Two unrelated steps taken by Sheikh Nahyan of Abu Dhabi indicate how strong the winds of change are blowing in some countries of the Middle East. He invited Pope Francis to his country and has made Hindi the third court language of his kingdom along with Arabic and English. Pope Francis is the first head of the Catholic Church to step into Arabia the birth place of Islam. He was also allowed to address a congregation attended by over one lakh people. This is a huge huge gesture. It conveys a strong message of tolerance which some leaders in our country have forgotten.
Equally significant is the step regarding Hindi. While we are still fighting about the status of Hindi with some states opposing it, far away Abu Dhabi has declared it its third court language. Both steps convey message which is more liberal and inclusive. Foundation stone of the first temple in Abu Dhabi will be laid in April this year for which 13 acres of land has been gifted by the state.
Except Saudi Arabia most of the countries of this area have learnt their lessons from the upheaval caused by the Arab Spring. They have realised they have to move with the times or there will be unrest . Also if you need professional expats then you have to make some compromise regarding their life styles. Hence loosening of strict Islamic control and making their country more welcoming to the foreigners.
Reducing oil prices have also changed the outlook of the governments . UAE , especially Dubai was first off the block as it does not have oil. It has turned its country into commercial,aviation and tourism hub, sort of Singapore of the mid- east. Others are following. The last to change will be Saudi Arabia though it is also trying to come to terms with creeping modernisation and demands for more freedom. Saudi Crown Prince Salman has announced that the country will build a mega city NEOM which will be 33 times New York. What is more significant about this is that it will be judicially independent. Meaning no Islamic law there. But signals from Saudi Arabia are mixed. The murder of Khashoggi conveys that things also remain the same.
Indians have contributed a lot to the development of these countries and are thus welcome expats unlike the Pakistanis. We are also the most disciplined and law abiding community abroad. But what happens to us after we land at our airports? Why do we turn back into our wild, indisciplined and uncontrollable desi avtar?