Monday, August 24, 2020

We Need This Change in the Arab World - Sara Al Nuaimi


by Sara Al Nuaimi

[W]e now feel proud of the choices we made to carve a niche for ourselves, because this niche is the new center.

  • "What is the difference between a Jewish person and an Israeli?" my mother, a religious and traditional Emirati, asked.
  • "Well," she said, "when they start coming here, we shall get to know them better."
  • For women trapped in the dogma of tradition, half in-half out, adventurous but guilt-stricken, we now feel proud of the choices we made to carve a niche for ourselves, because this niche is the new center. We can finally be ourselves and create the lives we wanted: to be out in the world, not in the confinements of a golden cage.
  • There was for so long the mantra of "Israel is the enemy." It was a mantra that people could not break out of and that they believed without proof. These people are now quiet. We need this change in the Arab world. It has taken so long to come.


The United Arab Emirates is making peace with Israel to inspire cultural, religious and political reform; they are visionary leaders, statesmen. The UAE saw that accepting Israel and negating the ideology that negated Israel was part of moving forward. Pictured: The skyline of Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

It was easier than we thought, that joint statement of the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the United States.

There were so many steps that were skipped, though: you can tell by reading on Twitter the voices of opposition from other countries that were in shock at the news. They resist the possibility, but to us, now that we are capable of acknowledging the peace that was created, the opposition feels no bigger than ants with puny pincers.

This is perhaps the first time that peace has happened without a war. It is peace for the sake of peace

As an Emirati, I feel unstoppable, invincible, empowered. I can now breathe freely. I have another life to fall on instead of the limiting social construct of religion and tradition that was stifling women who were neither religious or traditional, just open-minded and easygoing with whomever crossed their path.

Decades living in the Emirates contrasted with six years in California. There I tasted something alien, where you could enjoy the moment -- but it felt short-lived. When I returned home, I walked back into thick, hot, humid, culture-shocked air. Now, we have imported a slice of California.

"What is the difference between a Jewish person and an Israeli?" my mother, a religious and traditional Emirati, asked. "One," I tell her, "is a religion, the other is a nationality." Trying to bridge the familiar with the unfamiliar, I reminded her of a friend who is Arab-Muslim Israeli. With a turn of her head, she replied, "Well, when they start coming here, we shall get to know them better." I will ask her if she would go there instead.

My cousin called. "Congratulations!" she said. "You know what for, right? Next trip, Tel Aviv!" Emiratis love a thing called tourism, especially to escape the summer heat. I imagine a swoon of liberal Emirati women on the beaches of Tel Aviv with their designer bikinis and sunglasses. I am looking forward to being one of those women.

For women trapped in the dogma of tradition, half in-half out, adventurous but guilt-stricken, we now feel proud of the choices we made to carve a niche for ourselves, because this niche is the new center. We can finally be ourselves and create the lives we really wanted: to be out in the world, not in the confinements of a golden cage. All those desires that we were told to reject as absurd were apparently far from it. We now feel we are full participants in creating a new society, our society that is no longer in the margin. It is a fantasy come true.

We are similar to Israelis in so many different ways, but it takes a very bold and exciting step to see it. My friend, Sarah said she is proud that her Jewish-sounding name might allow her easily to fit in as an Israeli.

The shift is deep but just the beginning.

Fifteen years ago, working for the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, I resigned because I didn't think much of working for a government entity. What the crown prince just did, please understand, took an immense amount of courage.

The nature of the UAE-Israel statement is different from Jordan's 26 years ago. Making peace with Israel then meant restoring stability for some time and suspending war. By contrast, the UAE is making peace with Israel to inspire cultural, religious and political reform; they are visionary leaders, statesmen. The UAE saw that accepting Israel and negating the ideology that negated Israel was part of moving forward.

I see myself praying at the synagogue now being built in Abu Dhabi in the Abrahamic Family House along with a church and a mosque. These beautiful modern pieces of architecture will be near one another in the same compound, so that a Muslim like me can perform rituals in all three. And I would openly offer my heart and my soul to the roots of this Abrahamic friendship.

There was for so long the mantra of "Israel is the enemy." It was a mantra that people could not break out of and that they believed without proof. These people are now quiet. We need this change in the Arab world. It has taken so long to come.

Sara Al Nuaimi is an Emirati lady, a Muslim and a cultural activist based in Abu Dhabi. Follow her on Twitter @saranuaimi.

Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/16390/arab-world-change

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