Friday, 30 April 2010

Muslim-phobia is so entrenched that it's gone beyond a joke

This article from the Age newspaper in Australia comments on the death threats received by the creators of the popular American tv cartoon series "South Park".  The writer of the piece is Irfan Yusuf, a lawyer and author of the comic memoir Once Were Radicals: My Years as a Teenage Islamo-fascist
Like many people, I gave up watching 'South Park' years ago as the creators seemed to have a checklist of every religion/race/minority group in humanity and were working their way down the list making sure they offended each one.  
Source: The Age 30th April 30, 2010
Just mention Islam and any ludicrous threat will be treated seriously.
Infidels of the world, lend me your ears! We the Coburg Jihad (Coburg is a suburb in Melbourne, Australia), representing every Muslim in the galaxy, wish to warn The Footy Show against depicting the prophet Muhammad as having any involvement in the Melbourne Storm salary cap affair.
We (as in myself and some bloke I mentioned the idea to at Coburg McDonald's while everyone else was at the mosque) have had enough of your evil filthy infidel media insolence. Ignore our warning and we will put a jihad on you. Or maybe that should be fatwa. Whatever.
Sound ridiculous? Well, it's almost as ridiculous as the media overkill triggered by a dozen numbskulls from New York who called themselves "Revolution Muslim" and made imbecilic threats against the makers of South Park. The New York Times reported that some 20-year-old calling himself Abu Talha al-Amrikee (literally "Talha's-dad-who-also-happens-to-be-American") clarified things on Revolution Muslim's blog as follows:
"We have to warn Matt [Stone] and Trey [Parker, the co-creators of South Park] that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them."
The executives at Comedy Central, which broadcasts South Park, may have wondered whether to take such blogospheric fantasies seriously. Normally, a warning coming from 12 bloggers claiming to represent 1.3 billion people worldwide would be treated as ridiculous. Unless, of course, we're talking about Muslims.
My guess is that most Americans, Muslim or otherwise, have never heard of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker murdered by a lone psychotic Dutch-Moroccan man. And even fewer will have heard of Revolution Muslim. But that didn't stop Comedy Central taking precautions and censoring the depiction of Muhammad in the broadcast episode.
But I'm seriously wondering what all the fuss was about. I mean, the prophet Muhammad was apparently shown wearing a bear suit or had his visage covered with black spots.
Compare this to the depiction of the Virgin Mary in an earlier episode, in which her statue was shown as a place of pilgrimage where people were healed by the blood flowing from her backside.
The episode, entitled ''Bloody Mary'' and broadcast in December 2005, offended millions of Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians and should have been extremely offensive to Muslims. We won't know if this miraculous menstrual fluid "joke" at the heart of the episode triggered some wacko bloggers in Latin America, eastern Europe or the Philippines to issue threats. Perhaps that's because our media are even more ignorant about non-Western Christians than they are of Muslims.
The fact remains that I didn't read of too many Muslim religious groups complaining about it, which leads me to ask: What would Muhammad say about South Park?
Or, better still, would he even have bothered with it? Muslims should know that their prophet had bigger concerns than a few jokes. He and his extended family were forced to live in the wilderness in conditions so dire that at one stage they ate leaves. He was then driven from his home by his own people. The city where he sought refuge was invaded three times. When he finally overcame his foes and returned victorious to his home town, biographers record him as saying to his former oppressors: "As Joseph said to his brothers in Egypt, so I say to you - go, you are free!"
Muslims know of Muhammad as a man who happily forgave the men and women who murdered his followers, even the woman who chewed the liver of his uncle slain on the battlefield. Perhaps Talha's-dad-who-also-happens-to-be-American and his blog colleagues could learn some basic Islamic history before their next online outburst.
Talha's father might also recall that one of the canonical books of Muhammad's sayings, collected by Imam Tirmidhi, contains an entire chapter devoted to Muhammad's jokes. Maybe Talha's old man should watch some of the cable TV broadcast across Muslim countries and see what blasphemous humour is broadcast in Urdu, Arabic, Turkish, Bengali, Bahasa Indonesia and a host of other languages commonly spoken by Muslims.
Talha's papa might, for instance, consider an episode of Late Night With Begum Nawazish Ali, the comedic talk show hosted by the openly gay Ali Saleem cross-dressed in a sari and playing the widow of a Pakistani colonel. Among Saleem's guests are leaders of Pakistani religious parties who happily shake her hand on the basis that she is really a he!
Who knows? After this controversy, Abu Talha himself might be invited on to the show. Certainly he'd be more useful to Muslims there than behaving on the blogosphere like a caricature terrorist from Team America: World Police.
And so, dear infidels, let me end this fatwa with a reminder that Team America, that hilarious movie which enabled many of us (Muslim or otherwise) to laugh ourselves senseless during the senseless days of Bush, Blair and Howard's disastrous "War on Terror", was brought to us by none other than the makers of South Park.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Deadly actions with minimal consequences

