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Durham University News

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Jailing of British couple a warning to expatriates

(16 October 2008)

The jailing of a British couple in Dubai for committing indecency is a warning to “culturally incompatible” expatriates, says Durham University expert.

Dr Christopher Davidson, a lecturer in the School of Government and International Affairs and author of the recent book Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success, said the case could also be part of “a backlash against rampant economic and social liberalisation in the United Arab Emirates”. He said: “The outcome of today’s (Thursday October 16) court case is of great significance as it could have wider implications for the problems faced by Dubai as it forges ahead with new economic sectors such as tourism and real estate. “Economic liberalisation and a relaxation of rules and regulations has made Dubai home to millions of expatriates, many of whom are non-Arab and non-Muslim. “An increasing number of residents and visitors are now 'culturally incompatible' with the norms and values of what remains an essentially conservative country headed by a traditional monarchy that continues to draw legitimacy from religion and history. “This has caused a stark faultline to emerge in the emirate, and should similar incidents persist - as would seem inevitable - the faultline will continue to widen. “Undoubtedly the decision to jail this couple sends out a message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated and that Dubai cannot be treated as if it is a Mediterranean holiday hotspot. “Very recently, neighbouring emirates such as Ajman, which is less than a 30 minute drive from Dubai, have frozen residency visas for foreign property investors without employment. “This may be the beginning of a backlash against rampant economic and social liberalisation in the United Arab Emirates.”

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