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National identity is a concept that has gained much importance in the XXI century. Prior to understanding the actual meaning of national identity, it is important to define a nation first. Though there exists a variety of definitions for a nation, as it basically refers to a group of people who share common culture, language, ethnic origin, and often possess an independent government (Force, 2007). Defined in this manner, national identity refers to some special characteristics that a country possesses. These characteristics are usually used to distinguish one nation from another. It is imperative to note that national identity can be measured using some indicators. These indicators include: boundaries, collective self-awareness, communication and communion, enterprise with the rest of the world, responsibility of actions among other indicators (Tsu, 2005). Besides linking the past with the present, national identity plays a vital role in strengthening social ties between citizens of a country, regardless of the differences in their ethnic or religious orientations. It is in this regard this discussion seeks to determine whether national identity can be created and preserved by a government’s actions. The scope of this discussion will be limited to United Arab Emirates (UAE). Before dealing with the issue at hand, it should be noted that defining Emirati identity requires a multidimensional approach. Furthermore, successful definition of the identity will save UAE from racism and fanaticism.
The claim that a government can create and preserve national identity may be true. This can occur in a variety of ways. First, a government can pursue some policies aimed at creating a cohesive society (Bennet, 2008). Furthermore, the government has the mandate of dictating things like national language, which can be used to describe the national identity of a given country. To illustrate this, much weight has been attached to national identity by the UAE government, in its 2011-2013 strategy. In fact, one goal of the strategy states that the UAE government will promote the cohesion of the community, preserve the UAE national identity and maintain a unique culture, traditions and heritage of UAE. To achieve this objective, the government has given much priority to social cohesion and social responsibility. By pursuing these priorities successfully, the government will have created a national identity. In absence of these policies, however, it would be difficult to define the UAE community due to lack of distinct characteristics. On such grounds, the community would be said to lack a national identity.
A government can also create a national identity by facilitating the building of special architecture that may be used to define a nation. In this regard, it is important to record that some architectural designs are strictly used to define a particular country. For instance, some nations possess unique manmade artifacts that cannot be found elsewhere in the world. Such nations are actually characterized or defined by such artifacts. Egypt is characterized by many manmade artifacts which include the pyramids and the Canopic Jar. These actually form part of the country’s national heritage. At this point, the question of how government contributes towards the creation or preservation of national identity should be poised. First, the building of such artifacts is not an individual effort; rather, it is a government’s effort. In this way, the government can be said to have created national identity. Furthermore, many governments established museums and other historic places where such artifacts are stored. When citizens visit these places, they are reminded of their national identity. Furthermore, it should be recorded that in absence of the museums, many artifacts would have been destroyed. This is analogous to saying that national identity would have been destroyed. It is therefore correct to state that governments preserve national identity. This case is also true for the UAE government, which has established several museums with the aim of preserving national heritage. In fact, there are more than ten museums in Dubai. Furthermore, plans by the UAE government are underway to ensure that by 2015 Dubai will be having ten new museums.
On the contrary, it is also true that a government may fail to preserve or even create national identity. In this regard, it is imperative to note that in absence of citizens’ support, any government would be utterly functionless. Furthermore, developing a national identity is a complex issue, multifaceted in national issues, religious issues, past and future issues, collective and individual commitments. As such, effective development of national identity demands community-based mechanisms. In other words, the government must lobby for support from its citizens for it to effectively develop a national identity with national language. This is true because national identity entails people’s lifestyle and perception. In this regard, the UAE government has established the ministry of Culture, Youths and Development, whose aim is to promote national identity. The ministry has appreciated the fact that without the support of the citizens, it would be difficult to promote national identity. It therefore carries out programs aimed at sensitizing the UAE community on the importance of preserving national heritage. This means that in real sense, it is the people who create and preserve national identity (Merriman, 2009).
Nevertheless, it is true that government can create and preserve national identity. Though the process may not be direct, the goal would not be achieved in absence of government’s efforts. This implies that more often the government plays the role of a catalyst or a platform in the process. For instance, the UAE government is fostering community cohesion, nurturing Emirati families, and promoting national responsibility. These factors act as a platform through which national identity can be realized.
In conclusion, national identity is a complex concept that requires a detailed and multidimensional analysis. Focusing on this issue from one dimension can only be termed as an artistic trial. As stated herein, the concept is important in many ways and hence, it is indispensable. Moreover, the process of creating and preserving national identity should be inclusive for it to be meaningful. In the words of Sheikh Zayed, the founding father of UAE, "A nation without a past is a country without a present or a future."