Very much in keeping with the subtitle of this blog: In February, two young men, both 19 year old Emiratis, were racing their hotted-up 4x4s in Al Khawaneej which is a residential suburb here in Dubai. According to Traffic Prosecution, the two students had "made modifications to their cars for acceleration and enhancing engine performance." They were doing 130kph in a 60 kph zone when one of them hit a car, killing the other driver. High speed racing in a suburban street.
Do these young men have to take responsibility for killing someone due to their reckless disregard and negligence? As if!  It seems they're old enough to have the fast cars and drive them recklessly but apparently not old enough to take the consequences of their actions. So, what’s the punishment?

  1. 3 months in jail.  This is the same sentence given to the ‘sex on the beach’ couple.  Strange, I would have thought that killing someone was a more serious crime but there you go...;
  2. A 500 dirham fine each. 500 dirhams converts to the grand sum of $147;
  3. Between them they have to pay 200,000 dirhams in blood money to the family of the dead driver. 200,000 dirhams converts to $59,111;
  4. They are both banned from driving for 1 year (yeah right).
The drivers are not kids, these are 19 year olds who, one assumes possibly incorrectly, are old enough to know right from wrong, who know that suburban streets have other cars on them and who have the resources to 'soup up' their cars and know the horsepower that will result. One of the drivers also had his licence endorsed as requiring glasses to drive but he chose not to wear them.
Meanwhile the RTA continues to tell Dubai motorists that they are targeting dangerous driving, but what’s the real message that some drivers are getting? The message is that they can do what they like because they’ll get away with it.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

UAE internet woes to continue until Friday

Source: ArabianBusiness 27 April 2010
Repair work is ongoing on the undersea cable, UAE telco Etisalat has confirmed.  Repair work to the damaged Mediterranean Sea cable, which has caused internet problems in the UAE, will affect services until at least Friday.
And while UAE telecoms giant Etisalat has said it expects the work to be completed by April 30, a leading analyst has estimated a complete restoration of service could take until late on Sunday May 2.
The work was originally scheduled to be completed on April 20, according to rival telco du. A second deadline was set for April 27, however the Etisalat confirmed a new delay due to bad weather.
“The management committee of the SEA-ME-WE-4 cable which suffered damage in the Mediterranean Sea last week, has updated its customers on the status of repairs,” UAE-telecoms giant Etisalat said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The cable ship tasked with repairing the cable arrived on April 24 and started the repair process on April 25,” the statement continued. “A delay was experienced in this process caused by bad weather. It is now expected that the repairs will be completed on April 30 and Internet normalisation within the UAE will be seen immediately afterwards.”
However Graham Nonweiler, group managing director of global telecoms specialists Nonweiler Associates, which monitors global internet cable connectivity around the world, said that “the current best estimate for complete restoration of normal service on SMW4 is late afternoon UAE time Sunday 2nd May.”
Nonweiler added that when repairs started on Sunday April 25 the entire European section of the cable, from Egypt to France, was switched off and “this is why connectivity in the UAE took a nosedive on Sunday afternoon and has progressively got worse since then”.
He added that at present “Etisalat's broadband customers are being routed Eastwards across the Pacific in to the US, and onwards to Europe as needed. This has placed additional loading on those routes, so they too are now saturated.”
Etisalat’s statement added that it “is continuously monitoring the situation and has provisioned more capacity across different cable systems to compensate for the lost cable fibers”.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Dubai Land Department: "Pay up or we'll take your property"

