UK Media Slams Dubai; Champions Criminals

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

Guest Commentary

UK law enforcement may be soft on druggies and people who display anti-social behaviour as is their privilege. If Britain sees fit to coddle criminals or put their rights above those of the population that’s a policy decision taken by a sovereign nation. But let me put it bluntly: any country that thinks it can export criminal elements to the UAE and imagine that they will be treated with kid gloves should think twice. They have their laws and we have ours, which are not only designed to protect Emiratis but also the millions of expatriates who have elected to live and work in the country who arrive in the knowledge that the UAE is one of the last remaining safe havens on the planet where residents are able to stroll around at any time of the day or night without fear.

Can residents of London or Manchester, Cardiff or Glasgow say the same thing? No, of course! Even hotel guests aren’t secure. On Sunday, a thief bludgeoned three Emirati women while they were asleep with their children in a five-star hotel near London’s Marble Arch; one is in a critical condition. The perpetrator deserves to feel the full fist of the law, but in a country where the rights of felons often trump those of their victims, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Yet, rather than spotlighting the myriad of positives which make our country a global standout, for some strange reason elements of the UK media appear to harbour an anti-UAE agenda, which sometimes takes the shape of an absolute vendetta. Dubai, in particular, became their target during the 2008 global economic downturn when, according to numerous British opinion writers, Dubai should have been an impoverished desert wasteland by now; you could almost see some writers salivating at the prospect between the lines.

That sad scenario didn’t pan out as they foresaw, so now they’ve switched their attention to “the shocking treatment” meted out to British holiday-makers who think our beaches are private bedrooms, the Palm Jumeirah is an alcohol-soaked nudist colony and the emirate at large is a paradise for pill-poppers, sniffers and injectors. It is not and it never will be – and we make no apology for that. Would such practices go unnoticed in Selfridges, Harrods or in the grounds of Windsor Castle?

Our children are our treasure; our culture and traditions are wrapped in our hearts; our dignity is to be cherished. Anyone unable or unwilling to abide by our simple laws, mirroring common law all over the world, isn’t welcome. If British editors imagine that we will turn a blind eye to losers endangering our young people as well as the children of British citizens whose safety rests in our hands, they’re mistaken.

Emiratis have a long historical relationship with the British people. British passport holders were the only ones who could get an entry visa at UAE points of entry for decades; Britons feel at home here. On a government level, the UK and the UAE have strong ties. But that warmth and mutual respect requires constant nurturing and should not be seen as offering Britain’s Foreign Office and media carte blanche to judge/critique our efforts to protect our society from degeneration. We will not accept drunkards sleeping in cardboard boxes under our tunnels or throwing-up on our streets. We refuse to look kindly upon drug dealers hanging around the gates of our schools and universities so as to poison young lives. And we expect a couple’s private life to remain just that, private.

The UAE’s police forces are well-trained and work with the benefit of sophisticated capabilities. Unlike the forces of many countries in our region, our police are not highly visible. They don’t intrude upon the daily lives of law-abiding residents and have been schooled in PR as well as techniques of interacting respectfully with people.  Earlier this month, Dubai Police won seven ‘Excellence Awards’ from Dubai’s government; it’s a force that’s won numerous awards, locally, regionally and globally. Yet, turn to the Telegraph or the Guardian and you would be forgiven for believing its members were torturers who throw offenders into “rat-infested” cells. Anyone living in Dubai would understand how ridiculous those headline grabbing accusations sound.

Do those dailies truly believe the outrageous accounts of convicted criminals over Dubai’s authorities or what exactly? Following the arrest of three “British tourists on holiday” on drug charges, the Telegraph published a one-sided article headlined “Rats, filth and electrocution” that largely quoted a Reprieve lawyer who warned “I am sure this story will linger in people’s memories – particularly when it comes to booking their holidays.” I’m sorry to disappoint him but the UAE is witnessing an increase in British visitors. The trio was ultimately pardoned subsequent to an appeal by David Cameron.

It was a recent story in the Guardian on the alleged experiences of two Britons, Ahmad Zeidan and Hasnain Ali, arrested for drug offences, which galvanized me to have my say on this topic. Naturally, they’ve protested their innocence, as they all do, with the excuse that they were forced to sign confessions written in Arabic. These two are using the same tried and true trick that the three pardoned men used. They also claim they’ve been tortured and abused, a convenient line the Foreign Office has fallen for again, according to leaked documents.

So anyone from the UK can come here, perpetrate a criminal act, and claim they’ve been tortured to receive a ‘get-out-of-jail’ card while David Cameron and his suits to bring them home. Never mind that the UAE police are being defamed over and over again with this bleeding heart nonsense.

And talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Last year, a British court investigating the conduct of British soldiers in Iraq, received over 1,000 witness accounts alleging the military broke international laws and was guilty of systematic torture. The dossier has been presented to the International Criminal Court in The Hague by a German human rights organisation and a British law firm. A public inquiry into allegations that British soldiers murdered 20 unarmed Iraqis, tortured five others and mutilated the bodies of their victims kicked off just last month.

British holidaymakers looking for glorious weather, warm seas, fine sand beaches, sports facilities, entertainment, great shopping and diverse cuisines can enjoy the vacation of a lifetime in the UAE; those seeking anti-social gratifications or artificial highs, people too jaded to get high on the wonder of living, should stay home. It’s as simple as that!

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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