An Arab father imparts his thoughts
BY H.E. Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan
IN ALL CULTURES, fathers are important figures.
In our region especially, children are expected to listen to their wisdom so that they may be guided toward more fulfilling lives.
These days, I suspect that many a father in our region is uncertain about how to guide his children. Our neighbors such as Syria and Iraq are torn by war and unrest; education systems are broken; alarming numbers of youth have no recourse to work; and Arabic — a language we retained for millennia — is heard less and less on the tongues of new generations.
So what wisdom is there to impart now?
As this Newsweek publication devoted to the Middle East goes to press, I wish to convey some lessons of my own, particularly to the Arab youth reading.
After all, fathers must still speak all the more intelligibly in perilous times.
As one father among many in our nation, my most profound duty is to ensure that our children are educated in a way that reveals for them a world of ideas and stimulates the formation of their character. I feel the obligation to impart confidence, innovation and creativity to every child; to teach them how to negotiate obstacles and seize opportunities, and empower them to confidently take their place in the world.
I echo the sentiments of His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the father of this nation, who declared “it is my duty as the leader of the young people of this country to encourage them to work and to exert themselves in order to raise their own standards and to be of service to the country.”
One of the biggest challenges we face today is providing sufficient work for our young. The high unemployment rates in many Middle East countries is a large problem; those who feel idle or lost are more prone to fall away, or be drawn to unrestrained ideologies. This challenge is surmountable, but we will have to work with leaders in both the private and public sector to fuel greater opportunities. By supporting innovative ventures that create social value, we can strengthen our communities and encourage young people to take part in building the future of the region.
Indeed, as we look forward, we must encourage our youth to find ways to govern peacefully and prosperously. The complexity of influencing the status quo has at its heart a very simple truth: aggression is not a way to exert influence that has lasting, positive effects.
Sheikh Zayed’s words ring true when he says: “We have a duty as heads of states responsible for their people to deal with one another in accordance with…tolerance, compassion, and dialogue rather than with the language of confrontations, wars, and destruction.”
Consider the evolving role of women — one of the most remarkable changes in my lifetime that has come about through peaceful means. Women in Arab countries nowadays are gaining an education and entering the workforce. They are empowering themselves to make the most of their intellect and talents. More and more, Arab countries are coming to depend on women for their economic and cultural prosperity. If Arab nations are to take their rightful place in today’s global society, women must continue to see this peaceful evolution through to its conclusion.
Indeed, as all our children grow and progress, there are ample opportunities to extend and deepen their understanding of human nature, and how to recognize the goodness in others. As a culture with a rich tradition of hospitality, I urge today’s youth to accommodate the vast variety of humankind under a welcoming and commodious tent. In the Holy Qur’an, God tells all human beings: “O people! We have created you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”
To know one another is to observe the goodness in others who represent different ethnicities, nationalities, languages, and personal beliefs. Know those work for peace and cooperation, prosperity, and the well-being of society. Know those who respect one another and seek to understand each other’s good motives, whatever their cultural differences and personal beliefs may be.
Calling oneself Arab — or any other ethnicity — is not enough to define a strong character. Our heritage can offer sound traditions to follow; but one can only become a good person by being good. Actions define character. They are the measure by which others view you.
My fondest hope is that our children’s actions will prompt others to recognize them as good. The Holy Qur’an says of those actions that “every man is responsible for what he shall have wrought.”
I am confident that our children will fulfill their responsibilities, even in the face of the challenging circumstances that we have clumsily created.
Children of Arab nations —indeed, children throughout our region — should stand tall in the global society of the twenty-first century.
Be good, and be proud. For I am proud of you.