Yesterday I titled a post “Is Dubai Becoming The Next Saudi Arabia?” The post concerned the soon-to-be legally enforced code of conduct in Duabi whose crafting was overseen by none other than Crown Prince Shiekh Maktoum.
The code was drafted in response to the well-publicized controversy involving a British couple whom were arrested and subsequently deporting having sex on a public beach.
Recognizing that Dubai tolerant culture has allowed it to flourish by welcoming skilled foreigners who otherwise would steer clear of a conservative country, the code states that such tolerance must remain a bedrock but then offers a list of regulations that would make null an pretension of making that so.
The code seeks to uphold local sensibilities by, for example, limiting the number of alcohol-serving bars, beaches were bikins are allowed and moving strip clubs into “Red Light” districts. The latter is reasonable, Europe does the same; but regulating beaches and bars may undermine Dubai’s efforts to become a trendy spot.
But the code goes beyond that to regulate matters that should be beyond the remit of an even mildly reasonable state. A British mother of two was recently arrested for adultery and homosexuals have become the target of a “morality” campaign. It is one thing to limit alcohol and differ bikinis to select beaches, it is another for the state to interfere and punish the decisions, whatever the merit, of consenting adults. Infidelity is unfortunate and you may believe that homosexuality is a sin, but using the police power of the state to punish such “crimes” would set Dubai back in its ambitions to become a global destination. Dubai’s rulers should take note that nobody really cares to visit Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital.
That was yesterday, and this morning I read that Dubai second telecom operator Du has banned the online photo sharing site Flickr. That comes after the Emirates other telecom operator Etisalat has banned Flickr. Thus in Dubai and the entire UAE it is no impossible, at least without a bypass system, to access the mundane Flickr. Both providers failed to offer an explanation.
Dubai’s Internet City may no longer be an example of state efforts to expand human capital, but an image of heavy-handed state censorship.
If the city that previously built a “Internet City” to attract foreign investment starts banning sites it dislikes then the whole idea of a Dubai Dream will only turn out to be a mariage.