Short shorts have UAE women seeing red

2012-05-25 12:02

Abu Dhabi - The UAE may be the Gulf's most liberal Arab state but two local women have caused a stir with an online campaign against the "repulsive" habit of Western women of revealing too much flesh in public.

Hanan al-Rayyes and Asma al-Muheiri say their "UAE Dress Code" campaign is designed to promote "respect for the country's culture" among foreigners and raise awareness about what locals consider appropriate dress and behaviour.

They argue that the UAE's Western residents and millions of tourists each year often dress in skimpy outfits, show too much flesh and kiss in public, all of which are unacceptable for its conservative and Islamic culture.

"I saw a woman at the mall wearing very short shorts and she looked repulsive," said Muheiri, who along with Rayyes launched the campaign on the online microblogging site Twitter this month.

Notices at entrances to malls in the United Arab Emirates warn shoppers to dress modestly, while signs depict how much skin visitors are allowed to reveal. But the guidelines are often ignored.

Muheiri said she reported one woman to the mall management, only to be told there was nothing they could do.

Barrage of comments

Frustrated, she posted a tweet about the incident and triggered "a lot of responses supporting my position".

As far as Muheiri and her supporters are concerned, foreigners in the UAE should respect local customs. If not, they should be fined.

A Twitter search for #UAEdresscode reveals a barrage of comments, both for and against the campaign.

"Every Expat in UAE must respect the country culture ... as we respect ur country rules & laws, u shud do the same in return [sic]," reads one posting.

"Forbidding tank tops/skirts in the malls in UAE is as ridiculous as forbidding the Niqab in the streets in France," said another posting, referring to French laws which ban Muslim women from covering their face.

One posting calls on those who do not respect the local dress code to go elsewhere. "Expats/Tourists, Nobody's pointing a gun at u & force u to live/visit here. If u can't stand the LOCAL values & law, then LEAVE."

Minority in their own country

Rayyes said the actions of those who violate their view of "decent" dress were "uncivilised", such as women at shopping centres dressed in "nothing more than a shirt" or "mini shorts that reveal their underwear".

"I don't accept this and I won't stay quiet about it," she said.

Emiratis are traditionally conservative. The overwhelming majority of local women wear the full black veil, revealing only their hands and face, while most men wear the traditional white cloak known as the "thawb".

But they are also a minority in their own country. According to latest government estimates, only about 11% of the UAE's 8.2 million population are Emirati nationals.

Local psychologist Nadia Bouhanad says the campaign reflected "a fear by Emiratis that they might lose their social values".

The campaign has caused a stir in the country, attracting hundreds of posts and the attention of the local press. The Twitter account @UAEDressCode as of Friday had 470 followers.

Alcohol available

One campaign supporter, who identified himself as Ibn Thaleth, insisted the campaign was not an attack on foreigners in the UAE.

"They [foreigners] are allowed to do all sorts of things that we don't agree with," Ibn Thaleth told AFP. "We are not against them ... We are just asking them to show our culture a little respect."

Alcohol, though forbidden in Islam, is readily available throughout the year in bars, clubs and restaurants attached to hotels in most of the UAE.

Pork is also sold in supermarkets in a separate section marked "for non-Muslims only".

The campaign's logo - a red circle with a black, short-sleeve, knee-length dress - is widely recognised in the UAE. It is the same image posted on signs in malls urging women to "please wear respectful clothing."

  • Michael - 2012-05-25 12:25

    I agree with showing some respect for other cultures,but could someone please tell that to the muslims in the UK.They are now drowning out the culture of the local UK resident,and nobody can do anything about it.Appart from the culture issue in the UK the foreign nationals now take up the bulk of the social grants available.An illegal immigrant gets more benifits than a pensioner.

      jaba.kov - 2012-05-25 12:36


      blipsie - 2012-05-25 13:42

      Michael would you not say that that is purely the fault of the British government? Why do they allow it? Didn't they agree to Muslim courts a while ago or did that not go through?

      kerrimg - 2012-05-25 13:45

      i know some towns in the UK dont put of Christmas deco because of the other religions in the UK

      Heinz - 2012-05-25 17:02

      LOL! If I dress up looking like a ninja when entering the bank, they will areest me!

