The West is "spoiling" Arab world - Qatari Sheikh

Former minister bemoans spread of English as first choice language throughout region

Western influence is “spoiling” the Arab world, which is slowly losing its identity, a Qatari sheikh and former minister has warned.

“I used to travel with my wife and see families around us from the Middle East. They all spoke Arabic. But now they deliberately speak with their children in English. That’s a big problem,” Sheikh Mohamed AJ Althani told Arabian Business in an extended interview.

“We all now take our children to a Western-influenced school. But if it was up to me I would leave the first years for children to really remember this part of the world; religion and culture are very important and if they miss out on that they get lost later as they grow up, so it’s a big challenge.

“And that’s something I’m worried about.”

Sheikh Mohamed, who recently published his second book – a biography of his grandfather and founder of Qatar, Sheikh Jassim Bin Muhammad Bin Thani – said modern technology, Western fashion and the English language were infiltrating the Arab world, casting tradition and custom into the shadows.

“There is a spoiling factor here, where people forget the basics and I think the foundations of basics are very important,” he said.

“They do learn [the country’s history] but I don’t think it’s enough.

“People have taken the - I would say false - perception that you need to be in this fast internet age and unless you have a Western kind of education you will be behind. I think that’s not true.

“It’s happening in the whole region.

“Technology and the way people have perceived this world [are to blame]. All these advances that we see are coming from the Western, English, Anglo-Saxon dominance...  that is the influence.”

However, Sheikh Mohamed said advancement in Arab cities, including huge developments and the influx of international brands, was a good thing. There just needed to be more balance, he said.

“We have to realise that today there are no barriers, you cannot stop your children or your people from knowing and seeing and hearing what’s going on in the world, so the best way is to embrace it but try to be ready for it and try to educate your population, your children, your people, that this is coming and we have to live with it,” he said.

“We cannot just close our doors. In fact, I would like to see more innovation here that would match this.

“We just want to make sure they have passion for their culture, they have passions for their history and they realise that – sorry to say – if you speak with an American accent it’s not going to take you anywhere. What will take you everywhere is your education and your heritage and belonging to a place.

“We just want the people to belong to a place and feel proud to be Qatari.

“If you are from a country you should be proud and if it’s not making you proud then make it make you proud. It’s your country, you were born here, you learned here.”

<Read the full interview with Sheikh Mohamed AJ Althani>

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Posted by: SHAQUE

The problem is not with the western culture Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani. The solution is with you just be honest and tell us how many Filipino, Indonesian, Srilankan, Indian maids are serving your household.
Start cleaning up from your home set an example and be open about it. I bet you will never hire a maid from other poor Arabic speaking countries to take care of your young family members. No need blaming Anglo-Saxon culture for your own short coming. English and French are international progressive languages so to speak so the culture and trends will follow them. The plane you are flying the world over is western, the car you proudly drive is western. All the electronics in your house and in your local market is western oriented made manufactured cheaply in China and the east . Even the bottled water is foreign. Tell us what local products are you trying to promote ? Its always easy said than done.

Posted by: shaheen

Children will follow their native culture more if they are less influenced by housemaids and spend more time with their parents. The gulf population will be less influenced by the west if the family unit is closer. How often have we seen young local boys maybe only 16 years old racing about in fancy cars. They do not seem to be under any parental control and often loose their culture as a result. Foundation courses at UAE universities are full of locals who are not proficient in English Maths & and strangely enough ARABIC the mother tongue?? I feel local parents need to enforce stricter limitations and boundaries on their children and steer them in the direction of their own culture. Locals have large families it's the way the parents raise them which will determine whether they follow their culture

Posted by: zara

I think is the responsibility of the Parents to ensure that their children speak and understand their native language where that be arabic, hindi, english, french etc.. My parents did that with me and i am forever grateful that i can speak in mother tongue. English Language is required for the world economy today.

Posted by: Paulo

In Qatar, Western students are not allowed to have Arabic in school; if this was happening, we could see the Western trying to speak in Arabic with the local community.

Posted by: Mick

how about all GCC countries provide expats with free Arabic lessons? Instead of the only option available and that is to pay thousands per month for lessons. Want to maintain your culture? Want to see others adapt to where they live? Allow free Arabic lessons. So much money thrown away in this region for nothing but shallow soulless endeavours and gold and diamond this and that and biggest, widest, tallest this and that....put some capital in teaching expats how to speak Arabic. I've searched for 5 years, each year coming up short. I would like to learn but in the UAE, for example, there is nothing but upmarket schools teaching for a fortune. The Jumeirah Islamic Culture Society had free lessons for a short time and disbanded them.

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