Source: 7 Days
Lawyers have questioned whether the Dubai Land Department (DLD) has the authority to cancel building contracts and seize properties.
The DLD has sent out letters to investors in building projects, including Mazaya Business Avenue and Jumeirah Business Centre Five (both in Jumeirah Lake Towers), stressing that if they fail to make outstanding payments within a fortnight their properties will be taken and auctioned off.
The letters also state that 40 per cent of any investment so far will be confiscated.
But lawyers have hit back, claiming the Land Department does not have the right.
“My argument and I believe the entire legal community feels the same; because the DLD is not a judicial body, these judgements are not enforceable.
Only a court can enforce them,” Ludmila Yamalova, partner at Al Sayyah Advocates and Legal Consultants, told 7DAYS.
Jerry Parks, partner and head of real estate at Taylor Wessing Middle East agreed, saying: “The DLD has no rights to cancel a sale and purchase agreement as opposed to a project… it is not a right of the DLD to repossess a property - it is a right on the part of the developer if there is a default on the part of the purchaser and the proper legal steps have been taken to terminate the sale and purchase agreement.”
However, Mohammed Sultan Thani, assistant general director at DLD said that “according to the law the DLD has the right to cancel the contract” and that letters were sent only to investors in projects that are 80 per cent or more complete.
But Yamalova added that the notices refer to a decree, number 6 of 2010, that has yet to be made official, saying: “The Dubai Land Department is over-stepping its boundaries here.”
The Dubai business partner of Russian investor Omar Ramazanov, who has invested $2.7million in Mazaya Business Avenue said receiving the letter was very “threatening”.
“We don’t say that we don’t want to pay, at least let them approach us properly... it is a threat,” said Mehdi Guliyev, adding that the project is more than a year late.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Designed by Morons: the new Al Rawabi milk bottles

What mental midget designed the new Al Rawabi milk bottles? The shape is now square-ish and the ‘handle’ is so thick that I can’t get my hand round it to pour. There's no way a child or elderly person could use it. In fact, unless you have hands the size of a pro-wrestlers’ you won’t be able to use it either right or left handed without spilling the contents. 

Thursday, 22 April 2010

UAE: Sharjah police hunt for unmarried couples

Source: The National 22 April 2010
Sharjah police are conducting a door to door hunt for unwed couples.  Officers have already arrested one couple living together in al Qadissiya since the new campaign began on Monday. Police say they will initially target more densely populated residential areas before spreading the net to include the whole emirate.
Police are knocking on doors and demanding to see evidence that couples under the same roof are married.
Brig Musa al Naqbi, the head of Sharjah Police CID, said yesterday: “We managed to find one couple, an Arab man and an Asian woman, illegally staying together. The couple also had two children. One was two years old and the other one was four.
“This campaign is continuing throughout Sharjah because women and men having children outside wedlock is not allowed in the UAE, as well as being against Islam.”
Couples found to be breaking the law will be referred to public prosecutors, and lawyers say they could technically face lashes under the emirate’s strict Sharia.
Salah Mabrouk, a Dubai based lawyer who regularly handles cases in Sharjah’s courts, said: “First of all, we need to know that such cases in this country are not guided by criminal laws but by Sharia law.
“In Sharia law the punishment for a fornicator is different to one of an adulterer, a fornicator is lashed 100 lashes while an adulterer is stoned to death.”
However, Mr Mabrouk said it was more likely that offenders would face a prison term of less than a year, followed by deportation if they were expatriates.
Brig al Naqbi said the couple arrested in al Qadissiya have confessed to cohabiting out of wedlock.
One unmarried couple who live together on weekends in Sharjah said they were worried about being caught in the new campaign.
“I am afraid to go back to his house, I don’t know if the police don’t want lovers to meet as well,” said the Filipina woman, who works as a sales assistant.
Her partner, an Egyptian Muslim, felt slightly safer because the pair are not together under one roof during the week.
“Unless some evil person tips police that she has come, their search would most likely find me alone at home,” he said.
Under federal law, cohabiting couples face two possible sets of charges depending on their circumstances, according to Jouslin Khairallah, another Dubai-based lawyer whose case load often takes her to Sharjah.
“If you have a flat with a man living in one room and a woman living in another, they would immediately face an unlawful residency charge,” she said.
However, if it could be proved that the couple were sharing a room, they could be charged under "crimes of honour" legislation that carries a heavier sentence of up to three years in jail.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Emirates has resumed flights to Heathrow

Excerpt from ArabianBusiness 21 April 2010
The Dubai carrier was able to relaunch UK services with its 7.45am flight to Heathrow, which departed about 30 minutes late. Wednesday morning flights to Gatwick, Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham also left Dubai.  Emirates Airline said it would try to operate as many flights as possible and "based on expected airspace availability" would fly to London Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow throughout the day.

