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Making clear what is appropriate is nothing new in civil society

09/11/2009 11:58 PM

Dubai: There has been a storm of criticism in the wake of an article published recently about the need for enforcing dress codes in malls and other public places in Dubai.

Pointed comparisons have been made about the 'cosmopolitan' nature of malls in other countries and taking umbrage at the perceived interference in personal freedoms. However, a little research by Gulf News has shown that even countries like the US and Italy don't mind signboards in malls clearly stating permissible standards of attire and conduct.

Mariam Bin Fahd, executive director of the Dubai Press Club, observed: "All we need is clarify the whole picture and deliver the sought message.

"Signs of dress code in the malls are not seen in Dubai only; on the contrary I recently saw a similar sign at a mall in Italy asking shoppers to adhere to the [standards of] general courtesy of the country. Dubai is one of the most glamorous cities in the world and its uniqueness [has] made it a dream destination for everyone; however, let's remind everyone that Dubai is part of the UAE and has a conservative community like the rest of the emirates. Therefore, Dubai's visitors have to pay attention to the Islamic background and inherited culture of the city and act accordingly."

Dr Mouza Gobash, chairperson of Cultural Rewaq Awsha Bint Hussain and former professor of sociology at UAE University, emphasised the role of globalisation: "Globalisation is the core factor in such a hot topic. If we go back in time we will observe that such issue is just an obvious result of the usual conflicts of globalisation; it's an immortal conflict and all countries are desperate to protect their own cultures despite the role of globalisation in combining them all in one international culture.

"Let's be realistic, there are always unbreakable walls separating each culture from another, especially at a level of belief and national identity," she said.

Essa Adam Ebrahim, a former president of an association of Dubai shopping malls and general manager of BurJuman Centre and Al Reef Mall said: "Dubai's visitors have to be completely aware of the Islamic background and the culture not to mention the conservative community of the emirates.

"Moreover, personal freedom should be practised at home, not outside, because once you step outside your home then your actions are judged by the society and any society is governed by rules."

Antonia Christiano from Italy observed: "Being a former student at Dubai British Council had made me aware of the crucial aspects of the country's culture; so when I visit it I make sure to wear appropriate outfits and my daughter does that as well."

Is there enough awareness about the dress code in shopping malls? Should people wear what they want? Or should they be more aware of the culture they are living in?

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