James MacIntyre hopes that ‘“immigrants” would be as “tolerant as we expect to be when we are in a foreign country” and that the adage “when in Rome do as the Romans do” will apply (Letters, 14 August).
This may reflect his personal behaviour but when it comes to respecting Muslim dress, it seems overly optimistic to expect this to apply as a matter of course. On 22 October, 2006, The Scotsman reported on an article entitled Show Some Respect that had appeared in an English language newspaper in Dubai.
7 Days had expressed the dismay caused to Emirati Muslims by the inappropriate and (to their eyes) immodest clothing worn by tourists in public places during the holy month of Ramadan. The resulting discussion centred on the disrespectful behaviour of tourists whose habitual “indecent” dress made the minority indigenous Emirati population fear that they were “losing their basic identity forever”.
Emiratis believed that the robes of their national dress, black for women and white for men, made tourists see them as “aliens” in their own country. Far from cutting themselves off, young Emirati women wearing their black abayas set up booths where tourists could meet and speak with them.
These modern, educated women knew that it wasn’t what they wore that mattered but what they said and thought.
Many of these women have studied in Scotland, visiting Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and elsewhere. They have created trans-national memories and friendships to take back to the Gulf, where they will assume leadership roles.
As the calamity of Brexit unfolds, dragging Scotland with it, this country will need all its international friends. It should be a matter of both courtesy and common sense to reinforce our bonds of cross-cultural friendship with the Gulf, rather than obsess about why high-achieving young women choose to wear modest national dress as a marker of identity.
In a country where the (glorious) national dress for a man is technically a skirt, isn’t that fair enough?
Geraldine Price, North Berwick