Emirates could handle two week shut down

Source: ArabianBusiness 20 April 2010
Emirates Airline president Tim Clark said on Tuesday that the airline's $66m losses incurred during the Icelandic ash cloud disruption would not be covered by insurance but added that the airline was in good shape to cope with a two-week shutdown.
"We will just have to live with that," Clark said, adding that the carrier would not increase fares in an effort to recoup losses caused by the volcano eruption. "We don't need funds, we are in good shape. If it goes on for two weeks we can handle it."
He told reporters in Dubai that the European aviation industry would "implode" if the airspace shutdown continued for three months.
His comments came as Emirates said it expected to operate flights to Paris, Nice, Vienna, Zurich, Istanbul, Moscow, Larnaca, Rome, Athens and Malta on Wednesday. Flights to the UK are cancelled through to 10am UAE time on Wednesday, the airline added.
The Dubai carrier continues to incur losses of about $10m a day, he said. About 20 percent of its fleet is currently grounded and some 2,000 tonnes of cargo has so far been affected including a large amount of fish.
He added that Dubai Government would not consider helping out Emirates with its ash cloud losses.
All flights to the UK scheduled to leave Dubai on Tuesday have been cancelled but some flights resumed to airports in France, Italy and Switzerland while German flights were being rerouted to Vienna.
About 35,000 Emirates passengers had been affected by cancelled flights since Thursday and UK flights were still grounded. Clark said that if the flights crisis continued for two weeks, a total of 250,000 Emirates passengers would be affected.
About 600 members of Emirates' crew were currently stranded across Europe, Clark said, adding that the Dubai Government was committed to making sure all passengers were taken care of as quickly as possible. He added that 49 Dubai hotels had been used to take in transit passengers, which on Tuesday numbered 3,861.
Clark said that the airline hoped to restore full operations in three to five days but it would take longer if the ash cloud restrictions continue.
Earlier on Tuesday Etihad Airways said it had cancelled 21 flights on Tuesday to and from London, Paris, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Brussels, Manchester and Munich.
Qatar Airways said its Tuesday morning services to London Heathrow, Munich, Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin, London Gatwick and Copenhagen had been grounded.
The Doha-based carrier said it plans to operate a “test flight” to London’s Heathrow airport on Tuesday to assess the risk posed by the volcanic ash cloud. In an interview with Al Jazeera English channel, the airline’s CEO, Akbar al-Baker, said only the flying and engineering crew would be on board.
Bahrain's Gulf Air said it was resuming its flights to London on Tuesday afternoon and to Paris and Frankfurt, scheduled to leave the Gulf state early Wednesday.
The National Air Traffic Services in the UK said on Tuesday that based on the latest Met Office information, part of Scottish airspace including Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh airports would continue to be available from 1-7pm (4-10pm UAE time), and also south to Newcastle Airport.
Restrictions will remain in place over the rest of UK airspace below 20,000ft, it added.

Monday, 19 April 2010

UAE issues visas to stranded passengers

Source: Gulf News
photo: Juice Images
People stranded at UAE airports due to the volcanic ash will be issued the 96 hours visa at the airport, in an effort to ease their travelling procedures.
Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, has instructed concerned authorities to facilitate the visa process for people affected by the crisis.
Affected people can approach the passport control officer upon their arrival at the airport and can be issued visa according to the 96 hours visa rules.
Shaikh Saif’s humanitarian initiative comes in line with the UAE’s keenness to help affected people, ease their visa procedures and alleviate their ordeal.
Tim Clark, President of Emirates said: "About 30 of our aircraft are grounded which represents about a fifth of our fleet".
Emirates is losing about $10 million (about Dh37 million) in revenue a day, plus another $1 million (about Dh3.7 million) a day that it is paying to accommodate Emirates passengers, Clark said in a statement.
Flights from the UAE to Europe will resume only after airports are reopened. No schedule has yet been given.
Germany's Lufthansa and Air Berlin said that decisions to close airspace were not based on proper testing and that their aircraft showed no signs of damage after test flights without passengers.
"The flight ban, made just on the basis of computer calculations, is resulting in billion-high losses for the economy," Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walter was quoted as saying.
By some estimates, between 35-40 per cent of the world's goods move by air.
Scientists have said the Icelandic eruptions could continue on and off for months, potentially meaning more delays and closures.
The International Air Transport Association has warned that the travel mayhem was costing airlines more than $200 million (about Dh735 million) a day.