  • rambo919 - 2012-05-25 12:46

    Personally I'd prefer it if woman everywhere showed sense with the way they dress period... having everything on show makes u a slut whether u agree with that or not. If you are showing it you are offering it, whether you will actually give it or not simply does not matter. And yes of course I would prefer it if the "men" would wear belt's... no one wants to see that crack or the underwear covering it (if there even is any).

      blipsie - 2012-05-25 13:44

      Concurred. No matter who says what about what liberal society we should live in, the type of attention a woman dressed like that recieves is not from respectable men and mostly quite offensive attention. And what on earth is left for her husband to cherish is the whole world sees it anyway.

      Neels - 2012-05-25 22:00

      I agree with you. We must remember, though, that for a man looking with lust at a woman (or for a woman looking with lust at a man) it is not always what is in front of the eyes, but behind the eyes. No dress code can prevent that. But yes, I agree with you - the way we dress tells who we are...

  • Mark - 2012-05-25 13:04

    Die storie maak my gat-vol.

  • Jane - 2012-05-25 13:07

    People should respect each others cultures when visiting their country, really people it's not that hard. Would it really ruin your holiday if your bum cheeks can't hang out in a mall or if everyone is deprived of the sight of your boobs popping out of your too tight tank top or your g-string peeking out of your shorts. I love dressing skimpy in summer but even I dress sensibly when visiting one of our malls, it is really just about respecting other people.

      blipsie - 2012-05-25 13:46

      Jip and I for one hate strange men eagle eyeing my cleavage if my shirt just moves down. I don't need the attention positive or negative, I'm happy without thank you.

  • blipsie - 2012-05-25 13:33

    AMEN! I agree fully!! Even where I live it is very shameful to show your thighs. This is like walking around with your breasts hanging out. I cringe everytime I see a woman walking around in short shorts. I feel so embarassed and if they could only understand what the locals are saying about them. It's just rude to do that in a country where you know what the local people feel like. I've travelled and I've always respected the local custom wherever I travelled to.

      Jeffrey - 2012-05-25 14:14

      Quite frankly I don't think they give toss about what the locals think of them. Those muslims are living in the Dark Ages. Personally I can't understand why anyone would work in, or visit a muslim country. I would never visit such a backward place.

      blipsie - 2012-05-25 14:50

      Jeffrey it does take a certain amount of self confidence to respect other people's culture, so you probably wouldn't understand.

      Heinz - 2012-05-25 17:05

      Yes, totally cheap. Wat is mooier as 'n mooi, sexy vrou? 'n Mooi sexy vrou wat lelik sit!!

  • kerrimg - 2012-05-25 13:43

    they need to respect the culture of other countries. when you visit the Vatican in Italy you have to be covered up as well

  • pvjohnson1 - 2012-05-25 13:48

    Well it,s fine to say when in Rome etc and "respect our culture here in the U.A.E." however when the Shoe is on the other Foot,think carefully before making demands about what you demand to wear, as your right, (niqab,burkhas etc), in France/the Hated West-if you don't like it-Foxtrot Oscar.

  • leigh.ridgway - 2012-05-25 14:30

    Mmm, while these women raise riot about not showing too much skin, their husbands fill the brothels, drink the booze, sleep with the whores and it's a-okay. Little hypocrytical me thinks!

      Tax - 2012-05-25 14:42

      Your point?

      blipsie - 2012-05-25 14:51

      Wow, if all the men in UAE do that, it's surprising there are still open pieces of desert left! Surely it should all be covered by brothels, should it not?

      nixliguori - 2012-05-25 17:09

      @blipsie, there is a part of Dubai in the heart of Deira where there a so many brothels. They dont need to go out into the desert!! Although there are many expats in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that dont follow the guidelines the majority of us to try to be as respectful of the culture as possible! Unfortunatly alot of the culture out here is very hipocritical.

  • Ismail - 2012-05-25 20:11

    I agree that women of all nationalities should dress modestly at all times in the UAE nad the world. One request to the Amir of the UAE is that pork and alcohol should not be consumed or sold in the UAE which is an Islamic state.This is against THE TEACHIngs of THE HOLY QURAN AND THE HADITH ie THE SUNNAH.

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