Very rarely do I “rise to the bait” as the saying goes. I’m usually fairly insistent that I shall remain the provoker and not the provokee, but occasionally someone comes along who is so far off target that they are a public menace, and something has to be said, so this is in response to the ‘ethical dilemma’ article published on this blog yesterday which basically suggested that the United Arab Emirates is in fact the home of Satan himself and as such we should be concerned about effectively not even selling, but actually giving our souls to the devil himself.
I apologise to the blog’s normal crowd because there’s a definite lack of football related content, but some things need to be straightened out here.
The article (see it here) started by saying that we, as fans, are happy to ignore ethics. Not a good start. These are the fans who picked up their pitchforks and torches and ran Wonga out of town. Just another weekend in Byker it may have been, but hardly, I would suggest, an ethical drought.
When I first went to Saudi Arabia it wasn’t so much a culture shock as a complete electrocution. Within the first couple of weeks a neighbor was arrested for dropping his friend’s daughter at school during a family emergency. I was arrested for jogging wearing shorts and we lost a colleague who was incarcerated for smoking a cigarette on a street corner, which everyone knows translates into “here I am big boy, come and get me!”
The biggest shock to the system though was a Friday visit to “Chopper Square” where visiting foreigners were pushed to the front of the crowd so they could get the best view of exactly how local justice works. Never has the phrase “give that man a big hand” been less appropriate.
To say Saudi was a struggle would be a bit like saying Ashley can be a bit of a tease.
When the opportunity showed itself, I jumped ship and headed to the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE, like Saudi, is governed by Sharia Law but I think it would be more accurate to refer to it as Sharia- Lite.
So – what was less than accurate in yesterday’s piece slating of the UAE? Well just about everything.
Yes they have the death penalty with executions running at around one every 2 years and they are carried out by firing squad. I was there 30 years and even the old timers who were there when I arrived couldn’t remember ever hearing about a stoning or a hanging.
Personally I don’t see the death sentence for child rapists and murderers as such a bad thing. As for how it’s carried out, where on earth did we get this idea that it should be a painless and comfortable affair?
The comments on the treatment of workers are a little outdated too. Labour Laws have been shaken up to ensure that all workers have the same rights no matter what their nationality or job. It’s against the law for a company to hold passports and all workers now have free access to the Labour Ministry, where their complaints are properly investigated.
As for women’s rights I suspect he may be getting a little confused with maybe Saudi Arabia, or perhaps a 19th Century novel. This is what happens when you believe that Monty Python’s Life Of Brian is actually a documentary.
Now- as for his reference to the Emirates as “a federation of absolute monarchies presiding over a regime notorious for violating human rights”, these Monarchies provide free schooling, free medical, free dental and interest free loans to their citizens. If the loanees show a willingness to pay back the loans on time after a while these loans can be conveniently “forgotten”.
On the healthcare side of things if necessary, the government will pay for oversees treatment for Emiratis, also paying for a family member to join them overseas.
A system has been put in place whereby any foreigner wishing to start a business must have a 51% Emirati partner. This provides a source of income for Emiratis, for just signing the paper.
Emiratis with government jobs usually retire with full pension after only 15 years in their position.
I wish our government put half as much into looking after us as the Emirati federation of absolute monarchs does.
As an aside here I think it’s also fair to also mention that Emiratis live as families. There’s no way that Granny is left to fend for herself in a bungalow 100 miles down the road. Senior family members are respected and cared for. Something our democracy could do with noting.
As someone who spent more than half of my life in the UAE I say the same thing again and again when it comes to western visitors being thrown in jail. When you are in their house, you play by their rules. If you break those rules then you can get away with just about anything if you show respect.
If you are drunk, curse and swear and disrespect officials or Emiratis then it’s pretty straight forward. You’re going to jail first, and the length of your stay will be discussed at a later date.
As for freedom of speech it would be fair to say that if you tried to march through the streets of Dubai burning a UAE flag, chanting for the government to be overthrown and inciting violence against Islam, then yes, it would be a very short march indeed.
Are we arguing that we are the better nation because we would allow this to happen in the UK?
Today’s UAE bears no resemblance to the one I arrived in 30 years ago and I’m not referring to the huge skyscrapers, 16 lane highways, theme parks and out and out extravagance. While Sharia Law may remain pretty much the same, the application of it has changed. Significantly.
The rulers figured out years ago that change is necessary if the country is to evolve commercially into something a little more robust than just a big oil well. And that change is under way big time.
Thanks to wealth provided by the discovery of oil in the 40s and 50s the UAE has experienced in only 2 generations the kind of agricultural, industrial and commercial growth that took other countries hundreds of years to achieve.
Yes, there’s still room for improvement, in much the same way that the UK could be better in many areas, but to ignore the progress that has been made in all areas of work, life and the environment, in such a short period of time is just outrageous.
I can only assume from yesterday’s ill-informed rant that the ‘ethical dilemma’ article was trying its best to dampen the spirits of the Geordie Faithful. We’ve had booze companies, banks and money lenders as sponsors and Mike Ashley as an owner. I think we can cope with a successful Arab businessman.
Let’s not forget that other teams have Qatari, Saudi, Chinese, Russian, Thai and Indian owners to contend with. I think well manage.