Qatar delays plan to scrap visas on arrival

Qatar's plans to scrap its visa-on-arrival facility for nationals of 33 countries has been delayed.
The old system will remain in place despite the Gulf state announcing new rules earlier this month which were set to be introduced on May 1.
Under the regulations, the nationals of 33 countries, including the US, UK and expat residents of the GCC, would have to apply for a visa prior to arrival in Qatar.But media in Qatar reported on Monday that the move had been delayed after Qatar’s Foreign Ministry received requests from some countries to continue with the old system and allow their nationals time before the new entry visa rules are enforced.
According to Qatar News Agency (QNA), a source at the Consular Affairs Section of the Foreign Ministry said that the requests of these countries were being studied.
“It has, therefore, been decided that the existing visa-on-arrival scheme at the Doha International Airport for the citizens of the 33 countries will remain unchanged,” QNA quoted a senior Foreign Ministry official as saying.
The regulations would have meant that all passengers wishing to travel to Qatar for business purposes will need to have their visas arranged by a local sponsor, via the Ministry of Interior.
The news of the delay will come as relief to Qatar's hotel industry.
Some of the top hoteliers in Doha had earlier told Arabian Business that they were worried about the impact of the visa changes of tourism.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Sheikh Hamed named head of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority

Source: Reuters 14 April 2010
H.H. Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has succeeded his late brother as managing director of sovereign wealth fund Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).(WAM)Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has succeeded his late brother as managing director of sovereign wealth fund Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), which holds hundreds of billions of dollars of assets.
State news agency WAM said on Wednesday the announcement was made in a decree from the United Arab Emirates' president and ADIA chairman, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also ruler of Abu Dhabi.
Royal family member Sheikh Hamed takes the position held by brother Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed al-Nahayan until his death in a glider plane crash in Morocco last month.
Sheikh Ahmed ran the fund, considered one of the world's largest, for more than a decade after joining as an analyst.Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) is believed to have assets of between $500 billion and $700 billion, ranging from Citigroup bonds to a stake in Britain's Gatwick Airport.
Sheikh Hamed is also chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and a chairman of General Holding Corp, the parent company of Emirates Steel.
State-owned ADIA invests funds generated by the emirate's oil exports into overseas stocks and bonds.
Analysts and industry experts had expected Sheikh Khalifa to appoint a member of the ruling family to run the fund.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Double standards strike again.

Earlier this month a female tourist who'd come to Dubai for a week's holiday was sentenced to a month in jail by the Dubai Court for kissing a man in public following a complaint.  The Court ruling was followed by postings in web forums and letters to the Editor which seem to indicate a growing attitude that such behaviour is an attack on the moral fibre of the nation and anyone who doesn't follow 'the rules' should expect the same punishment.  Noticeable too, is that after a slow start, the malls are now displaying "Wear respectful clothing" signs prominently.


Last Saturday in Abu Dhabi, UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) put on their show.  No matter what you think about UFC, its enormously popular and the tv shows attract a sizeable audience worldwide.  The tv announcers regularly reminded us that the show was taking place in Aboooo Daaarbee and the crowds of gents in the audience wearing kandoras were shown regularly on the broadcast as if to prove it. The three ring girls were there.  And were they wearing 'respectful clothing'?  As if! They were wearing their usual brief, tight bikinis with more buttcheek hanging out of their shorts than in them and yet nobody said a word!  The photo on the right was taken at the AD show.  The girls walked past the crowds on numerous occasions and did anyone call the police to report such a scandalous display?  Of course not.  Don't you love double standards?

Photo: 1.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Dubai bust hits tower chief

