The crackdown comes in the wake of the arrest of a British
businessman and his acquaintance who were caught having sex on the beach
recently. They are facing up to six years in prison, and the woman, an employee
of a publishing firm, has already been sacked for her indiscretions.
The incident, the couple's drunken binge and the tantrums
the women threw when the police tried to separate them, all that created a stir
in the Muslim city state that attracts thousands of Westerners.
Now the authorities have embarked on a public awareness
campaign to remind tourists and foreign residents that the city may have flashy
hotels and glitzy skyscrapers but it also is located in a Muslim country with
traditionally conservative values.
The city is installing signs warning tourists in Arabic,
English and several other languages not to sunbathe topless or change clothes
in public, said Abdullah Mohammed Rafia, an official with Dubai Municipality whose office is overseeing the public
awareness campaign, AP news agency reports.
Police have installed watchtowers and dispatched undercover
officers to patrol the beaches, which also will be lit up at night to curb
First-time offenders may be issued a just warning but, if
caught twice, tourists could be referred to the public prosecutor for possible
criminal charges, authorities say.
The action is in response to "numerous complaints"
filed by people who visit the city's beaches, Rafia said. Complaints have
ranged from families "offended by displays of nudity" to women sunbathers
who say groups of men stare at them while at the beach.
The police campaign also will target people who harass
beachgoers with acts "deemed offensive, immoral or disrespectful,"
including loitering and voyeurism, said Dubai's
acting police chief, Maj. Gen. Khamis Mattar al-Mazeina.
is more liberal than many other Muslim countries in the region and the
foreigners could be seen moving around in shorts and skimpy clothes.
Thousands of European and Asian expatriates live and work in
native Emiratis make up only about 20 percent of its estimated 1.2 million
residents. Shopping malls and fast food restaurants have replaced traditional
Arab houses, and English has overtaken Arabic as the emirate's lingua franca.
The backlash seems to have begun. Westerners would think
twice hereafter before letting themselves go.
The woman, arrested recently, for instance, used to get
hammered weekends, with endless drinking bouts and then take the floor with an
abandon rarely seen in that part of the world.
Such things will now come to an end, it is felt. News agency
AP quoted John MacLean, on a holiday with his girlfriend, as saying, "I am
not sure if I can kiss her or touch her in public now."
You don't push the boundaries too far, as an observer counseled.