Culture refers to the way of life of people in a society and includes their beliefs, customs and the institutions that exist within that society. Culture can be determined by various elements. Religion is one element that helps shape the culture of a society. Every religion is different and the differences in the religion are also witnessed in the differences in culture (Barakat, 1993). In the Middle East for example, there are various religions that exist such as Islam, Christianity and Judaism, with Islam being the major religion found in the region.
The three religions help define the culture that is practiced in the country. But since the Islamic religion is the most dominant, the culture that is then followed by the citizens in the region, together with the neighboring countries in the Middle East is one that is defined by the Islamic religion.
The United Arab Emirates is one of the countries that are found in the Middle East with strong following of the Islamic religion. The culture found here is deeply rooted in the Islamic traditions of Arabia, though visitors and foreigners are free to practice their religion and culture. Islam is the official religion and about 96% of the population is made of Sunni Muslims. Other religions constitute only 4% of the population (Arabic German Counsulting, 2001). The Quran is the basis of Islamic life and culture, and it gives the conducts that should be followed whether in business or personal life. The main language spoken is Arabic and other foreign languages are spoken for communication purposes with foreigners. These languages include English, Hindu and Urdu, with English being the second most common language due to its diversity. As deep rooted as the culture may be, it is being influenced by other outside factors such as technology and the media. This paper discusses the negative influence of the media on the U.A.E culture.
The negative effects of the media on the U.A.E culture
The media helps the society in so many ways. It has helped bring positive developments into the society through bringing awareness in various fights such as the fight against racism, gender biasness, world poverty and spreading awareness about world peace. Though it has proved to be useful it has also brought about various effects that tend to affect the culture of the U.A.E society. Some of the elements and practices of the society that have been targeted by the media have been discussed below.
The dress code in U.A.E is mainly influenced by the Islamic religion. Women are the most affected when it comes to the dress code. They are required to cover their bodies and be modestly dressed to avoid tempting the men. They wear abaya, a black-over garment that covers most parts of their bodies. The men on the other hand wear thwab, an ankle length white shirt that is woven from wool or cotton. The media has however, over the years influenced the dress code that has been present in the U.A.E culture. Images of women especially in America and other western countries are being displayed through magazines and through the internet media and televisions, changing the views of the youth especially on how they should dress. Westerners have also criticized the way of dressing of the women in U.A.E, and other Muslim countries saying that it was harsh and oppressive on the women. These views have been taken up by the youthful girls and they have then been influenced to change their way of dressing (Rosli & Begawan, 2007).
2. Change in habits and behaviors
The media has also been involved in the changing of views of the youth on issues of every day life. Youth especially the girls are significantly being affected with eating disorders that are being attributed to the unhealthy lifestyles that are being showcased by the media. They are also being affected negatively since they no longer get engaged in social activities that were being experienced in the past. They are nowadays being found indoors glued to their television sets watching programs and playing games. They spend most of their time indoors in front of their computers on the internet, watching and reading materials that they should not be getting access to at their age. Most of these things they end up learning are indecent and inappropriate for them. All these habits and behaviors lead to a change in their moral and cultural values. Time that was once spent doing things that would develop their values is being spent on deteriorating the same (Athar, n.d).
3. Change of religion views
The culture in the U.A.E enables the youth and the children to learn the Islamic teachings and know them by heart. This helps them build their moral character and they grow to become mature, responsible and upright. From an early age the children are taught the teachings, and memorize them in school and in the mosques, to use them as a guide in their every day life. It has become a task for the teachers to guide the youth to take the path according to the Islamic teachings, as they are influenced by factors such as the media and technology. Teachers are lamenting that they are not able to monitor the youth’s observance of the teachings, due to the influence. This then leads to the youth being more influenced, and they are now viewing religion as a burden instead of a guide, to the right path that they should follow (Rosli & Begawan, 2007).
4. Indiscipline among the youth
In the past, the children and the youth in the U.A.E were disciplined and morally upright.
But due to the influence of the media, the discipline levels have reduced and continue to deteriorate. The youth, although they have a distinct value system are exposed to questionable morals, through the media and they tend to take up what they learn. The Quran is used to give a guideline on the cultural values that are acceptable, and lays emphasis on good conduct and purity of the soul and the mind. It is also stated that the prophet Muhammad was sent to perfect the conduct of the Muslims, and he emphasizes that fathers should teach their children good manners (ISESCO, n.d). The youth are susceptible to influence and they have been negatively influenced by the media. Major issues have been noted in the discipline of the youth with issues such as drug abuse, physical violence by the youth, which is directed to other students and their teachers. Other crimes have also been on the rise such as theft, assault and rape. All these were issues that were at a minimum but through the media’s negative influence, they have been on the rise.
The culture of U.A.E is known for its folk music which is referred to as Bedouin folk music. During celebrations, music and dance take place and the songs used have been passed down from generation to generation. There are specific dancing styles for the men and the women that have also been handed down from generation to generation (Abed & Casey-Vine, 1998). However the media has influenced the music that the youths are listening to during celebrations. This music has messages that glorify violence, drug abuse, vulgar language, unhealthy habits and indecent videos that are played through the media, and portray these actions as inevitable. This is in contrast to the music that has been in use from the past and that was respectful and decent, and abided to the cultural norms and cultures. Festivals have been brought up that play the foreign music that has been borrowed from the western countries. The kind of music that is now played includes heavy metal, during the Dubai Desert Rock Festival and other genres of music that are being aped by the youths (Athar, n.d).
