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Behave yourself!

Behave yourself!

The Dubai Executive Council has issued a strict code of conduct, making holding hands and dancing in public illegal. How will Dubai reconcile its reputation for being the region’s party town with the government’s behavioral code?

March 15, 2009 2:41 by

The government, however, failed to produce studies showing the extend of the ‘problem’ in the UAE, but insisted the ‘behavior’ is common in all-girls’ schools.

If the DEC’s explanation of its code of conduct is as colorful the UAE government’s explanation for its campaign against lesbianism, then we expect that the emirate’s expatriate population may take no comfort in the DEC’s soon-to-be-published statement.

Conversely, however, it is unlikely many will begrudge the government its attempts to impose its culture and norms on those who live in the UAE. This is their country, after all. The identity and cultural struggles faced by the Emiratis are significant, even if expatriates rarely hear about them.

With the expatriate population brimming at 80 percent of the nation’s total, it is not surprising the local government is keen to promote acceptable behavior by identifying what is not acceptable.

However, the inescapable truth for the Emirates is that, for now, the nation needs expatriates. And many foreigners choose to live in the UAE, Dubai in particular, because the nation is tolerant of foreigners and their customs.

It’s a catch-22; perhaps it wouldn’t have been in the past, when the expatriate population wasn’t as high as it is now. Today, the local government risks scaring off the already shaken expatriate majority if it imposes restrictions on behavior, and risks losing its identity in the rush toward modernization and cosmopolitanism if it does not impose its cultural values.

However, the problem is further exacerbated by the fact that expatriates have little to no access to Emirati society, making the DEC’s code of conduct entirely irrelevant to expatriates’ experiences in the UAE thus far. For many foreigners, the code has sprung out of nowhere, not only because many know little about the local culture, but also because the local culture is genuinely inaccessible (unless, that is, you visit a cultural center).

This is a society that suffers from miscommunication and segregation, and imposing rules, rather than (dare we say it) promoting dialogue between expatriates and Emiratis, will only breed resentment.

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