Kiss your sanity goodbye
I’ve made many observations in the past about the stupidity of the law, and it’s now becoming clear that different laws and different legal systems are stupid for different reasons.
Take Sharia for instance. There are many people I know who believe it is a perfectly sensible system and who abide by it every day, and on the face of it, Sharia is no different to the Ten Commandments, upon which most common law is based – actually, it’s just common sense.
What’s not common sense is when a law is hi-jacked and used by extremists to impose their morals on others, or exploited by small-minded fools to hold back the development of a society.
Take this story pictured in the National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, where a British ex-pat and a UK visitor were seen kissing in a hotel restaurant after having a drink, and as a result have been sentenced to a month in jail and then deportation.
Now, I have plenty of friends who have worked in the Middle East and who relate ludicrous horror stories like this every time I see them.
I have also visited the Jumeriah Beach Residence in Dubai and know that it is an ultra modern hotel which like many in the region, sells alcohol to ex-pats and foreign visitors, and feels entirely like any other luxury hotel anywhere in the world.
So here’s a few matters arising:
Some friends meet for a drink and a meal, in a place where food and alcohol are openly and legally sold to them.
Some woman, who has her kids with her at 2 o’clock in the morning, sees them kissing, but doesn’t see them well enough to be able to tell whether it is on the lips or the cheek, tells the authorities and suddenly these people are arrested and face jail time.
Now, if someone is jailed for having drunk alcohol in a place where alcohol is on sale, isn’t that called entrapment?
If you are taken into an environment where you are treated very much as if you were at home, and arrested for doing something you would normally do there, are you not being deliberately misled?
If I had my children in a hotel bar or restaurant at 2 o’clock in the morning, shouldn’t I expect to be arrested for child abuse and have my kids taken away by social services?
Unfortunately, this is all perfectly normal in the fairytale-land of the Middle East, and it tells you a lot about how the people of this region are simply not ready to deal with the West, despite claims to the contrary by it’s leaders, even though almost all of them have not been elected, and who treat their own people like children.
Cities like Dubai have spent jaw-dropping amounts of money on buildings and infrastructure, using an army of slave labourers from South Asia; they have enticed Western businesses with tax-free financing to set up shop there so they can point to these developments and say they are democratic and modern, and they build fantastic hotels and allow them to sell alcohol to ex-pats so as to encourage these businesses to bring staff over.
But underneath it all, the old laws remain in place – the laws that were developed in the Middle Ages still hold sway, and of course, ignorance is no defence.
And there’s the problem: Western people are encoraged to go into cities like Dubai, they are made to feel at home, given all the comforts of home plus tax-free wages, or stay in luxurious hotels where food and alcohol are freely available.
But technically, the laws still apply, even inside the hotels.
Add to this a swathe of local people who see huge amounts of money being spent on Western-style business and hotels and not on them, and you suddenly have an army of spies who are full of righteous indignation and happy to exploit the old laws to their own advantage to make life uncomfortable for any Westerner who strays.
If you treat people like children, is it any surprise that they act like them?
The same is true in the stone-cold sober world of business, and I have heard many a tale about Western business people held in the country they called home, against their will, because there is a dispute over their business dealings, usually because the local partner faces having to take some responsibility for their actions and like a pouting teenager would rather falsely blame it on the “corrupt” Westerner.
Again the local laws are little changed from the Middle Ages and in countries where you need a visa to leave the country, and where bureaucracies are still based on paper and fax, where there are no bankruptcy laws and where debtors go to prison (and the local labour laws prevent them from finding other work) and where the court system is as transparent as mud, there’s no wonder Western businesses find the cards stacked against them if things go wrong.
Until these iniquities are sorted out, the Middle East will never be a safe place for Western companies and executives to do business, and that won’t happen until these countries grow up and drag their people and their legal systems into the modern age, and start treating them like grown-ups.