social networking applications to encourage others, he said, and he viewed that as positive as well.

However, social media allowed for more personal exposure, said Mr Al Suwaidi, and that could lead to negative results for some people who could become addicted.

“We see what others do or have, and we want the same or we want more. We become greedy and consider it a challenge,” he said.

aalkhoori@thenational.ae