I guess it was only a matter of time for Mr O'Donnell...... 
The picture on the left ( shows Burj Khalifa and the even taller Nakheel Tower.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald 13th April 2010
WHEN Chris O'Donnell was plucked from Sydney to head one of the world's biggest property operations in Dubai, he saw a golden horizon.
''There are more than 50 per cent of the world's cranes currently located in Dubai, which makes the new position I have taken up an extremely exciting one,'' said the Australian, freshly installed as the chief executive of the emirate's state-backed developer Nakheel.
That was mid-2006. By October 2008, when debt had engulfed much of the world, Mr O'Donnell was still bullish about Dubai.
''There won't be a crash,'' he declared when revealing plans for the world's tallest building, Nakheel Tower, a rocket-shaped concrete wonder that would soar more than a kilometre into the sky. Asked to confirm reports that it would be 1400 metres high, Mr O'Donnell had replied: ''Watch this space.''
Look into this space today and that is all you will see: space.
The crash came to Dubai, after all. Its property values halved in a year, the cranes fell silent and Nakheel Tower was scratched, along with many of the company's grander visions as it struggled to pay its bills.
Now Mr O'Donnell has become another casualty of Dubai's ruptured bubble. Nakheel has dumped him from its board. While he remains chief executive, reports suggest that several fresh faces appointed to the board, including a new chairman, will want to replace Mr O'Donnell.
The Dubai government has announced it will spend $US9.5 billion ($10.2 billion) restructuring the Dubai World conglomerate, of which Nakheel is a subsidiary. Dubai World carries a $US23.5 billion debt burden and $10.5 billion of that is Nakheel's. About $US8 billion of the government funds will go to Nakheel to settle its liabilities, repaying creditors over five to eight years, ensuring ''near-term'' projects proceed.
Nakheel will become wholly government-owned.
The Financial Times said: ''The ruler's lieutenants behind Dubai's real estate boom-to-bust years are being gradually replaced by established names from the city's mercantile elite.''
Nakheel's assets, valued at more than $US110 billion by late 2008, include the Palm Trilogy, The World and Dubai Waterfront.
Two of Mr O'Donnell's former Australian colleagues at Dubai Waterfront, Matt Joyce and Marcus Lee, are fighting fraud charges in the emirate over the sale of a plot of land to an Australian developer, Sunland.
Before heading to Dubai, Mr O'Donnell served as the managing director of Investa Property Group in Australia for five years. Under his leadership, the company lifted its funds under management from $800 million to $6.2 billion.
In December 2007, back when the future was bright for Nakheel, the O'Donnell-led company took a $400 million stake in the Australian developer, Mirvac. Mr O'Donnell had said it made sense to consider joint developments ''with a like-minded company''.
But last year it pulled out of a joint bid with Mirvac to develop Barangaroo, the NSW government's multi-billion dollar project east of Darling Harbour. And in August, Nakheel sold its final 12 per cent stake in Mirvac.
That was only 10 months after Mr O'Donnell had said that Dubai's ''fundamentals'' were too strong for a crash. Now that the Nakheel restructure has been announced, Mr O'Donnell has thanked ''our customers, suppliers and contractors for their patience during these difficult times''.
He did not reply to the Herald's request for an interview.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Dubai's Deyaar dismisses CEO in management sweep

Source: 8 April 2010
UAE developer Deyaar on Thursday approved the dismissal of its CEO Markus Giebel, with immediate effect.
The company appointed Saeed Al Qatami as acting chief executive officer.
The appointment is part of an ongoing management restructuring being undertaken in line with the company’s long-term strategic objectives, Deyaar Development said in a press statement.Deyaar made this announcement following a resolution by the company’s Board of Directors approving the appointment of Al Qatami to this position, while also approving the dismissal of the previous CEO, Markus Giebel, with immediate effect.
Al Qatami, who has served at Deyaar since 2007, most recently held the title of Vice President – Business Development at the Dubai-headquartered property developer. In that role, he was primarily responsible for developing Deyaar’s business portfolio in the UAE. Al Qatami previously held a range of managerial positions at Dubai Islamic Bank, including Head of Wealth Management.
Prior to his appointment at Deyaar, Giebel served as the Chief Executive Officer of Dubai-based Vedera Capital where he was responsible for managing multiple real estate projects worth several billion dollars, both in the region and worldwide. He further founded Marasi, a Sharia-compliant real estate fund, in addition to leading several merger and acquisitions and private placement transactions for the firm.
Giebel previously served as the Vice President for Europe and the Middle East at Corning, a Fortune 500 company. Throughout his career, Giebel was presented with several awards and distinctions, including the Business Award from the German Ministry of Economic Affairs. He was awarded over 30 patents and holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Switzerland Business School, and a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Munich in Germany.
Calls to Geibel's mobile phone by Arabian Business on Thursday afternoon went answered.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Qatar bans visas on arrival for UK, US nationals (includes all 33 countries)

