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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Reverse Discrimination

as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Please go and read this excellent excellent article (Mashallah) by a UAE local sister named Maryam Alhamly:

Dubai Belongs to Us ALL

Some of the stereotypes of Emiratis.... arrogant, spoiled, unreliable, lazy, racist....

How many people agree with these stereotypes? I am not so sure but some of these stereotypes might spoil over to most Khaleeji locals... but again, I have only lived in UAE so I can only speak about what is happening in UAE.

How many who agree with these stereotypes have friends who are Emiratis? How many who agree have interacted with local families in UAE? How many who agree have made efforts to befriend and/or converse with Emiratis?

If you were invited to an Emirati home, or to an event like a local wedding, would you accept the invitation? Or would you automatically decline based on how you feel or based on what you have heard about how bad the locals are?

I believe that there are many many people who come to live and work here and end up reverse discriminating against the Emiratis. Are all Emiratis angels? No, of course not. There are good and bad people in every single country in the world.

Are there stories out there that reinforce these negative stereotypes of Emiratis? There sure are.

But does that really mean its ok to go and label all of them with these stereotypes? Of course not!!

I believe that many of the people who are racist toward the locals don't even have local friends. It is all just from the fact that there isn't enough interaction between everyone, and the negative stories fly all around and everyone keeps focusing on all of the negative, because it is all they hear since everyone else also doesn't interact with the locals very much.

Is this all the faults of the expats? No, of course not. But if you think about it, in many countries where they have large immigrant populations, one of the biggest complaints is that so many fail to integrate with the rest of the local population, and just stay huddled in their cultural groups.

Is this not the exact same kind of thing happening in UAE? It is important that both the locals and the expats make efforts to integrate. And this effort has to come from both sides.

Reverse discrimination is a reaction of many people but it is wrong because it blocks those bridges that could be built to integrate.

I am an American married to an Emirati and Mashallah I was welcomed with open arms by my in-laws and the family's friends. To this day when family and friends of the family come over, I am always greeted with a warm smile and it is my own fault for not being able to speak Arabic by now to truly be fully integrated with them all in all of the conversations.

I am invited to other homes and weddings and get-togethers. They have truly accepted me Mashallah Alhamdulillah. Besides any language barriers, they have never given off vibes that they do not like me and/or my culture. If any of the expats came over to my in-laws homes they would be truly greeted just as warmly.


  1. What a great entry. Yes, your right, it's our own fault for not learning the arabic. There's good and bad in every culture. Reminds me of the American Indians (they stayed away from the new americans) Am I not right? Till this day, they really don't integrate with the rest.But, that's due to the new american's not accepting them. It should be the other way around. Emirates is going down the same path. So, so many expacts out here and so very few locals. I often think, the locals just wanna stay to themselves and not mingle. But, I could be wrong. I've had a couple conversations with expacts from the states and UK. They tell me, they simply think the locals are arrogant and full of themselves. I say, not fair. They don't know them. I think when you come to a different country and don't have your family members here, it's hard to get to know the locals. I can't say that about American's, simply cause America is a melting pod, which uae is, too. But, it's different. UAE is such a new country. anyone who comes to my in laws home, like yours, twizzle, is welcome with open arms...

  2. Asalaamu `alaikum Twizzle,

    I am really happy that u feel welcomed in your husband's family. Wallah it must feel nice!! Unfortunately I am the odd one out and I feel kinda sad about this but alhamdulillah at least my husband is with me <3

    but still... *sigh*

  3. MashaAllah wonderful post.

    You are right, yes there is a lot of prejudice against the Emiratis. Because people just don't take the time to befriend them.

    But also too...there is that small percentage of the local population though that do give a bad name to the Emiratis here.

    The Emirati people that I am close with are very warm and hospitable people. MashaAllah. Expats just need to take the time out to learn about the country that they are living in, learn to speak some Arabic, and make the effort to befriend some Emiratis. The older generation are fascinated and happy when they hear a foreigner try to speak Arabic to them.

