Dubai: No longer a party Mecca

Dear Folks,

I hope you are all enjoying yourselves on this fine March day.  Today I have a story to bring to your attention which involves the number of European expats that have recently been arrested and sentenced in the emirate of Dubai for immodest and disrespectful behavior. Things have worsened since the Dubai dream started to turn sour. Locals have grown frustrated with the foreign invasion that has transformed the landscape both literally and figuratively.

In the past a British couple were jailed for copulating on a beach, and recently another couple were arrested for kissing in a restaurant.  Dubai really does give credence to the expression “all that glitters is not gold”. In the case of local Emirate citizens, they feel that it is time that foreign licentiousness comes to an end.

I have never been comfortable with the image of Dubai as the perfect haven for disgruntled Europeans and other Western folk looking for a Middle Eastern experience, without the restrictions of  Saudi Arabia or the political uncertainty of Lebanon. The state was built on the blood, sweat and tears of people who came from the Indian subcontinent looking for a better life, but only found misery and severe deprivations. I cannot help but admit that I feel an acute sense of Schadenfreude when I see how the dream has come abruptly to an end for the excessive ambitions of Dubai’s  sheikhs and ruling family. It is, as a young BBC journalist said, “poetic justice”, and a lesson to others to reign in one’s desires.

Anyway, enough of me, here is the article that I wanted to bring to your attention. it is courtesy of the UK’s Daily Telegraph:

Simon Andrews, 56, has had his passport confiscated for almost eight months while waiting for his case to be heard.

He told Dubai Court of Misdemeanours he denies “flipping the finger” at Mahmoud Rasheed, an Iraqi aviation student, during an argument.

He will appear in court on Sunday for a full hearing of the case.

It is the latest in a string of prosecutions of expatriates and visitors in Dubai for breaching the emirate’s public decency laws.

Making insulting gestures is regarded as unacceptable, and carries with it the possibility of a jail sentence of up to six months and deportation.

An Australian nurse working in a hospital in Dubai was last year jailed for a month and deported after serving 24 days after admitting raising his middle finger to a driver who he said was driving erratically while talking on his mobile phone. The driver turned out to be an off-duty army officer who followed him home and reported him to police.

Mr Andrews has said Mr Rasheed, who has not yet appeared in court to give evidence, is mistaken and no finger was raised. At a court hearing on Sunday, he asked for the passport put up as bail surety for him by a friend to be returned as the friend had to go abroad for work.

He was told to provide another passport in its place. His own passport has also been confiscated, preventing him leaving Dubai before the case is heard. “He appeared very confident,” an observer at the court said. “He said it was “my word against his word” and though the other main claimed he flashed his middle finger, it never happened. “He also pointed out he hadn’t turned up in court.”

Also appearing in court on Sunday will be Ayman Najafi and Charlotte Adams, two Britons who are appealing against a one-month jail sentence for kissing in public at a restaurant, another breach of the public decency code.

They also pleaded not guilty, but were convicted even though the main witness, an Emirati woman who called the police, failed to attend the hearing.

The Foreign Office says that British citizens are more likely to be arrested in the United Arab Emirates than anywhere else in the world.

It warns visitors not to misled by the emirate’s tolerance of some non-Muslim practices such as drinking alcohol into thinking that there is a free-for-all. The emirate still practises a form of Sharia law.

On the other hand, some local newspaper commentators have urged law enforcement agencies to be more explicit about what is against the law and what is tolerated.

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