Dubai: High life and hypocrisy

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Brian Whitaker at Comment is Free on the recent case of the R&B producer Dallas Austin, who was busted in Dubai with some cocaine he’d picked up back home. He got a four-year prison term, but returned to the USA today after being pardonned by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. As is noted, there are at least three laws in force there: one for locals, one for rich westerners and one for poor foreigners:

Dubai, meanwhile, is trying to project itself as a modern, western-oriented playground for the rich, and the last thing it wants is a celebrity with more money than sense - just the sort of people it is trying to attract - languishing in one of its jails. At the same time, in common with many of the Arab states, it tries to uphold “traditional morality” and keep religious conservatives happy by imposing draconian laws that are widely ignored. Ultimately, this results in one law for the locals and another for foreigners - or rather, two different laws for foreigners depending on whether they are westerners (and therefore to be treated with care) or foreigners from poor countries (in which case they don’t matter and can be treated appallingly). I am also uneasy about the use of pardons. We have seen a lot of these in Saudi Arabia recently, where loony judges sentence people for bizarre crimes and the king then short-circuits the system by issuing a pardon. This tends to happen most with cases that attract publicity in the west - such as that of a teacher who got into trouble for talking about alcohol in a chemistry lesson.

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