The U.A.E culture strongly values chastity. Chastity is seen to uphold the honor of the family and protecting it, especially among the women, is considered a vital responsibility. It is considered more than pride, honesty or anything a man might do, and is seen to be an indelible line between respect and shame. Unchaste women are seen to be worse than murderers, and they end up affecting their entire family and tribe. Severe measures have been taken on such women such as killing to cleanse the honor that is soiled. The media has slowly been changing this value that is strongly valued. Lifestyles of people that do not consider it valuable are changing the views of the youth, and more young ladies are breaking the valuable practice. The entertainment industry especially has led to the change of the views of the youth through music and films that portray messages that imply that chastity is not valuable (Athar, n.d).
According to the culture that is practiced, the men are seen as more dominant than the women. They are given a higher role and position in the society. The Quran states that men are the ones responsible for protecting the women and maintaining them. The man’s role is to financially support his family and the woman’s role is to be a wife and a mother. Through the media, the women are learning of their rights and they are demanding more rights and freedom for them to be treated the same way as the men. The media heavily criticizes the treatment of the women in the U.A.E culture and the religion of the country. They have been accorded the right to vote and learn. They are seeking more control of their lives to make their own decisions and be more independent. Some women are seeking the choice of not getting married and living their own lives and not bearing children. All this views have been brought about by the media that is exposing them to choices that are there in other parts of the world (Athar, n.d).
The language that is used by the citizens of the U.A.E is Arabic and is taught to the children from an early age so that they grow up speaking the language of their culture. There is deep pride that is taken by the parents and the society through speaking the language. However due the media, interest in other languages has risen, and the youth especially are being influenced to speak other languages in preference to Arabic. They are influenced to speak like the rest of the world especially the American English since most of the media uses English as the official language and they do not want to be left behind. As they strive to learn English they disregard Arabic and just learn it to be a bare minimum. The popularity of the Arabic language is thereby reducing among the youth (Rosli & Begawan, 2007).
According to the culture of the U.A.E a virgin girl can be forced to get married by her father without being consulted and same applies to the adult virgin. This is according to the Quran and other great scholars such as Ibn Hazm (Badaracco, 2005). The media is however changing this practice of the people, through enlightening the women and girls of their rights, and showing them images of women who have been able to conquer the practice. They also show them images and lifestyles of women who have fought to choose the time they shall get married, and the man they shall marry. The women are also deciding on the number of wives they want their men and husbands to marry. This is against the culture which allows for polygamy in marriage and allows men to have up to 4 wives.
10. Relationships Outside Marriage
The Islamic culture that is followed in the U.A.E does not allow for men and women to have relationships outside marriage. In most cases the men and women do not know each other well, as they are normally assigned a wife or a husband by their parents and other relatives. This has however been changing as the youth are being enlightened by the media on how other cultures are behaving, and how they go about marriage and relationships. This is deteriorating the culture and leading to other problems such as unwanted pregnancies. The youth are aping the cultures and forgetting their own that forbids such practices (Badaracco, 2005).
There are various steps that the parents, the society and the government can do to minimize the negative influence that the media has on the youth. The parents can select good educational programs that teach good moral values and that are suitable for the age of the children. They can watch the programs with the children to be able to guide the children on what they should watch, and restrict them to the programs that are beneficial to them. Reducing the number of hours that the children watch television, or are using the internet can also help create time for the children to engage in more meaningful activity, and become social. With the extra time on their hands, the children can learn the Islamic teachings that guide them towards moral values, and towards a right path that they can follow to become morally upright and uphold their culture (Athar, n.d).
The parents can also help the youth make decisions that are for the betterment of their moral values. Children become what the parents want them to be. The parents can help the students become better people by being more involved in their lives. This will help give the children a sense of guidance and will reduce the chances of them being influenced by the media negatively. The government can also limit the number of shows that are aired in the country that have negative effects on the culture or are against it. It can also come up with television stations that are based on the culture and that teach the Islamic religion, and therefore help the children and the youth understand the religion and the culture better. This will help in grounding them in the culture and their religion and influence them positively. They can also learn the Islamic teachings that they are supposed to learn through the help of these stations.
Abed, I., & Casey-Vine, P. (1998). United Arab Emirates yearbook 1998. London: Trident Press.
Arabic German Counsulting. (2001, March 23). United Arab Emirates: Location, Population, Religion, Membership, Currency. Retrieved on April 30, 2010, from Arabic German Consulting: http://www.arab.de/arabinfo/uae.htm
Athar, S. M. (n.d). Influencing the Behaviour of Muslim Youth and Their Parents. Retrieved on April 30, 2010, from http://www.themodernreligion.com/family/family_muslimamericans.htm
Badaracco, C. (2005). Quoting God: how media shape ideas about religion and culture. Texas: Baylor University Press.
Barakat, H. (1993). The Arab world: society, culture, and state. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
ISESCO . (n.d). The Arab Culture and Other Cultures. Retrieved on April 30, 2010, from http://www.isesco.org.ma/english/publications/Arabiculture/page2.php
Rosli, S., & Begawan, B. S. (2007, April 8). Negative media affecting the youth. The Brunei Times .
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