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Mon 21 Oct 2013 09:19 AM

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The West is "spoiling" Arab world - Qatari Sheikh

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

The West is "spoiling" Arab world - Qatari Sheikh

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>

debbie 6 years ago

hmmm.. sigh.

then why buy - harrods, the shard, most of knightsbridge, chelsea barracks, and make london your home away from home?

sam sanders 6 years ago

Debbs, these are called "Investments"; something they would be able to sell later on for MO-money. Any one has the right to deploy their capital any where in the world, how ever they wish. Wealthy Brits also buy a lot of assets outside of Britain, and all around the world! Your comment does not make sense poppet.
PS- I ain't a Qatari national.

Ahsan 6 years ago

A good insight of Mr sheikh in his interview.

I agree that the inhabitants of a country must know and understand there own culture first. The values of one's culture is no way should be compromised. It's our identity and that's how we are identified, regardless of what ever second nationality we take.

However, what is the problem ?

To know your values, first and foremost education center are parents, who are solely responsible to deliver their heritage to their offsprings. Unfortunately thats not happening because of the influx of western culture through all channels media, internet, books, brand e.t.c.

So this is not a problem of western culture and there language but the problem lies of not strong culture of our own anymore. Centuries back Arab culture and Arabic was the strong elements in this world and so was the education which was in Arabic, why ? because of research and development and self commitment and realization. Now it's not....

Now western culture is strong. Simple.

Expat08 6 years ago

“They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Terence L. 6 years ago

Two thumbs up Debbie. It is always easy to pontificate when you are from the privileged ruling class, but the truth is that the masses turn to western influences as a diversion from the pitiful state they are in.

Guest 6 years ago

Stop behaving and trying to turn your country into the West, and maybe you wont have this problem then will you?!

Roger 6 years ago

I agree with Debbie, than why all those endorsements and sponsorship. Regardless of they are so called investments, I am sure the contract was abide in English. If you have a problem with language issue than kindly try to run your country like china and Russia. Moreover they need to accept the fact that most of the developed middle eastern countries run on expats. They need our services and experience. therefore If they prefer not being influenced by western culture than they should employee their own nationals in gas stations, supermarkets,etc. shutdown English schools like I have seen in Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Chef 6 years ago

i undertsand that keeping your culture is very important but the middle east is doing in generak very litle to make it easier to learn arabic. In my native country all prograns are broadcasted in teh orgininal language of the program and subtittles are in English. This way we learn other languages and understand better the storries behiend this. It was in kuwait for a short while with soap series very nice and this way i was leaning arabic. Coudl be great initiative here as theer are great arabic programms.

HDee 6 years ago

Dear Mr Althani,
U R absolutely right . But, can U do anything about it ! The West has taken over much of the Middle East ; and , they are still after the petro dollars , Sir ! There have been so many incidents that we know of and are based on the above fact .
ALLAH Bless the oncoming Qatari generations .............

Mick 6 years ago

As usual, wish and want one way and do everything 180 degrees the opposite way within their actions and then complain about westerners. I believe in maintaining your identity and culture but if that means maintaining zero evolution in a stone age ecosystem, then you need to find a way to adapt and change while keeping your culture and identity. The rest of the world has (look at the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Germans, Americans, French, Canadians, British, Scandinavians etc..they have definitely maintained theirs but have also done all of the innovating too.