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Are they really a threat?

Are they really a threat?

When it comes to dealing with the working class, we in the UAE may need to stop being so ungrateful and try to become more understanding, thinks Kipp.

February 2, 2011 4:04 by

There’s no denying it the UAE is a classist society; we have a Gold Class cabin on the metro, a Gold Class section in the cinemas and even special “platinum” branches of the chain Fitness First. Kipp isn’t surprised at all by it, but every now and then the overtly classist things that people in the UAE get away with saying catches us off guard.

Take for example a recent article from Emirates 24|7 which reports that ‘strange’ men (we are going to give them the benefit of doubt and assume they meant strangers rather than strange, because if not there is a whole new argument to be made) hanging around gated communities like The Springs are making caretakers and families feel both uneasy and afraid (“Parents in The Springs complain of oglers and strange men”, is the particular headline of this article).

From what Kipp can gather these ‘strange’ men are not very strange indeed but are rather common. In fact they make up a significant portion of Dubai’s working class: plumbers, cleaners and mechanics, who are, more often than not, unmarried (or living away from their families) men from the Indian sub continent. Having been in the area for a while, Kipp can appreciate how slightly awkward situations can arise with encounters with these ‘strange’ men; but some of the comments in this article are just plain ugly. Take for instance:

“I was walking around the lake with my husband and this cleaner comes up to me and said – ‘can I carry up your child’? I was disgusted and told him to keep away.” from an unnamed parent.

“I’ve seen a man come to the park many times. He is friends with the child’s maid. He kisses, hugs and holds the child tightly in front of everybody…” says G Fernandes, a baby sitter in the community.

“One day when I was walking on the road with my little girl a man came up to us and started talking. On the first day, he pulled my daughter’s cheeks. The second day, he was there again. I shouted at him, after which, he never came back,” relates Nikita Dube.

Imagine that: A cleaner being so shameless to assume that he could hold the child of a resident. Or that he could pull the cheeks of a little girl, or even hug another’s child.

That people a) feel such classist emotions and b) feel unembarrassed of them, in fact broadcast them to local media, is disappointing. Come on, people! The UAE thrives on the services and contribution of the working class men from the Indian subcontinent; in fact it was literally built by them. It is time to reconsider our attitudes towards an underappreciated, underpaid, and often undernourished section of society.

If you don’t want strangers interacting with your children, that’s fair enough, but to demonize them in the media and characterize them as some sort of lingering, malicious threat doesn’t seem warranted.

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  1. Raj on February 2, 2011 4:27 pm

    Hear hear, I second that.

    Different cultures associate different meanings to these gestures.
    In the Indian sub-continent, showing affection to a child is commonplace and not frowned upon.
    In Westen cultures, it immediately sets alarm bells ringing – beware paedofile!

  2. S.P. on February 16, 2011 4:22 pm

    Whole-heartedly agree… it would be one thing if parents discriminated against any affection shown by any stranger, but since its only directed at a certain group of individuals… it’s rude and class-ist.

    People should remember, there is always someone looking down on someone else…. so why bother feeling better (or worse) than anybody else? Instead, respect everyone equally, whether that means giving all the benefit of the doubt, or no one at all.


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