30 March 2008

UAE and Afghanistan

It seems the UAE has troops in Aghanistan. Who knew? While their mission is primarily humanitarian, they sometimes have to fight their way out of Taliban ambushes. That's combat in any language.

They got my respect and thanks.

25 March 2008

Sharia, and You

There has been a conference in Abu Dhabi over the past few days discussing Sharia Law as a legal system. The conclusion of the conference that included 32 nations including the US, Australia and France, is that Sharia is equivalent to other legal systems.

Coincidentally, there is an article at the Middle East Media Research Institute web site that discusses Sharia law as it could be applied in Europe. It raised these differences to the law should Sharia be applied in Europe:

1) Permit polygamy for European Muslim citizens, and not punish them for it - [even though] this is considered criminal under European law;

2) Permit European Muslim citizens to beat their wives to discipline them, as the Koran urges;

3) Allow men to unilaterally decide to divorce without requiring any court proceedings, as this is a right guaranteed [to men] by shari'a;

4) Give daughters [only] half the inheritance rights that sons have, while widows receive only an eighth of the inheritance;

5) [Not] consider women's testimony the equal of men's in shari'a courts;

6) Deprive a divorced woman of custody of her children if she remarries;

7) Allow European Muslim citizens to marry in traditional marriages without the need to officially register these marriages;

8) Eliminate adoption, since it is contrary to shari'a;

9) Force a woman whose Muslim husband converts to another religion to divorce him, because he is an apostate;

10) Prevent European Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims

The article also listed the following three concerns regarding the effect of Sharia Law on human rights:

1) The concept of citizenship in Europe will change. There will be [different] classes of citizenship and of citizens, with some citizens being exempt from having the general law applied to them because they belong to a particular religion or belief. There will be a Muslim [class of] citizen, a Christian [class of] citizen, a Buddhist [class of] citizen, a Confucian [class of] citizen, and so on. Each will apply his own laws... Thus, faith will not be an individual freedom or belief; it will [come to] have extremely serious public ramifications.

2) If some or all of these laws were implemented and recognized by European legislative bodies, it would not only seriously damage human rights legislation - it would spell the end [of this legislation]. This is because everything I mentioned above is a negation of human rights principles.

3) Recognizing all, or [even] some, of these laws would take European societies back to the age before the Enlightenment and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a result, the West would revert to barbarism.

24 March 2008

Magic Stone Followup

On 7 February, I introduced the gem dealer who was trying to sell a stone that gave the wearer protection from bullets. He claims to have tested its efficacy on a sheep. He was subsequently tried, found guilty of attempted swindling, and sentenced to 6 months. Now, in the appeals court, he has asked the court to appoint an expert to examine the stone and test it for its bullet proof powers. The court has done so. There is no indication as to who the expert is or his qualifications. Stay tuned as there is bound to be more to this saga.

On another note, it is a little disturbing that a country that could acknowledge even the legal possibility that a rock could hold magical properties is going to become the first Arab country to generate electricity with nuclear power.

21 March 2008


Back on 18 February I posted a story about DEWA (Dubai Electric and Water Authority) raising rates on non-Emiratis in an effort at conservation. Today, DEWA is requesting all residents to conserve water. They say that Dubai uses 136 gallons of water per person per day, one of the highest consumption rates in the world. They advocate short showers ("You don't need to take a 20 minute shower") but they haven't gone so far as to suggest you share a shower with a friend.

I've predicted before that the infrastucture is being strained beyond its capacity. Combine that with poor construction quality and you have a city on the verge of collapse. It will happen slowly. It will start with minor inconveniences and progress to brownouts and rationing. It's time for the sheikh to get some real planning started.

20 March 2008

Tolerant Islam II

The Shoura is what passes as the legislative body in Saudi Arabia. It's members advise the King. They are also appointed by the King, so any resemblance to a Democracy is purely accidental. It recently voted to reject a resolution stating in part:

the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall work in coordination with Arab and Islamic groups and others at the United Nations to draft an international pact for respecting religions, their symbols and leaders, and prohibit insulting them in any way.”

The objection to this resolution was that it would require the recognition of religions that practiced idolatry (such as Bhuddism and Bahai) and this was forbidden under Islam. The vote was 77 to 33.

In other news, 20 clerics have supported the recent fatwa by Shaikh Abdul Rahman Al Barrak calling for the trial of Saudi newspaper columnist for apostasy. Apostasy is punishable by death.

Happy Mawlid!

Somehow that just doesn't have a "ring" to it. And greeting friends with "Eid al Mawlid al Nabi" seems a little cumbersome. But today is the birthday of the Prophet (PBUH) which is probably one of the reasons Osama (NOT Obama!) came out of his cave and issued his statement.

19 March 2008

UAE Declares War on Denmark

Well, not quite, but theUAE Foreign Affairs Minister Anwar Mohammad Gargash has sent a strong memo to the Danish Ambassador decrying the re-publishing of the infamous Mohammad cartoons (or Motoons). It said in part,

''The UAE has been keen in bolstering and maintaining its relations with countries around the world, including Denmark, because the UAE respects religious freedom and tolerance among people all over the world,''

BUT (isn't there always a BUT?)

''It condemns the unwise stand of the Danish government in not preventing the reprinting of the cartoons, defaming Islam and the Prophet Mohammad..... This will definitely cast a shadow on bilateral relations between the two countries,''

And in a closing that seems to contradict the opening statement,

The UAE refuses to accept the use of press freedom as a cover for defaming ''our religion and Prophet''

They feel that just because the UAE has a tame press that every country should be able to do the same. They somehow cannot grasp the concept of the 1st Amendment and that it applies to stuff you don't like as well as the stuff you do.

