By Mujeeb Jaihoon
foto : members of Dubai Kerala Muslim Cultural center marching in solidarity with the UAE’s 40th National Day 2011.
If Man is a social animal then the expatriate is a hyper organized beast. He will use whatever little facilities at his disposal and cherish that community psychology which Ibn Khaldun refers as ‘Asabiyya’, a term which he uses for the communal solidarity among fellow beings.
The blood line running across this group feeling is basically expatriation. They are all ‘dislocated’ from a geographical location and their organizing is an attempt to connect socially with each other to sustain a psychological bonding with their homeland. But in midst of this process of solidarity, sometimes the expat individual and group lose sight of important duties towards the resident land.
As UAE celebrates its 39th National Day, everyone in the country is overjoyed. Be it locals or expatriates, celebrations are arranged to express their love and extend their loyalty for this great progressive nation blessed with internal peace and external security and tolerance as its national slogan.
However the point I wish to drive home is that expatriates in the country need to extend this social participation beyond this national holiday.
That expatriates have transplanted a major portion of their lifespan to explore and enjoy better economics in this country is understandable. However in the same analogy, it is also true that this country has offered expats what their country of origin has not.
The relationship of expat to this country should be transformed beyond that of an employee and workplace.
We often see that art works produced by expatriates are based more than once on emotions and experiences of country of origin than their country of residence. A true artist feeds on inspirations of the current time and place, not on bygone nostalgic sentiment. It would be befitting for the creative genius to live in heart and soul integrated with the current society around.
I have heard many saying they are waiting to retire from active life and live fully, in the actual sense of the word, when they return back home. They forget that hay could be made only when the sun is shining. And they forget the sunshine in this beautiful country!
Though not recorded on papers, UAE is already second home to most second generations of the expatriates. Therefore, integration should be numero uno priority for expatriates in UAE.
I suggest that humanities syllabus taught in expatriate schools should have sufficient textbooks for students to recognize and empathize the history and culture of this country.
Arabic should be taught at par with other languages by well qualified staff fluent in the language, not just part timers as is a usual practice.
The UAE Social studies textbook currently taught in private schools should be revamped with more insight to the heritage of the country.
UAE National Day celebrations should not end in cultural festivities alone. Intellectual activities – including debates, seminars and painting competitions – should also form a part of the academic performance evaluation.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was also an expatriate to Madina due to the unfavourable conditions in Makkah, his birthplace. He did not wait all his life to return to Makka to propagate the faith. In fact Islam saw its glory during his stay in Yathrib, the name given to the city before it came to be called the City of Prophet.
There is no reason for Expatriates in UAE to hesitate from taking the first step in this direction. He needs to transform his relations with this country from mere monetary interaction to Social Integration.
The magnanimity of the father of this nation, Sheikh Zayed, was well known around the world and now its present leader Sheikh Khalifa successfully leads this nation in the footsteps of his father.
May this nation shine to better glory which would eclipse the stars in the sky.
Sharjah-based author Mujeeb Jaihoon has published several books and is active on the social media focused on local news and events. His latest book MISSION NIZAMUDDIN, a TWITTER based micro travelogue, was launched at the recently held Sharjah International Book Fair. He has lived in UAE for past 25 years. He is the chief editor of JAIHOON.COM.