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Emirati Women Choose Modesty

The campaign's logo - a red circle with a black, short-sleeve, knee-length dress - is widely recognized in the UAE.

By OnIslam & News Agencies | Dubai | 25 May 2012

Asking foreigners to respect their culture, two Emirati women have launched a new awareness campaign against the revealing clothes worn by Western women in the conservative gulf county.

“I saw a woman at the mall wearing very short shorts and she looked repulsive,” Asma al-Muheiri, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

Along with Hanan al-Rayyes, Al-Muheiri launched “UAE Dress Code” campaign on the online microblogging site Twitter this month.

The campaign was designed to promote “respect for the country's culture” among foreigners and raise awareness about what locals consider appropriate dress and behavior.

It was introduced as a rejection for western habits and clothes brought to UAE by millions of tourists to visit the gulf country every year.

Those tourists usually dress in skimpy outfits, which show too much flesh and kiss in public, all of which are unacceptable for its conservative and Islamic culture.

Notices at entrances to malls in the United Arab Emirates warn shoppers to dress modestly, while signs depict how much skin visitors are allowed to reveal. But the guidelines are often ignored.

The story began when Muheiri reported one woman, who wore unsuitable clothes, to a mall management to be told that there was nothing they could do.

Urging foreigners to respect local customs, she posted a tweet about the incident and triggered “a lot of responses supporting my position.”

A Twitter search for #UAEdresscode reveals a barrage of comments.

“Every Expat in UAE must respect the country culture ... as we respect ur country rules & laws, u shud do the same in return,” reads one posting.

“Expats/Tourists, Nobody's pointing a gun at u & force u to live/visit here. If u can't stand the LOCAL values & law, then LEAVE,” another post said.

The campaign's logo - a red circle with a black, short-sleeve, knee-length dress - is widely recognized in the UAE.

It is the same image posted on signs in malls urging women to “please wear respectful clothing.”

Respect Culture

The new campaign asked foreigners in the UAE to respect local customs or face due fines.

Al-Rayyes said the actions of those who violate their view of “decent” dress were “uncivilized,” such as women at shopping centers dressed in “nothing more than a shirt” or “mini shorts that reveal their underwear.”

“I don't accept this and I won't stay quiet about it,” she said.

Local psychologist Nadia Bouhanad says the campaign reflected a “a fear by Emiratis that they might lose their social values.”

The campaign has caused a stir in the country, attracting hundreds of posts and the attention of the local press.

One campaign supporter, who identified himself as Ibn Thaleth, insisted the campaign was not an attack on foreigners in the UAE.

“They (foreigners) are allowed to do all sorts of things that we don't agree with,” Ibn Thaleth told AFP.

“We are not against them ... We are just asking them to show our culture a little respect.”

Emiratis are traditionally conservative.

The overwhelming majority of local women wear the full black veil, revealing only their hands and face, while most men wear the traditional white cloak known as the “thawb.”

Alcohol, though forbidden in Islam, is readily available throughout the year in bars, clubs and restaurants attached to hotels in most of the UAE.

Pork is also sold in supermarkets in a separate section marked “for non-Muslims only.”



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