Last week His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, approved a resolution for establishing the Federal Demographic Council of the United Arab Emirates.
The council strives to develop national demographic strategies all the while gathering information, conducting studies and establishing an official demographic database.
This is indeed a great step forward towards tackling and reducing the ever-growing difference in numbers between the UAE nationals and expatriates residing in the Emirates. The UAE nationals make up less than 20 per cent of the total demographic pie chart, while the remaining 80 per cent or so is made up of expatriates from all over the world, many of whom have never interacted with a UAE national. Although the figures are not completely accurate still they are staggering and when put on paper beckon for action.
With nationals being a minority in their own homeland a call must be made to address national identity. The new generation of the UAE nationals has to not only know but be proud of who they are or else they will be lost among the crowds. But what is our national identity?
Our national identity spurs first and foremost from our religion. Islam is the UAE’s religion and the law governing this land. Without solid knowledge of what it means to be a true Muslim the country loses its soul. The Arabic language is our mother tongue and our core identifier yet most of us rarely use it.
In France, Germany and Switzerland you can barely get by using the English language. These countries refuse to use it not out of arrogance but out of fear of losing their identities and yet in the UAE, English has virtually become our first language.
Our history as a country is one of great accomplishments. Ones that we should be proud of and never forget. Unfortunately many of our kids today do not know how the UAE came into being.
All schools must teach the history of the UAE, public as well as private, for if we are happily inviting foreigners to make the UAE their home it is only fair that they know how their chosen home was envisioned and resurrected.
The future generations of the Emiratis should know that the UAE is not just a flag. They must understand that this flag is one born out of seven separate flags. Emirati children should know that what has become easily accessible to them today would not have been possible without the struggles of their founding fathers.
It is true, our country is of a tender age but its years are undoubtedly filled with accomplishments that overwhelm us with pride. It is true, our numbers are small but our love for this land defies any demographical imbalance and tips the scales in our favour every time. The United Arab Emirates is a living and thriving proof that true Arab unity is alive, and well may it forever live united under this flag, the flag born out of seven separate flags.
This article was published in The Gulf Today newspaper on 15th November, 2009.