Gulf identity faces double threat

Gulf identity faces double threat

By Habib Toumi, Gulf News – Bureau Chief
Published: April 16, 2009, 23:00


Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah has warned against the dangers of sectarian sub-cultures promoted by “well-known as well as hidden schemes to weaken the Arab identity”.

He said that they constituted, alongside the massive presence of foreigners in the Gulf, ominous threats to national identities. “We must be weary of plots to deepen divisions within the Gulf through promoting sectarian and ethnic identities at the expense of national identity,” he said in his keynote speech in Manama at the opening of the forum on “Identity in the Gulf” on Wednesday.

“We need to seriously and decisively address the phenomenon of sub-identities and that can be done through joint action that involves governments, civil society organisations, political and intellectual movements, cultural forums, religious scholars and the media,” he said.

However, the GCC official stressed that the reinforcement of the national identity did not mean shunning the other cultures.

“We need to consolidate the Gulf identity and turn it into a collective consciousness that prides itself on the land, the culture, the religion and the history of the Gulf.

“This can be achieved through instilling the values of belonging to the homeland and boosting the spirit of tolerance and openness within the four circles of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab world, the Islamic world and the international community,” he said. Al Attiyah said that all Gulf citizens needed to uphold their national and Islamic values and their sense of belonging to their homeland, and not to a sect or a tribe or a party. “We need to remain open to others, but we must strengthen our national identity because it is the core of our existence. The weakening of the national identity leads to deep divisions that result in destructive conflicts.”

But according to the GCC head, the Gulf was also facing another ominous threat from the presence of millions of foreigners.

“The heavy dependence of the Gulf countries on foreign labour and the increasingly high presence of expatriates, especially those who are illiterate and non-productive, are deeply affecting the characteristics and cultures of the local population and threatening their national identities,” he said.

Rights and duties

Genuine citizenship means paying attention to both duties and rights, said Majeed Al Alawi, Bahrain’s labour minister, at the “Identity in the Gulf” forum in Manama.

“The citizen has political and economic rights that involve him in making decisions and in benefiting from economic wealth. However, he also has the duty of showing loyalty to his country and readiness to defend its values and to protect it,” Al Alawi said at the forum.

“The danger is that when some people feel that they have been denied their rights, they resort to the sub-culture of sects, villages or tribes.

Good Point ! – By The Author.


I.02.05 – Scholars warn of increasing threats to Gulf identity

 By Habib Toumi, Gulf News – Bahrain Bureau Chief

Published: April 17, 2009, 15:31

 Manama: Gulf countries will lose their identity if they fail to improve their local population ratios and to address the tradition-progress paradox, Gulf scholars have warned.

“The drop in the number of indigenous Arabs of the total Arabian Gulf population is a serious threat to our identity in the near future. We have a really difficult situation when we know that the number of Arabs in the total population of Qatar and the UAE does not exceed 17 per cent and that the other Gulf countries host a massive number of foreigners,” Dr Kaltham Al Ghanem said.

“The number of those who today speak Arabic in the UAE is around 30 per cent, and such figures pose real challenges that need decisive addressing,” the University of Qatar scholar told a forum on the Gulf identity in Manama.

Gulf societies need to uncompromisingly implement decisions taken to reduce the number of foreigners in order to ensure that their cultures and values are not eroded or negatively affected, Al Ghanim said.

“Some Gulf countries have been reluctant to sign international labour conventions because such accords impose equal rights and wages. These countries have pledged to take action to reduce the presence of foreign labour through applying strict immigration laws and putting a residence cap. But there is troubling laxity in the application of the law, which allows foreigners to eventually become Gulf citizens, and this augments the threats to the Gulf identity,” she said.

Kuwaiti scholar Dr Ali Asaad Watfa said that the massive presence of foreigners in the Gulf was turning into a curse, and not a blessing like in other countries that have hosted millions of non-natives.

“Social diversity in Australia and the US was a blessing and helped these countries implement some of the most democratic practices. However, diversity in our Gulf countries is a curse because of the very nature of our societies and our inability to appreciate situations,” Watfa said.

Excerpts from a research study among Kuwaiti university students cited by Dr Watfa to show the orientations of the young generation:

Are you troubled by the Arabic language?

– 87% said “Yes”.

What are your loyalty priorities?:

(a) Religion (1)
(b) country  (2)
(c) Amir
(d) constitution
(e) sect
(f) tribe

 How do you choose your parliament candidate?:
89%: his loyalty to the family and tribe (no mention of his political programme)

 Author Further Note – I have read about Lebanese Young Generations that feel it-is-in to speak and act English and French – and that Arabic Language that many youngsters feel Arabic-is-not-in and cannot even read the Arabic Vocabulary…. where are we heading? like The Titanic to the Icebergs??


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