Thursday, July 5, 2012

GCC Dress Codes: Part Deux

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the current campaign going on in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) encouraging locals and foreigners to wear more clothing in public areas. I feel that I only managed to make half the points that I wanted to make in that post, hence a second part to my contribution on the debate.

I won't pretend that I know Islam well. I have been trying to learn, as it is a fascinating religion, although I must confess, I am not what I would call a religious person (agnostic with heavy leanings towards atheism). But, from my understanding, part of Islam is living a life that does not get wrapped up in material items. Living modestly is more than just's about everything around you. At least, this is my understanding/interpretation. Okay, fine. So, now we have this campaign, with religious undertones, trying to tell people that they should dress megalithic, lavish, overpriced, materialistic malls!!! Does anyone else see the irony here?? I mean, Dubai is hardly what I would call an Islamic city in any way, shape or form. It's known as a glitzy center of overindulgence and extreme material wealth, and a party, tourist destination. I don't believe Dubai fits into what Islam is asking for in the slightest. So, why, with all of this extreme, insane material wealth, is the focus firmly put on what people are wearing? Where are the calls for less elaborate buildings or a more modest skyline?? This seems overly selective to me. Obviously, if one of the main focuses of this campaign targets people in malls, these "modest" individuals are shopping in these materialistic Mecca's (pun intended). Is this not hypocritical?? Yes, I believe it is. I believe this is called Cherry Picking your cultural battles. And, of course, when this issue is raised, I have repeatedly been told that I am envious of the wealth and success of the UAE. I am going to be completely honest here: No, I am not. I have been wearing the same t-shirts for the past three years, and I like it that way. I am not exactly a fancy dresser. In Canada, I own a 1999 Saturn, and am thrilled with it. Sure, I like the looks of a Ferrari, but I see no practical use in owning one, or owning an item of clothing that would cost me the price of a vacation. No, I am not jealous. I hate malls. I try to avoid them like the plague. They are filled with piles of useless stuff that I don't want, in generic, bland stores, playing generic, bland autotuned pop music!! No jealousy here at all. In fact, most of the time, I feel more Muslim than most of these folks who claim to be Muslim.

The next big issue to me are the moral judgments that have been going on with this campaign. The underlying message, by many supporters, ranges from "Dressing immodestly shows that you have little class and think poorly of yourself", to out and out implying that people are sluts and whores asking to be raped by wearing the wrong clothes. Yes, this bothers me. Look, if you, individually feel it is important to dress a certain way based on YOUR moral ideas, that is fine. But judging others character and morals on what they choose to wear is just wrong, in many ways. It's cruel, it's mean, it's uncalled for, and it makes a complete mockery of the campaign and instantly loses my support. If someone is not dressed the way you like, covering up for sensitivity reasons is one thing, while covering up because people are implying that you are of poor moral character is a complete other ball of wax. And sadly, over and over, supporters have stated that women who wear provocative clothing are asking for sexual harassment or worse. This really pisses me off to no end, and I really wish someone would start a Slut Walk campaign or something to challenge these ridiculously misogynistic, and outright dangerous ideas! And, again, I must ask, is THIS what their religion is teaching these folks?? If so, it makes Islam look very unappealing from my perspective. So, once again, we have a specific campaign calling for people to be respectful, while showing absolutely little respect for others.

Finally, there is the issue of culture. I am in no way against the idea of preserving culture, but why are clothes the main focus here? Much of the culture has been decimated by fast food restaurants, giant SUVs, attempts to constantly build the world's tallest buildings, bars, malls, you name it. And, then there is the fact, as mentioned in my previous post that the overwhelming vast majority of the population aren't even from the country! That helps to kill culture pretty quick, regardless of what dress codes some wish to implement by law. Clothes really are superficial in this equation. Culture is far deeper than a few inches of cloth. And the frustrating thing is, Emiratis seem to like all of the fancy buildings and great stuff that gets built or comes with all of these foreigners, but there seems to be a general feeling of resentment and dislike towards the foreigners who are building all this stuff or bringing in things that are desired. Of course this doesn't apply to everyone; not all in the Emirates think this way, obviously. But, in the end, if the Gulf drastically decreased the number of foreigners coming in, stopped building like crazy, started making sure that jobs that foreigners are doing are being done by locals (including construction, taxi driving, menial labor, service jobs, etc.), regulated the number of chain stores and restaurants, and more, THEN, we are talking about preserving culture in a far more meaningful and effective way. Is that happening? No. Instead you have a group who feels that preserving culture is by telling people what to wear.

Again, I do not live in the UAE, or, thankfully, in the Gulf at all anymore. I am presenting my opinion. This opinion really doesn't matter. These are just my views on this subject, which strikes a chord with me because I have been, until just a few days ago, living in the Gulf. I am still rather absorbed in the issues and current events in the Gulf. This is why I have taken such an interest and have developed strong opinions. But, when all is said and done, that is all they are....opinions. 

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