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Foreign Labor in the Persian Gulf and the Crisis of National Identity
Unformatted Document Text:  often encouraged, directly or indirectly, to convert to Islam and some newspapers, such as those in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, periodically publish stories about foreign workers who have converted. They cite the countries they come from; their numbers, and the stories of their lives and why they converted. Nonetheless, all of the Gulf countries, with the notable exception of Saudi Arabia are allowing non Muslims to open places of worship, such as churches, to practice their religions. In every country, except Saudi Arabia, there is at least one church. In Qatar, the first church was opened in May, 2008; the second in June, 2009. 19 While these millions of Muslim workers may integrate better into Gulf society, their Muslim status does not give them political rights. They do not get any preferential treatment when it comes to visa approvals, residency renewals and naturalization. Many Muslim workers, especially those who are skilled professionals or managers (doctors, university professors, administrators), particularly from the Arab world and India, come with the hope of settling in the Gulf and even acquiring citizenship in the country in which they work. This rarely happens, even after long stays, when their children are grown and able to work. 20 The Arabic Language The Arabic language is another component of a common Gulf identity. Arabic is now used to help create a linguistic culture that is specific to the Gulf population. While classical Arabic is the common language used in government correspondence and in 19 Christian Science Monitor, 9 February, 2009; www.Timesonline.co.uk, 14 March, 2008.20 There are a few exceptional cases where Muslims, mainly Arabs, have acquired citizenship, mainly because of their involvement in Islamic causes or because of a strong connection to influential members of the ruling family. Among them is Dr. Izz ad-Din Ibrahim, a Syrian educator who worked in Qatar in the 1960s an became the first president of the UAE University when it opened in 1976; he was given UAE citizenship. Yusif al-Qaradawi, an Islamic scholar from Egypt and Dean of the Faculty of Law at Qatar University, obtained Qatari citizenship. He is famous for his Islamic commentary on al-Jazeera. A third is Shaikh Ali al-Tantawi, a well known Islamic scholar of Syrian origin, who settled in Saudi Arabia and obtained citizenship there. Interestingly, all three have had some connection with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Authors: Bahry, Louay.
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often encouraged, directly or indirectly, to convert to Islam and some newspapers, such 
as those in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, periodically publish stories about foreign workers 
who have converted. They cite the countries they come from; their numbers, and the 
stories of their lives and why they converted. Nonetheless, all of the Gulf countries, with 
the notable exception of Saudi Arabia are allowing non Muslims to open places of 
worship, such as churches, to practice their religions. In every country, except Saudi 
Arabia, there is at least one church. In Qatar, the first church was opened in May, 2008; 
the second in June, 2009.
While these millions of Muslim workers may integrate better into Gulf society, 
their Muslim status does not give them political rights. They do not get any preferential 
treatment when it comes to visa approvals, residency renewals and naturalization.  Many 
Muslim workers, especially those who are skilled professionals or managers (doctors, 
university professors, administrators), particularly from the Arab world and India, come 
with the hope of settling in the Gulf and even acquiring citizenship in the country in 
which they work. This rarely happens, even after long stays, when their children are 
grown and able to work.
  
The Arabic Language
The Arabic language is another component of a common Gulf identity. Arabic is 
now used to help create a linguistic culture that is specific to the Gulf population. While 
classical Arabic is the common language used in government correspondence and in 
19 Christian Science Monitor, 9 February, 2009; www.Timesonline.co.uk, 14 March, 2008.
20 There are a few exceptional cases where Muslims, mainly Arabs, have acquired citizenship, mainly 
because of their involvement in Islamic causes or because of a strong connection to influential members 
of the ruling family. Among them is Dr. Izz ad-Din Ibrahim, a Syrian educator who worked in Qatar in 
the 1960s an became the first president of the UAE University when it opened in 1976; he was given 
UAE citizenship. Yusif al-Qaradawi, an Islamic scholar from Egypt and  Dean of the Faculty of Law at 
Qatar University, obtained Qatari citizenship. He is famous for his Islamic commentary on al-Jazeera. A 
third is Shaikh Ali al-Tantawi, a well known Islamic scholar of Syrian origin, who settled in Saudi Arabia 
and obtained citizenship there. Interestingly, all three have had some connection with the Muslim 
Brotherhood.


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