Some grocery stores in the UAE have already started to pull Danish products from their shelves. I doubt that a boycott of Danish milk and cheese will have a large impact on the Danes. But just to make sure, eat a Danish Pastry today in honor of our Danish friends.

18 March 2008

Freedom of Speech in the UAE

A local gossip rag, 7 Days, had the following story about the internet block put on the blog Secret Dubai Diary. At least he isn't in jail.

"Secret Dubai Diary, one of the emirate's most popular blogs, has been shut down in a move that has upset the many thousands of its readers. The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has decided to block secretdubai.blogspot.com, calling it, “a web site for slander, defamation and vilification against Dubai”.

The same site was blocked in 2005 for similar reasons. However, since laws to block web sites were not concrete then, the site was eventually unblocked. This time, the TRA says the content was more offensive.

TRA spokesman Rasheed Joumblatt told 7DAYS: “Many people contacted the TRA complaining about the offensive language and the lies that had been spread on the site, 'mutilating' their beautiful city and twisting facts to dishonour the development and progress of the city…“The TRA browsed the web site and found that it is a site for slander, defamation and vilification against the city of Dubai… and UAE individuals and personalities.”

However, one expat who regularly read the site said he was disappointed to see it had been blocked. He said: “It offered a nice irreverent look at life in the UAE. I do not believe it was slanderous or anti-Dubai. It was just people speaking their mind and giving their own, honest views on people living here. I hope the ban is lifted.”

The good news is that the blog is not blocked outside of Dubai. Follow the link on the left and judge for yourself if the blogger "mutilates a beautiful city and dishonors their progress".

Cat is Out of the Bag

British TV executive, Cat le Huy, recently released from prison in the UAE, tells about his experience. He was held when the Dubai police found 0.03 grams of hashish in his suitcase. (That's the size of a grain of sugar, folks) What is interesting is the numbers of foreigners he met in prison. He said that during the Dubai Shopping Festival, an event designed to attract tourists, that the prison was receiving about 9 foreigners a day. UAE apologists say things that we "should respect their culture" and obey their laws but any free human being can see that the application of the laws and treatment of prisoners are unreasonable. Americans fought a revolution over just such treatment. But I digress.....

I first went to Dubai in 1979. We stayed in company supplied housing. We had movie night on Wednesdays. The first movie I saw there was "Midnight Express". Go find it in your local rental store and it will cure you of trying to commit a crime in a Muslim country.

17 March 2008

"Unfantasy Island"

Secret Dubai Diary sends out an email newsletter that contains items that otherwise might get his blog blocked by the proxy server. The latest issue had this tidbit concerning the expensive villas on the Dubai Palm.

"it's an island dream for Palm residents! Shoreline apartments have lovely eco-friendly ventilation thanks to structural cracks and underground car parks have been turned into free
swimming pools. And replacing the naff fixtures and fittings is easy, with chandeliers crashing from the ceiling! "

Just the Usual Security

Easter approaches and Dubai is making sure that no homicidal bombers attack the Christian churches there. Security has been increased and measures include parking in a remote area and bag searches.

It probably difficult for the subjects of this security to distinguish between a concern for the safety of "people of the Book" and harrassment of non-Muslims.

Tolerant Islam

A couple of newspaper reporters are in trouble with the Saudi clergy over an article that suggests Muslims should be free to follow other religions. The top Saudi cleric is calling for their deaths for committing the crime of apostasy.

10 March 2008

Official Language

I have often said that Dubai and the UAE serve as an example of what could happen to the USA if illegal immigration is not controlled. About 80% of the population of the UAE are immigrants, typically uneducated manual laborers who come to earn money in the Dubai building boom. If you travel the Emirates, you will hear mostly English and Urdu. English because that language is now almost the universal language used to communicate between different cultures, and Urdu because most of the population comes from India or Pakistan and they speak it between themselves.

However, Dubai has now passed a law making Arabic the national language. Obviously, there were concerns about losing the national identity. It will be interesting see what happens because with the majority of the population speaking a language other than Arabic, provisions will need to be made for non-Arabic speakers in government transactions or the system will grind to a halt.

07 March 2008

Battle of the Burj

Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal wants to build a mile high tower. Al Waleed is a Saudi billionaire and grandson to the founder of The Kingdom. The tower, built in Jeddah, could be twice the height of Burj Dubai, currently the tallest bolding in the world and not yet topped out. By the way, this is the same guy that offered $10 million to NYC after 9/11 and that Rudy G refused to accept.

I can't wait to see what Sheikh Mo will do once his precious Burj Dubai is no longer the tallest building in the world.

The problem, you see, is that Arabs have not read the Bible and learned the story of the Tower of Babel.

06 March 2008

Canadian in Trouble in The Kingdom

Canadian Mohamud Kohail, 23, has been sentenced to be beheaded for murder by a Saudi Court. It seems he went to a school yard to help defend his 16 year old brother who had been accused of insulting a female. He was met by a group of young men with clubs and knives. In the ensuing brouhaha, one of the young men was killed. Friends and family think the Saudi Court ignored evidence when handing down the sentence for 1st degree murder and want the Canadian government to intervene.

05 March 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

An "Asian" man and his girl friend, both in their 20s, confessed in Dubai Court of Misdemeanor to having an "illicit relation" and also to assault. When asked why they hit each other, she stated that her lover broke wind in bed. A heated argument ensued which then led to blows being exchanged.

It sure seems like a lot of aggravation to go through for a little spontaneous gas. Not to mention the waste of time for the Court.

03 March 2008

Head Count

Saudi Arabia executed a total of 10 people in February for a 2 month total of 30 people. Most of those executed were murderers. Three were for drug offenses. These were all public beheadings.

The UAE is on the scoreboard with 1 in February. They shot a murderer.