Dubai: Emiratis are refusing to let December 6’s stabbing of an Omani student in London dissuade them from travelling to the UK over the winter period, but say they will take heed of a government advisory to avoid wearing valuables in public.
A 20-year-old Omani student named Mohammad Bin Abdullah Al Araimi was stabbed to death outside Harrod’s in Knightsbridge a little after midnight on Friday morning after trying to stop a thief from stealing his Rolex watch.
The incident prompted a strong advisory from the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who urged citizens travelling to London to “take special care, especially at night and avoid wearing valuable items that attract attention in public places.”
Since then Emiratis have reacted to the news with a mix of caution and resolve.
A lot of things to be worried about
“As Arabs we have a lot of things to worry about when visiting foreign countries – Islamophobia, racism etc, we are always at risk of being attacked whether it’s for money, the religion we practice or just for simply being Arab,” said Menna Hani, a 26-year-old Emirati events manager.
“I can’t say it has scared me because a part of me was and still is always worried I might be subject to being attacked, but we got to silence that fear and travel anyway. I was always paranoid about being robbed when abroad but this somewhat makes it a bit more serious.”
Heba Fahmy, 27, an Emirati business development manager agreed, “London has always been a favourite and I think it will remain as such, it might make people more cautious, but I don’t think it would dissuade anyone from visiting or studying there altogether.
“I think there should be general common sense to be a bit more on guard when travelling anywhere, especially large cities,” she added. “We’re lucky that the Gulf has always been relatively safe but that doesn’t mean we should assume it’s the same anywhere else.
“What happened to this poor kid is awful and you definitely can’t prevent it 100 per cent of the time but just being cautious and generally avoiding being ostentatious can keep you safer I guess.”
Aisha Sultan, a 23-year-old Emirati student from Zayed University, said, “Hearing about the stabbing was a real shock, I hope people will be more careful with valuable belongings. The incident will make me more alert and careful, but it would not deter me from travelling to that country because we can’t judge the whole country and their safety based on that one incident.”
Students refuse to be held back
Parents might be more cautious about sending their children to the UK to study now however, said Menna Hani.
“Not the students as much as the parents,” she said. “I think younger generations understand that you can be attacked anywhere and its inevitable parents will just want to keep their kids at home because it’s better to be safe than sorry I suppose. But despite the circumstances and risks [Emiratis studying abroad] is starting to increase. I think the younger generation wants to be different and disrupt from the norm of studying at home. There’s a lot we are doing to take us 10 steps forward and we refuse to let fear and discrimination take us 20 steps backwards.”
Not all shared Hani’s sentiment, especially Emirati housewife Fatima Mohammad, 51.
“My sons are similar to that age [of the student stabbed in London] and these stories are terrifying to a mother,” she said. “First the city must make sure the safety of our children studying there is secured then we would be comfortable visiting there again.”
Mohammad Al Hashmi, 24, a graduate of operations management from IMT Business School in Dubai, agreed, “When the feeling of safety and security is shaken, I’ll no longer be able to enjoy or feel comfortable visiting that country whether for work, education or tourism.”
The stabbing of an Omani student follows on from a hotel room hammer attack on three Emirati sisters, who were seriously injured in London in 2014. They lost their case for compensation this year against the Cumberland Hotel where they were staying, but their attacker is serving an 18-year sentence.
Mohammad Bin Abdullah Al Araimi, the son of the founder of Al Raid Group in Muscat, was with a Bahraini friend who was also injured in the attack outside Harrod’s in Knightsbridge in the early hours of Friday. The pair were attacked by two men and Mohammad tried to defend himself before being fatally stabbed. Police investigating Friday’s murder, said, “The victim and his friend were entirely blameless, simply enjoying a meal out together. It does appear that the motive for this cowardly attack was robbery.” A former chauffeur for the victim’s family in London, said, “He was a very nice and very kind person and very humble. It’s still a huge shock; I cannot believe he is not here anymore.”
Gulf News understands the body of the victim was flown home to Muscat on Tuesday.