Dear Ali: How strict is the rule for women when it comes to walking several paces behind her man? GU, Dubai
Dear GU: Thank you for your question. In fact, there is no law saying that a woman should walk behind a man. Actually, it’s quite sad that this would be seen as part of our culture and customs because it’s really not true. It may be because people see such things in our region, and assume it is a law, when actually it’s more of a traditional social aspect of behaviour.
We know that, in the past, men used to walk in front of their family, be it their wives or children, to protect them from any difficulties or danger they may encounter on the way. The man was walking ahead in case there was a need for him to to fight a predator or clean the path, so his women could move more safely. As times have moved on, there is no longer a need for this.
Today, neither women will appreciate men who walk in front, nor will men want their women to stay behind. But the protective role of a man still exists. I’m sure women are pleased when they need to travel, visit public places or even do shopping, when a male family member accompanies them, not only to secure their privacy, but also to help with carrying bags. This is taken seriously in our society, that a man should always be helpful, and contribute to the comfort of his wife and family.
So, the next time you see a man walking with the kids a few steps ahead of his wife, it simply may be that he is trying to get to the car quickly, or giving his wife the time and space to look around while shopping, or even because he does not want her to max his or her credit card! All these possibilities are valid. But it’s definitely not because we don’t respect women because that has never been the case.
Dear Ali: What do Emiratis feel about people burping and breaking wind in public? Is it considered to be OK, as a natural act of bodily processes, or would they be bothered? ME, Abu Dhabi.
Dear ME: Oh, I know what you mean. Most of us have witnessed such situations. Especially since we live among people of different cultural backgrounds, and it is a known fact that burping or breaking wind in public could be acceptable to some.
Many people can’t figure it out if we are indeed OK with this behaviour not, because of our tolerance to other cultures. In fact, our attitude is based on two main things – our religious teachings and cultural etiquette. Our culture frowns upon body odour when meeting other people, so that they won’t feel disrespected, hence we avoid any reasons of smelling bad where possible. Also regarding burping, we are taught to avoid doing it even after taking food.
However, if any of these things happened around us, Islam teaches us to be polite and pretend you didn’t notice anything. Specifically, it’s forbidden for Emiratis to laugh at a person who cannot manage his or her biological needs.
So yes, we are tolerant and understand these processes; however, we do not support them to be done in front of other people, as a matter of etiquette and respect to each other. So it’s not recommended at all to do that when people are around, as they might take it that you are not clean or polite. But in case it happens by mistake, then a “sorry” or “excuse me” should justify the act that you didn’t mean to do.
Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.
Source: art & life