Sofiane Si Merabe
Sofiane Si Merabe Image Credit: Supplied

“UAE tolerates my three identities equally.”

Sofiane Si Merabet, born to Algerian Muslim parents in France, has what you would call a mixed identity – he is a little Algerian, a little French and Muslim.

Sofiane had a good job after university in France, and was sent to Dubai 10 years ago by his company for a project, “I was very happy here in Dubai, I had the opportunity to embrace my multicultural identity, in a highly tolerant society. And then I stayed.”

He explains why.

“I have never personally faced direct discrimination in France but my perception changed as soon as I started to become self-aware of my mixed identities. Identities are like threads of a carpet, you can’t just pick one. They are all connected and UAE accepts my three identities equally.”

“I became a victim of my identity”

Speaking about mixed identities, Samira A., a French Moroccan and mother of two, told Gulf News: “As a French Muslim with an Arab origin, it was tough on me to live in France, and so I left.”

She admitted her love of France. “I owe it all to France, I am a proud French person. I really lived the French motto of ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ till 2015, when some fanatics chose to spread fear among the citizens.”

Samira identifies her family as an international family: “We are French, but I am a Moroccan and my husband is Indian, and we are Muslims.”

“Unfortunately for many of us Muslims, we feel racially discriminated against [in some places] and many would not like to return to such an intolerant society. I became a victim of my identity… I left France behind to come and live in the UAE.”

“The tolerant UAE has given my family and me security - our mixed identity does not disturb anybody. And all this in the midst of tens of other nationalities!”

The tolerance of the West and East

For Sara Chamaa, her husband and she came to Dubai because they wanted freedom to be themselves.

“We chose to come to Dubai and not to stay in France, because this place was more tolerant and open to us. As young Muslims and Arabs in France, we felt very much obliged to hide, so we are not confused for fanatics or extremists. We always had to justify why we fast, and sometimes it went to the extreme of explaining why we are Muslims and that we are moderate Muslims.

“In UAE none of these issues are faced by us.”