Half empty or half full

Image by Hind Mezaina

I just finished reading an article by Khaled Al Falasi in The National called We can’t have it half-way: we are completely Emirati. Being half Emirati, half Egyptian, I was curious to see what this article had to say. Sadly, it disappointed me because it suggests it's "wrong to classify people by the difference in their parents’ ethnic makeup, as if they are some kind of thoroughbred horses on the market for sale."

He says,

When it comes down to it, it’s all about how you see yourself and who you can most commonly identify with. If you have consciously made that choice, you shouldn’t be half anything. You are entitled to be who you are.

Personally, I see myself as an Emirati and I take great pride in my country’s heritage. I like to think that my dedication to this country is not “half” of what it should be; it is as much as I can give.

He then brings in the question of national identity,

In these times, when we as Emiratis struggle so much with the question of our national identity, classifying people as half this or full that further impedes the process of answering imposing questions. Such derogatory terminology highlights a difference in people, and when differences are highlighted, it further divides them. The Emirati population is already small enough that it doesn’t need to contend with divisions within it.

... and ends it with,

With offspring from a national-foreigner marriage, the only difference would be that they would have the opportunity to associate themselves with another culture/ethnic group if they chose to completely embrace it.

At the end of the day, they too are Emirati citizens. The sooner we accept that we are who we are, and that we are Emirati, the better it is for us all.

Due to lack of ability of The National's website to allow people to post comments online, or at least for some articles (I couldn't register and leave comments for this article), I decided to write my thoughts here.

Identifying my mixed heritage doesn't mean I'm less Emirati, less loyal to the UAE or half patriotic. The article suggests you have to choose and embrace one of the two halves "it’s all about how you see yourself and who you can most commonly identify with" - why?

I am proud of the fact that I am an offspring of a mixed marriage. Being mixed is what makes me who I am today and I won't deny or avoid saying it by not giving credit to that fact.

This whole Emirati struggle with the question of national identity is sometimes brought upon, it's as if we once knew who we were and now we don't. It comes down to being confident with who you are, not denying your heritage and ethnic background and also accepting the fact that not all Emiratis dress or look the same. Let's embrace our differences instead of trying to find one formula for all.

Articles like this that tries to address how one perceives how Emiratis should be or identify themselves isn't doing anyone any favours. There are other urgent things that need to be addressed and resolved to further develop this country and trying to box people into categories is what causes divisions and impedes us.

I am curious to know your thoughts on this. I am fine if you agree or disagree, I just thought it was important to share an alternative opinion on this subject. Feel free to write your comments or send me a message, just please make sure you avoid being rude. Rational and intelligent comments for or against will be appreciated by all.

You can read the full article here.