When Peter Ireland told me that having blue hair & wearing tight jeans is a bad idea in a Muslim country.

Why we should all speak up and stand against any hatred and division of any kind.

As you are reading this blog post you might have no idea about who I am and more just who is Peter Ireland…?

To give you some context, my name is Alexandra Maia, I have been living & working in the Middle East for the past 9 years, more specifically in Dubai, a place I very much call my home and love. I was born in Portugal but went on to study & work in the UK, New York & Singapore. Ayear ago I decided to quit my agency job in Dubai and set out to launch my own business in Dubai. Today I’m the CEO & Founder of House of Social launched 9 months ago, a hybrid company that focuses on social media consultancy & education. A lot of the work that I do is speaking on stage, either at conferences, my own events, in-house training for clients and this is something that I have been doing in the region for the past years of my career growth.

 A week ago I had the huge pleasure and to go to Dubai Police headquarters and talk about some of the latest trends shaping Social Media. It was a very special morning for me; it’s not often that you are invited by such a reputable governmental identity, to meet the men & women that work in this workforce and to have the to meet the Commander in Chief for Dubai Police. I left feeling truly humbled & grateful. A day or so later, I posted a snippet video on my LinkedIn profile of my session at the Dubai Police Headquarters, you can see it below, it’s actually a candid shot of when I meet the Commander in Chief for the Dubai Police.

It’s a Sunday morning and I’m checking my social notifications, as I always do thing I start my day, I’m scrolling through the comments on LinkedIn and my eyes suddenly land on this :

 

“ Word to the wise, wearing tight blue jeans and having blue hair is not a smart move in any Islamic country” by Peter Ireland

 

I can’t share the live comments with you as they have been reported to LinkedIn due to the abuse that followed but you can see the screenshots of the initial thread of comments exchanged with me here. On that day, I decided to respond and asked for his POV and what does he really know about the subject matter to make such a judgmental uneducated comment not only on women but also on the Middle East region more in particular in this case the UAE.

To share with you what unfolded is what has made me want to write this blog post. From what I thought was just a ‘one of comment’ from a very uneducated person, turned into a series of hate speech towards the Middle East, women and racist attacks. To be honest with you on the first day I wasn’t very shocked perhaps naïve thinking that this would stop and that would be it. But oh… Was I wrong….

What shocked me the most is that from Sunday up until Thursday night more people like Peter joined in on this bigotry and the level of the attacks kept taking a lower points that for the first time in this context, I did feel personally attacked for a moment and to see the level of ignorance and hatred towards Middle Eastern women and the region was extremely sad and shocking to witness.

By Thursday evening the attacks went on to take a more personal note targeted at me being a female, my clothing and blue hair what it seemed to so massively trouble these individuals in the first place. Some of the comments ranged from:

Me being a low life and I don’t know how to dress, that I am emotionally unstable, that I know nothing about the UAE, and mind you this is all by people living in the US and Australia and are not even living in the UAE. And to quote that I look like:

 

“…a elderly smurf in men’s clothing”. And that “…in Islamic culture women are evil temptress who make men loose control.”

 

 


You can see full exchange of comments here

The attacks were also made to my friends who decided to initially get involved on the first day, friends like Ashlea Goose who is a western expat living in Dubai for 15 years. Peter Ireland wrote: [Link to full comments thread here]

 

“….I look forward to reading about your soon arrest in the tabloids soon!” Peter Ireland.

 

And Mihad Kashif, who is a Muslin Sudanese born and raised in Dubai that initially tried to share some educational insight into the region. Peter was too quick replying with: [Link to full comments thread here]

My mum Fernanda Carvalho got involved as well and Gary B told her: [Link to full comments thread here]

 

“….May you live to personally experience Sharia law in your lifetime. You deserve it!” Gary B.

 

You can see the full unfolding of the comments here. part1&2

I’m writing this blog post because I truly believe that incidents like these need to be voiced to show the world that people with such hatred dehumanization for women, black people, Muslim people, and any other religion, culture or life choice are everywhere. Not just out on the street in rallies but also they will attack you out of their own free will just like this group of 4 individuals did to my LinkedIn post. Note that we were not even connected on LinkedIn.

We see this hatred, racism, bigotry and displays of white supremacist rise in boldness day by day and I believe we must rise up, not stay and do our part to identify them (this is why I chose to display their names) condemn their actions and NEVER but never normalize their hatred. I know that my incident is small on a scale of the attacks we see happening out there. If by voicing my story and you sharing this article we can do our part in not accepting this hate and division of any kind, it is a protest to educate and stand strong against this kind of people.

 

   “…I believe we must rise up, not stay quite and do our part to identify them, condemn their actions and NEVER but never normalize their hatred. “

 

To end this blog post, I would like to say that in the 9 years I have lived in the Middle East I’ve never been attacked for my blue, blond or purple hair or my choice of jeans! I work with a variety of clients from local to international to other Middle Eastern nationalities.

As a matter of fact, a lot of people outside the MENA region forget or simply don’t know, is that the region has more than 22 independent countries, with different constitutions, different laws and definitely different social perspectives on different matters. One cannot simply brush the whole region with one brush. Laws in Morocco are the laws in Lebanon. The society in the UAE is that in Saudi. In the UAE, women do own businesses, women are entrepreneurs and women are definitely not restricted to a specific dress code.

For the past 9 months since I’ve launched my business as a female entrepreneur I get up every morning and I go out there and Dubai has empowered me, not just the society; its community, the cultural traditions and the diversity that make up this city. I’m so grateful to be living in a nation that encourages women empowerment & leadership. So, wherever you are in this world, living your life, if you are ever marginalized, speak up and stand up against hate and division of any kind. Rise up and voice your and never be afraid to be who you are. Thank you for attention & please share.

Alexandra Maia ❤️

#SpeakUp

Partially co-written with Mihad Kashif 

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