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'Racist' act by US police sparks outrage in UAE

Nilanjana Gupta (Senior Web Journalist / Videographer)/Dubai
nilanjana@khaleejtimes.com Filed on July 5, 2016 | Last updated on July 5, 2016 at 06.46 am
Racist act by US police sparks outrage in UAE
A still of video footage showing Emirati tourist being manhandled by police outside an Ohio hotel.

(Avon PD)

Local media reported on Sunday that Emirati national Ahmed Al Menhali was detained at gunpoint last week.

UAE residents are outraged after US police "brutally" detained an Emirati businessman suspected of being a Daesh militant. 

Local media reported on Sunday that Emirati national Ahmed Al Menhali was detained at gunpoint last week while wearing a traditional white kandura, or ankle-length robe, and headscarf in Avon, Ohio after a hotel clerk raised suspicions he could have links to Daesh.

 

Cleveland's WEWS-TV posted police camera video footage of his arrest and a later meeting where Avon officials offered their apologies.

In wake of the incident, UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a tweet late Saturday that Emiratis should avoid wearing the garments for their safety. A separate ministry statement urged women to abide by bans on face veils in parts of Europe.

While there are a few UAE residents who say it's better to be safe and avoid wearing traditional attires, there are a handful of people who believe that Arab traditional clothes represent their culture and identity and to let go of them will be like discarding their culture.

'Racist' act by US police sparks outrage in UAE (KT740774.JPG)"I don't blame the US police. They did what they thought was right to defend themselves. In response, we should do what's right to defend ourselves. An outfit is an individual choice. When Indians, Pakistanis and people all over the world are not stopped from wearing their traditional attires, why should we stop? We have every right to practise our freedom of religion," said Mahmood AlAwadi (left), Senior Manager for the Gulf Region at Elaph.

Mahmood, who is an Emirati national, added that the Arab media should spread awareness about the traditional attire and defend the robe whenever such racist crimes happen. "The other day, there was a video doing the rounds on the internet where a man wearing Arab outfit was throwing his bag at people at a bus stop. The video portrayed him and the religion as a whole in bad light. What would happen if Indian clothes are being advertised along with terrorism across the world? Their country's media will chip in. We as Arabs, should also defend our clothes." 

'Racist' act by US police sparks outrage in UAE (KT740674.JPG)Neeshma Nazar (right), an Indian expat living in Dubai, added that the US must control its gun laws instead of unreasonably cracking down on Muslims. "US residents have very easy access to guns. Instead of targeting Muslims wearing hijabs and kanduras, or those who speak Arabic, they should act on their lax gun laws, even more so, in the wake of recent mass shootings across the country that have triggered outrage." 

'Racist' act by US police sparks outrage in UAE (KT740574.JPG)UAE resident from Saudi Arabia, Allaa Ahmed Al Aulaqi (left), feels it's an individual choice but for her, safety comes first. "When it comes to travelling, it's perhaps a better idea to avoid traditional attire in light of the recent spate of hate crimes. Some people are ignorant and illiterate and they don't know what Islam is about. They could put us in a dangerous situation. That said it's a personal choice and a very sensitive topic, and it's best to exercise individual discretion."

However Lathifa Mohmed, a Sudanese national residing in the UAE, begs to differ. "Why should we give up on our attire and culture because of the ignorance of the West? They should be more enlightened about Islam and they should understand what it means to wear a hijab or kandura." 

Several Emiratis took to Twitter to complain of Menhali's treatment, using the Arabic hashtag #AttackingAnEmiratiGuyInUS.

"If you want to learn about tolerance and freedom, learn from Emiratis," said a Twitter user.

"I hate how white people are treated so good here in the UAE but Emiratis are abused in the US," said one user.

Another Twitter user pointed out the US intolerance towards Arab clothing "These Americans come to UAE. wear bikinis as they wish but when we put our traditional dress, they act so ignorant," he tweeted.

Another user called the incident a "violation by the police."

 

author

Nilanjana Gupta

As a multimedia journalist, I consider it a privilege to tell the stories of people in the UAE and allow the world to meet the people with whom their paths may never cross. I am a graduate of the Broadcast and Digital Journalism master's programme at Syracuse University in New York. Prior to joining Khaleej Times, I interned with Al Jazeera English in Washington DC and worked as a senior news desk editor with CNN-IBN in Delhi.





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