Monday, July 31, 2006


The word is mouthful, but it touches upon an important idea. One dictionary entry offers:
Universality is opposed to relativism in philosophy. Truth may be said to be universal, as well as rights, for example in natural rights.

Wikipedia, online encyclopedia   

The question of universality seems of relevance in a society like the UAE's where much appears to happen on the basis of relative criteria. Positions are offered and salaries are determined on the basis of nationality, sex, age, etc. The same standards often apply in regard to services. Favoritism and discrimination appear to be largely the order of the day in the UAE.

An easy way to see this in action is to browse the Classified section of a local newspaper. A couple of common examples read:
1 B/R available in Madinat Zayed, for a non-cooking, Muslim, executive bachelor. Contact 050-XXXXXXX.
Gulf News, 31 July 2006   

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, UK/ European/ SAF/ AUS, with good contacts, required. Email CV to

Khaleej Times Online, 31 July 2006   

Such advertisements commonly list nationality, sex, age, language and sometimes the religion required. Of course, the motivation behind such listings can be understood to have relevance to the specific matter at hand. Someone wishing to share a room or apartment will understandably have a preference. Likewise, in a business setting, it may be easier to work with members of a selected community, which could translate into higher productivity and higher profits.

Nevertheless, this way of thinking permeates all aspects of life in the UAE, and is used in clearly negative and discriminatory ways. Employment offers the most extreme examples, a few of which have already been highlighted. Patronage and memberships in clubs, bars and other social establishments, are often screened on the basis of racial or ethnic criteria. According to a recent news article, a popular shopping center now bans entry to shoppers who fit a certain profile--read laborer, usually of South Asian origin.

The underlying premise in the concept of universality suggests that such an excessive degree of relativism, as exists within UAE society, runs counter to the more fundamental notion of respecting an individual's natural or human rights. In plain speak, one should not be hired or paid according to his/her nationality. A landlord should not refuse or offer housing to an applicant on such basis. The government of the UAE should pay attention to not only the question of Emiratisation, but also that of anti-discriminatory practice toward all residents.

No Clear Heading

The UAE is at a bit of a crosswords. While on the one hand it is becoming a more developed society, incorporating more and more international standards in business and industry, it remains socially and culturally entrenched in the ways of the past.

The peril is that many suffer in this society, albeit quietly and often in subtle ways. Many may never achieve the lifestyle objectives they pursue, for simple reason of nationality, sex, age, religion, etc. It is an errant practice which effects both the national and expatriate populations in equal, if not differing, measure.

Without meaning to sound platitudinous, the notion of equality among peoples needs to be more encouraged and promoted within UAE society. At present, it is not. Attention is being given to issues such as Emiratisation and treatment of laborers, for example--which are good things--but there is little in the way of promoting or even discussing the notion of universality across all sectors of society.

577 words
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