x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Young Emiratis back globalism but fear for identity

A study by Emirates Foundation suggests the Arabic language may be the key to maintaining a national identity in the midst of globalisation.

ABU DHABI // Young Emiratis welcome the idea of globalisation but are wary of the effect it may have on their culture, a report released by the Emirates Foundation says.

The report is the result of a study carried out by Dr Raad Al Shawi, a professor at UAE University, among 500 Emirati youth.

"The findings show that the positive attitude to globalisation does not prevent citizens from clinging to their identity," said Dr Al Shawi.

The report, "Emirati Youth Perception/Attitudes of Globalisation and its Effect on National Identity", was funded by the Emirates Foundation.

Dr Sabah Al Shamsi, the senior executive adviser to the education and social development programmes at the foundation, said youth-related research and national identity were crucial topics.

"There is so much diversity in the country and we wanted to know if they feel like their culture is being negatively affected," Dr Al Shamsi said.

Dr Al Shawi said his study revealed a sense of pride among young people towards the country's heritage, family cohesion and Arabic values and customs.

But he suggested there should be initiatives to reinforce the Arabic language and culture in a global setting.

Dr Al Shawi recommended the promotion of tolerance while keeping the Arabic and Islamic culture and history.

"We should not restrict ourselves to the acceptance or rejection of globalisation, but rather deal with it in transparency, awareness and politeness, using a realistic language that spares a margin to our cultural privacy and values system," he said.

The UAE offers a multicultural environment where expatriates could bring modernity while helping to preserve the national identity, Dr Al Shawi said.

Mohammed Balaib, 17, an Emirati student from the capital, said it was important to be exposed to different cultures for a broader view of the world.

"It is great that we are born in a place that welcomes people from all over the world," Mohammed said. "When we get to know more about the way other people live, we can connect with them better."

Mohammed said globalisation could never dilute the links with his national values.

"That is our life, I know I am Emirati," he said. "I stay with my parents, brothers and sisters. We come together during dinner and we love our harees [a meat dish]."

Sumaya Al Balooshi, 25, also believes globalisation has no effect on one's identity.

"Identity is something people choose and are willing to retain," Ms Al Balooshi said. "And if the country were not so global it would never make this progress."

She said awareness at a young age was the key for a balance between globalisation and maintaining identity.

"Right now, a lot of young Emiratis are confused and do not know what to accept as part of their identity," Ms Al Balooshi said.

"But the right push will be by giving them the feel of the local environment through courses and at home."

aahmed@thenational.ae