Source:, 8 April 2010
Photo: Flat Earth Photos

British and American citizens will be among the nationals of 33 countries that will have to apply for a visa prior to arrival in Qatar, according to new rules being enacted by the emirate from May 1.
The regulations also mean that all passengers wishing to travel to Qatar for business purposes will need to have their visas arranged by a local sponsor, via the Ministry of Interior.
British nationals wishing to apply for a Qatari visa will need to provide their last three months’ bank statements, which must show the name and address of the applicant, and prove that there is at least $1,300 in the applicant’s account.
A single-entry tourist visa for all nationalities will cost $30.
The British embassy in Doha confirmed to Arabian Business on Thursday that the new rules were coming into effect, but said it was still waiting for further information from the Qatari Ministry of the Interior.Other than the US and the UK, nationals from France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Finland, Spain, Monaco, the Vatican, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Lichtenstein, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and South Korea are also affected by the new ruling.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A harmless kiss, or an attack on a nation’s values?

The letter below, supposedly written by an Emirati national, has been published in the '7 Days' newspaper in Dubai this morning.   In a breathtaking leap of logic the letter's author opines that kisses between consenting adults lead inevitably to legalised pedophilia.  He also states that 'the woman deserves all she got' while making no mention of the man kissee 'deserving' jail and deportation. 
Whether the letter is genuine or a 'beat-up', it highlights a growing "them -v- us" mentality in Dubai.
Postings on the numerous expat forums indicate that a growing number of Dubai expats are concerned as, judging by the couple of recent Court cases, an expat will be jailed then deported following any uncorroborated, unsubstantiated complaint made against him or her.
  In the current cause celebre, The Kissing Case, the alleged incident took place in Dubai in an archetypal Western style restaurant, 'Bob's American Diner', at 2am.  The complainant is a 2 year old child.  The child's mother, who made the complaint on her daughter's behalf, has changed her story several times as to whether she, herself, saw The Kiss or not No witnesses appeared for the complainant, the defendants were not permitted to call their own witnesses and, as a result, the decision to jail and deport was based wholely on the statement of the two year old.
(The publicity that's been generated by this incident may also present some difficulties for the nascent honeymoon tourism sector in the UAE. )
The letter follows:

"The West have a lot of good values that we need to embrace but also a lot of bad “values” that we do not want like sexual promiscuity, that starts with “innocent” kisses and end up with calls to legalise sex with children like we have seen recently.
This woman in the news deserves what she got (and in my opinion even more that that).
We are really getting fed up with your attitude, and arrogance and the disrespect you show.
If you want to live in this country then you need to respect the laws of the land, and while I used to get annoyed but turn a blind eye to some of your misbehaviour, I will now make sure I take action, so beware all you indecent people out there, I will be watching and calling the police for any such behaviour, and if you do not like our values you can always pack up and go to some sexually-free country."
Muhammad Rashed

Monday, 5 April 2010

Dubai kissing couple jailed on the word of a 2 year old.

