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Khalid Al Ameri: Tradition is still an issue with marriage in the UAE
March 19, 2015
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Are traditions in society more important than the rights of an individual that lives within that society? At first my heart says no, because traditions of the past that hinder the basic rights of a human being today shouldn’t really continue to dictate our way of life.

But what if some of those rights start to impact the traditions that bind us together as a people and a country? What do we do then? How do we react? In all honesty I don’t have an answer, and given the dramatic change happening within the UAE I don’t think one single answer would prevail amongst the great diversity of responses.

Recently a young lady, named Fatima, from Umm Al Quwain filed a complaint at the court because her parents would not approve of marriage to a man of her choice. The rationale behind the parents’ decision was that the young man was “beneath them” and not a pure Arab, so instead they suggested she marry someone else.

A lot of questions still surround the story, we have only heard one side. We do not know much about the gentleman who has attempted to marry the young lady three times. We don’t know if the parents are trying to legitimately protect her from something she doesn’t see, love can have that effect on people. But one thing is for sure, a young couple not being allowed to marry due to traditions, or differences in backgrounds, is nothing new to this part of the world.

So let’s move on to the supposed comments by the parents such as “beneath them” or “not a pure Arab.” As a proud Emirati with a blonde haired, blue eyed, British mother you can see why statements like that might frustrate me a little bit. But let’s look beyond that and think about it for a second. How does being a pure Arab or a similar socio-economic background in any way dictate the success of a marriage? In my humble opinion it doesn’t.

What we need to understand, as a society, is that being a pure Arab does not equate to pure love. Being a pure Arab means just that, you’re a pure Arab, nothing more, and nothing less. It doesn’t make someone smarter, kinder, or more loving, and it certainly doesn’t mean they will be the best man or woman to marry your child.

What makes someone a good person are characteristics like kindness, love, respect, and education. They are characteristics that are not a birthright, or given to us with a passport, but characteristics we learn through our families and choose to practise on a daily basis. More importantly aren’t those the characteristics our parents should want in a person we are going to spend the rest of our lives with regardless of the purity of their Arab roots?

As a parent I feel my role as a father is to ensure the happiness of my children, and that includes not standing in the way of things that bring them happiness. The marriage of our children should have nothing to do with how we look, and everything to do with how the married couple feels about each other.

In the end what is important is that my children are smiling even if society frowns at me. That is the responsibility I took the second I became a parent, and a responsibility I will keep for as long as I am on this earth.

The problem with traditions around sensitive issues such as marriage is that it is difficult to interfere at any level, let alone to try putting policies around it. What we can do is ensure that women are given equal rights and treatment at a societal and government level regardless of whom they choose to marry. Which as a start might be all the assurance parents need to give their daughters that freedom.

A lot of work has been done in the UAE to ensure women are empowered professionally, and given every access to opportunities and growth similar to that of their male counterparts. I sometimes think that it is purely a matter of time, and a generational shift, that will see similar empowerment when it comes to making personal decisions, like who they wish to marry.
 
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The author is a columnist on education and youth development.
 

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