DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, (AP) – Another don’t in Dubai: keep the hand gestures clean or risk a one-way ticket home.
That’s the message from Dubai’s highest court in a ruling that upheld the deportation of a Pakistani man for a case of road rage that included one of the most familiar side effects — the widely known insult of a raised middle finger.
The Court of Cassation — the last stop in the appeal process — confirmed that the United Arab Emirates’ strict indecency codes cover hand gestures and the deportation sentence would stand, media reports said Sunday.
It’s no surprise for those familiar with the UAE’s legal system, which is infused with traditional codes against public insults and other acts considered violations of customs in the native Gulf Arab society.
But in Dubai’s cultural soup — dominated by foreign workers, visitors and sun-seeking vacationers — such rules can seem far removed from the skyscrapers, Western-style malls and lifestyle options that are much closer to California than Cairo.
The court ruling is the latest reminder of Dubai’s split personalities as both ambitiously cosmopolitan and instinctively conservative.
The Pakistani man sought to challenge his one-month jail sentence and deportation for giving “the finger” during a traffic altercation. The court, headed by Judge Mohammed Nabil Riyadh, ruled that deportation was acceptable to all acts deemed indecent under UAE law.
The complication is that it’s often hard to distinguish the red lines.
Malls feature signs appealing for “respectful” clothing by women, but miniskirts and skimpy tops are common among foreigners. Public displays of affection are officially banned, but the boundaries are unclear between a friendly kiss and romantic smooch.
In March, a British couple was sentenced to a month in jail and deportation for what was described as exchanging a provocative kiss in a restaurant. The couple insisted it was just a peck on the cheek.
Earlier last year, an unmarried Indian couple was sentenced to three months in jail for exchanging steamy text messages.
In 2008, two Britons accused of having sex on the beach got three months in jail, though their sentences were later suspended.