Emi­ratis de­bate is­sue of wear­ing abayas and kan­douras over­seas af­ter man’s ar­rest in US

7 Days in Dubai - - BUSINESS - @nawal_ramahi nawal@7days.ae

By Nawal Al Ramahi It is the na­tional dress that Emi­ratis say they are proud to wear.

But some say they are think­ing twice about trav­el­ling abroad in their kan­doura or abaya, say­ing it is not worth draw­ing at­ten­tion to them­selves.

The is­sue came to light af­ter the mis­taken ar­rest of UAE busi­ness­man Ahmed Al Men­hali in the US state of Ohio last week.

The widely broad­cast footage sparked anger and even travel ad­vice from the UAE Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, that sug­gested Emi­ratis con­sider not wear­ing na­tional dress while over­seas this sum­mer.

7DAYS spoke to a range of Emi­ratis to get their views.

Cul­tural com­men­ta­tor Nasif Kayed, 52, who has lived in the United States, said he does not wear a kan­doura over­seas. Kayed (pic­tured in­set), said: “UAE na­tion­als should be care­ful about what they wear abroad. “I don’t wear the na­tional dress un­less the place is se­cure. Safety comes first.”

Kayed re­cently founded The Arab Cul­tur­al­ist, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that seeks to pro­mote greater un­der­stand­ing of Is­lam and the Arab world. But he sug­gested that when it comes to the US, he faces an up­hill bat­tle.

He added: “It is a chal­lenge to erase their ideas about Arabs and Mus­lims, know­ing how ef­fec­tive the [Amer­i­can] me­dia is in ev­ery house­hold.”

Ma­jeda Al Gha­reeb, 24, who stud­ies in New Zealand and vol­un­teers at the Sheikh Mo­hammed Cen­tre for Cul­tural Un­der­stand­ing in Dubai, does not wear an abaya there or when trav­el­ling else­where.

She said: “I don’t wear any tra­di­tional clothes [abroad]. I wear it in GCC coun­tries to iden­tify my­self as Emi­rati, but I don’t think it’s suit­able any­where else.

“Dur­ing th­ese times, it’s im­por­tant not to draw at­ten­tion to your­self.”

The footage of Al Men­hali’s ar­rest showed po­lice forc­ing him to the ground and hand­cuff­ing him as he protested. It fol­lowed a 911 call from a re­cep­tion­ist at the ho­tel where he was at­tempt­ing to check in, which she de­scribed him as “a sus­pi­cious man with dis­pos­able phones - two of them - in a full head dress”.

Al Gha­reeb added: “I think what the po­lice did was the right thing to do. In my opin­ion the girl is to­tally ig­no­rant, you just as­sume that ev­ery­one wear­ing tra­di­tional dress is a ter­ror­ist. “But I don't blame her, she’s ig­no­rant and it's just the me­dia cov­er­age they get there.”

How­ever, Ab­dul Rah­man Al Shamsi, 23, from Shar­jah, said UAE na­tion­als should be able to dress as they wish abroad, as he said ex­pats can in his coun­try.

He said: “The UAE re­spects all na­tion­al­i­ties and Emi­ratis de­serve to be re­spected abroad.

“Many Western­ers live here and do not have to wear con­ser­va­tive clothes. “The ma­jor­ity of Mus­lims are mod­er­ate, peace­ful peo­ple who have been af­fected by ter­ror­ism and vi­o­lence more than non-Mus­lims and non-Arabs.”

Al Men­hali has re­ceived an apol­ogy from po­lice, while re­ports in the US me­dia said the ho­tel clerk in ques­tion is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

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