    Also another misconception about Emiratis is that they are all rich. From going to the souq prices are automatically jacked up because the vendors automatically think that all "Emiratis are rich". I get the same response at my shop. I have expats come in and want a bigger discount because "Emiratis are rich" we can afford to give a bigger discount. LOL no they aren't all Oil Sheikhs.

  4. I agree, great post. I think Saudis are stereotyped in the same way. I think it's hard for many expats to really get to know the locals. Sometimes it's the locals that seem to be not making the effort to know the expats, but I also think it depends on the personality of the expats because some of them are very outgoing and talk to everyone, while others stay to themselves or are too shy to strike up conversation with random people.

  5. I'm gonna get some flack for saying this, but I do think UAE deserves to take the blame for it. When expat is going to KSA they get a whole course on how to behave properly, how not to offend the local culture (which in turn makes many expats who are about to go to KSA get a lesson or two on Saudi culture), how to dress, etc. This I know from my my management professor who have helped design such courses for multinational corporations sending expats anywhere in Middle East except UAE. All of these steps would ensure that those who are traveling to the nation to get some knowledge of what the place is all about. UAE (thanks to Dubai of course) have created an image of world's playground, which helped put it on the map and into the minds of millions of people around the world, but it also created 3 separate worlds within the nation, Locals, Foreigners, Laborers. If foreigners and laborers are not exposed to the local culture, how would it be not possible to develop stereotypes? No one is required to have any knowledge of Arabic to live in UAE, some live 10 to 15 years in UAE without learning a single phrase. While it helped boost its economy, but such flexibility also isolates the locals from the rest.

    I had the opportunity of meeting locals, and sadly the ones who would cement the stereotypes in your mind. But many of these stereotypes and generalizations are unjust to the beautiful culture and traditions that UAE has.

  6. I think as you said a lot has to do with a large majority of the expat community not mixing with the local people and not bothering to want to understand their culture, way of life etc.

    95% of my friends during my 13 years on UAE were Emirati and I lived with an Emirati family. Fellow UK expats thought I was strange, if not a little mad to be mixing with the locals in such a way.
    I personally found the UAE community to be some of the most hospitable people I had ever met and they welcomed me with open arms unlike my own expat community who who were cold and very unfriendly towards anyone who did not "Fit" the western criteria.
    In 13 years I only had one British friend, but it did not bother me at all to be honest.

  7. as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullah,

    sis Texan in UAE, yes it goes both ways... I do not believe it is all the fault of the expats.

    sis Aalia, I am sorry your situation with your in-laws is very different from most of the people I know here. It is even more odd because you have tried to immerse yourself into their culture.

    sis Miss MishMish, oh, definitely there are those Emiratis who are out there reinforcing those stereotypes. I do hear stories all the time which do make me sick.

    Umm Riyam, yeah, there definitely is the local population who also do not try to mingle with the expats.

    sis Sonia, yes, UAE themselves have a huge part of the blame in how this country is taking shape with all of the different cultural groups.

    of course there is a reason for the stereotypes--because people have been encountering the ones who fit the stereotypes. And so these people spread their stories, and new expats come, don't integrate, don't befriend locals, and keep passing down these stories to each other.

    it is amazing to think how many people criticize Americans for being ignorant about the rest of the world (the stereotype of Americans is they don't know the world map very well--and it sadly is true too many times)-- yet so many who have attitudes like this towards the Americans seem to think its ok for them to ignore and keep themselves ignorant of the local culture here in UAE.

    It goes to show you just knowing world geography and all the names of so many countries doesn't make you someone who is knowledgeable about those countries.

    sis, Imanes Mama, thank you for your comment... it goes to show there is some in the expat population who don't even care to learn about the culture.

  8. as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullah,

    I just wanted to add to my reply to Aalia-- about your in-laws not accepting you...

    I have a strong feeling whatever relationship you could have had was tarnished by that one crazy day with your SIL and she probably has told everyone in the family what she thinks of you and that has been a huge barrier.

    It doesn't it make it right as they should give you a chance so they can see for themselves whether or not they agree with your SIL's opinions of you.

  9. Assalam alaikum

    That's a good and useful post.

    Before I read it I'd never thought of reverse discrimination. Made me think...