x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Vigilance is the price Emiratis pay in London

Violent attacks on Emiratis have put the focus on the safety of visiting London, but the risk has to be kept in proportion.

The latest violent attack on an Emirati family in London was clearly terrifying for the Ajman couple involved and unsettling for those in the UAE contemplating a holiday in the British capital, coming so soon after a hammer attack on three Emirati sisters. But what is an appropriate response to these two unrelated incidents?

There is good reason why these two attacks have dominated headlines in the UAE, in both traditional and social media: this kind of event is so rare as to be genuinely shocking. But it is worth looking at the reaction in the UK media, where this sort of violent crime is so common that these two incidents failed to dominate news schedules. Violence against Emiratis in London has not become a trend, despite the tenor of Twitter hashtags that have gathered strength on UAE-based accounts. While there is a trend here, it’s a well-established one that is unrelated to the nationality of the victims: urban areas of Britain have a problem with violent crime.

The friendly connections between the UAE and London are well-known, with London mayor Boris Johnson semi-jokingly describing his city as the “eighth emirate”. But in the same speech a year ago, he also addressed London’s reputation for crime and sought to put it into perspective by noting that those in New York are five times more likely to be victims of violent crime. With the approach of the traditional season when Emiratis and other Gulf nationals travel en masse to London to escape the summer heat, it is worth recognising the risk of falling victim to crime but to keep it in proportion. Instead of avoiding London, the best response is to go, but be more vigilant about one’s safety than one needs to be at home.

It is tempting to believe these attacks are motivated by factors like nationality, religion or perceived wealth but the reality is that some violent crime is simply random. In the latest attack, the couple were inside their Paddington flat in the early hours when the gang of robbers smashed in the door. One wonders what more they could have done to stay safe.

One of the few prices those in the UAE pay for the exceptionally low crime rate here is to lose the innate wariness with which those in London, New York, Mumbai and Shanghai live every day. Having to become more like them while on holiday overseas is a price worth paying to stay safe.