x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Mixed marriages 'not the problem'

Children and couples in such families see other issues as greater barriers to parenting, though identity concerns for Emiratis remain.

DUBAI // Mixed marriage families yesterday responded to calls from the Grand Mufti Dr Ahmed al Haddad to restrict Emiratis marrying other nationalities. The mufti's comments, made in a discussion at a majilis held in Dubai last Sunday, were accompanied by suggestions from some others that people in mixed marriages were more likely to divorce and their children more likely to commit crimes.

But Abdulnaser al Rashdi, a 28-year-old soon to graduate in chemical engineering whose father is Emirati and mother is Irish, said that being the child of a mixed marriage has been "a positive experience". He posted an article by The National about the majilis to his Twitter account. "I found the article interesting," he said. "I'm not agreeing and I'm not disagreeing. It is true that we need to protect Emirati identity.

"I do feel we should look at the positive side of mixed marriages, too," he added. "I speak and write Arabic well, but I also have a good grasp of English and Western culture. This can be used to benefit whatever company I work for, because it means I can deal with clients from the West and understand their needs. When it comes down to it though, if asked about my allegiance, the UAE is my home and it's made me what I am and who I am."

Miral Sami, a 23-year-old Jordanian woman, has been married to an Emirati for more than two years. She said they had not faced any marital problems, but that she understood the concerns regarding national identity and the fact that some Emirati women could find it hard to find a spouse if Emirati men married other nationalities. "But maybe they should look internally for the cause of the problem," she said. "Maybe more Emirati men would be encouraged to approach Emirati women if they didn't demand huge dowries."

Her husband Abdullah Sharif, a 34-year-old Emirati businessman, said he could not agree with any call to restrict the personal choice of marriage. "Nationality is not a determining factor for marriage and I think it is unfair to say that children of mixed marriages are more prone to crimes," he said.    Eric Hensel, 28, is the senior community service coordinator at a prominent semi-government organisation. He has worked in community development throughout the Gulf for the last six years and now coordinates Emirati volunteer services in the UAE.

"I work with young Emiratis from traditional families and from mixed families. I've found the youth are all extremely eager to help, but that youth from mixed marriages often tend to go the extra mile. Perhaps this is their response to overcome social obstacles they've faced due to their mixed background, or as a way to prove their loyalty to the country?" He added, however, that the major issue was that the number of Emiratis was shrinking in relation to the rest of the population.

"However, we cannot assume anything based on a few random stats and the opinions of individuals. "To me, the real problem is not mixing nationalities but poor fathering. To deal with the societal and identity problems mentioned at the majilis, we must actively encourage better parenting practices," he said. @Email:wissa@thenational.ae