Image via WikipediaSaturday's edition of the Dubai-owned Arabic language daily Emarat Al Youm carried on its front page a piece of news that, strangely, other newspapers didn't rush to file - although The National and Kipp have it today and AFP filed on it. I can't find it in 7Days, GN or KT. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough.
Below is an informal translation of the key elements of that article. Any errors in translation are regretted and will be corrected as soon as advised.
According to Emarat Al Youm, a new set of decency guidelines has been promulgated by the Dubai Executive Council and, according to the paper, these have been shared with government and private sector organisations.
- People are requested to respect the history, culture and traditions of the United Arab Emirates and to avoid improper behaviour in Dubai.
- Residents are asked to show respect to the authorities, flag and national emblems of the UAE, including its rulers. Insulting these is considered a punishable crime.
- Appropriate, modest, dress should be worn in public - particularly in government offices and public areas. Trousers and skirts should be of proper length and not reveal the body improperly. This includes not wearing 'bad' logos or photographs on t-shirts etc that could be seen as offensive to any element of society.
- Beachware should be appropriate and worn at the beach only. Nudity is absolutely prohibited and is punishable by law.
- Public displays of affection should be appropriate. Only a husband and wife can hold hands in public. No kissing or other displays of affection such as hugging in public are permitted. Sexual harassment and the making of sexual overtures to women are not permitted.
- The taking of drugs and alcohol are prohibited in Islam. Because of the diversity of society in Dubai, the taking of alcohol is permitted. However, anyone caught under the influence of alcohol outside of places where the sale and consumption of alcohol is permitted are subject to fines or imprisonment. Medicines that contain drugs not allowed legally in the UAE should not be taken.
- Drink driving will not be tolerated.
- Drivers are obligated to wear seatbelts, ensure children sit on the back seat, not use mobile phones when driving, give way to civil defence personnel, not slow to watch accidents and park only in designated areas.
- Smoking is not permitted in government offices or shopping malls by law.
- People are asked to refrain from playing loud music in public places such as parks, beaches and residential areas. Dancing and music are permitted in licensed venues.
- Music should not be played in public places or cars near mosques, particularly during the Azan (call to prayer). Smoking, eating and drinking in public are not permitted during Ramadan.
- The holding of any religious activity in public, whether Islamic or otherwise, should only take place with appropriate permissions.
- Recognising people's need to co-exist in peace, giving offense with insulting and aggressive gestures are subject to punishment by fine and jail. The guidelines ask for priority to be given to the elderly, pregnant women and people with special needs. People are also asked to avoid loud conversations, laughter or whistling in public.
- The guidelines do specify that spreading malicious rumours that can harm the public good will be punishable by law.
- People should take care in taking photographs and taking photographs of families and women in Dubai is not pemitted.
The above guidelines, in my personal view, are a welcome clarification, for visitors and residents alike, of what is and is not appropriate behaviour in the UAE. Ever since I first came to this country in the 1980s, I have been aware of the above, as have many people who have lived here for some time.
This is nothing new, people. It has always been this way in the UAE. All of it, including the holding hands thing.
It's good that now, better late than never, it's down in black and white and people can be quite sure of where they stand. But let us be very clear this is a restatement of what has always been the case here. It's not a 'new crackdown' or a new 'tightening' or any other such tosh. It's the way things are and always have been here. Just because people have got into the habit of disrespecting those norms does not mean that reaffirming them is any form of restriction or clampdown.
And if you don't like it, yes, you do know what to do!!! :)