Source: BBC News
A British man and woman jailed in Dubai for kissing in public have lost their appeal against their conviction.
Ayman Najafi, 24, and Charlotte Adams, 25, were sentenced to a month in prison with subsequent deportation and fined about £200 for drinking alcohol.
The pair were arrested in November after a local woman accused them of breaking the country's decency laws by kissing on the mouth in a restaurant.
Najafi said he was "very disappointed". The pair plan to make a second appeal.
The initial complaint against them was made by a 38-year-old woman who said she was offended by their behaviour at the Jumeirah Beach Residence, where she was dining with her daughter.
'Very harsh'
The pair's defence lawyers said the woman - who did not appear in court - had not seen the kiss herself, but had been told by her two-year-old child that the girl had seen them kissing.
Magdi Abdelhadi of BBC News says: "Dubai looks very Western with its gleaming apartment blocks and super modern shopping malls. The Western fa├žade can, however, lull the unsuspecting visitor into believing that it is also a liberal society.
And that appears to be primarily why Western visitors have recently fallen foul of the law there.
Scratch the modern surface and you discover a conservative Muslim culture, arguably far more so than many others in the Middle East.
Consumption of alcohol is restricted to a small number of places, mainly for Western visitors and expatriates.
Although there is no strict separation of the sexes as in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the boundaries for what you can and cannot do in public can be tricky, especially for outsiders. While an unmarried Western couple can share a room in a hotel - or even live together - they are expected to observe local custom when outside their home.
So sentencing a couple for having kissed in public may be shocking for Western public opinion, but will most likely be applauded in conservative Arab societies, especially where there is a perception that Westerners are often expected to be given a preferential treatment."
The defendants also claimed they had merely kissed each other on the cheek, and therefore had not broken any laws.
The BBC's Ben Thompson, at the court, said the judge spoke entirely in Arabic as he quickly dismissed the appeal, saying he upheld the previous sentence.
They were fined 1,000 dirhams, which is about £200. They now have 30 days to appeal.
It was left to the defence lawyer to explain the verdict to Najafi and Adams.
Najafi said after the case: "It's very harsh, based on contradictory evidence. The courts haven't called on any of our witnesses who are prepared to testify that this didn't happen."
His mother, Maida Najafi, told the BBC her son had grown up in the UK and was used to common British greetings.
"Maybe they think he should know better because he's from a Muslim family but Ayman grew up in this country, and that's the normal greeting... in this country," she said.
The pair decided not to start their sentence immediately, but the Dubai authorities are holding their passports so they are unable to return to Britain.
Professor John Strawson, an expert in Islamic law, told BBC Radio 5 Live he was not surprised by the judge's decision.
He said: "The problem in this particular case is that one of the British citizens is of Muslim origin.
"And I think that the combination of the alleged kissing and the consumption of alcohol in an illegal place, meant that this was a case that the authorities really wanted to pursue, and they are probably sticking to their rigid interpretation of the law."
Professor Strawson said the Dubai authorities often turned a blind eye to foreigners' behaviour, because of the high income that comes from tourists.
But he said Dubai had recently issued new explanations tightening up their laws.
'Cultural differences'
The Foreign Office advises Britons going to Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates, to be wary of breaching local customs.
A statement on its travel advice website reads: "Britons can find themselves facing charges relating to cultural differences, such as using bad language, rude gestures or public displays of affection."
Najafi, from north London, had been working for marketing firm Hay Group in Dubai for about 18 months.
The case is the latest in a series of incidents over recent years in which foreigners have broken Dubai's strict decency laws.
In March, an Indian couple in their 40s were sentenced to three months in jail in Dubai after sending each other sexually explicit text messages.
In 2008, two Britons accused of having sex on a beach in Dubai were sentenced to three months in jail, though the sentences were later suspended.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Longer visas needed to boost Dubai homes market

Source: ArabianBusiness, 1 April 2010
Photo: I took it during a seaplane flight from Jebel Ali.

 Longer visas are needed to boost Dubai's real estate market, say experts. The length of visas offered to foreign buyers of Dubai property is too short and is hampering the recovery of the county’s beaten-down real estate market, experts have said.
The six-month visas currently issued to expatriate homeowners are deterring foreign investors, who will favour housing markets with more relaxed residency rules.
“Shortness of residency is definitely keeping the buyers away,” said Nicholas Maclean, managing director of CB Richard Ellis Middle East.
“We do need to elongate the window that people have so they don’t need to go back and forth. The period we have at the moment is a barrier to entry.”
Property prices in Dubai have plunged 50 percent since their peak in 2008 in the wake of a global downturn, wiping an estimated $100bn off the value of the emirate’s developed property assets.
According to Colliers International, one in four homes now stand empty. The emirate will be oversupplied by 32,000 new homes by the end of the year, predicts Deutsche Bank.
At the height of the property boom, buyers were promised visas by developers - including state-backed Nakheel and Dubai Properties – a move that was later overruled by the UAE federal government.
Last June, the Department of Naturalisation and Residency said foreign buyers could avail of a six-month visa, dependent on factors such as the price of the property and the applicant’s monthly salary.
Critics of the plan say the residency period is too short to entice new buyers to the UAE market, and excludes a significant number of lower-income expats.
“The one thing that would give a real boost to the property market would be if the federal government would allow three-year visas. It would transform the market,” said Charles Neil, CEO of Landmark Properties, at a recent roundtable. “This is the one thing that is keeping investors away at the moment.”
“Dubai is trying to fill up a growing city. How can they fill up the city if they can’t give residency?” said Tomas Ghassemi, managing partner of The Property Store.
Aside from providing a shot in the arm to the housing market, an overhaul of the visa laws would allow Dubai to filter its long-term residents more selectively, said Maclean.
“By tweaking the visa regulations the government can control who buys here. And that might be a good thing, so they can keep people here who could be a long-term benefit to – rather than beneficiary of – the economy here. We should be encouraging people who want to come, bring their families, educate their children, spend into the retail markets and have a house,” he said.