Sex and the City and the UAE

The Abu Dhabi authorities seem to be in a quandary over whether to let Sex and the City 2 be shown in the emirate. The film, due to be released on May 27, has Abu Dhabi as its setting.

Plans to shoot the film in neighbouring Dubai, using the ultra-modern facilities of Dubai Studio City, had to be abandoned (as I reported here last year) after the authorities disapproved of the script and the Abu Dhabi setting was eventually re-created in Morocco.

The first Sex and the City film was not shown in cinemas in the Emirates, though the TV series could be viewed there on the Showtime network.

Discussing the authorities' dilemma, Nicholas McGeehan of the 
Mafiwasta organisation (which campaigns for workers' rights in the UAE) points out that in many ways the film represents exactly the kind of glizty image that the Emirates like to promote to the outside world, glossing over such issues as racial discrimination, the ill-treatment of women and the exploitation of guest workers from developing countries.

At the same time, though, the authorities also have to consider local cultural and religious sensitivities: "Internally, their legitimacy to rule still hinges on tribal loyalty and they cannot be seen to abandon what they characterise as Islamic principles." McGeehan concludes:

Domestic opinion aside, and despite the rulers' efforts to formally distance themselves from the film, Sex and the City 2 seems fully on message in terms of the UAE's ongoing legitimisation project which seeks to convince the outside world that the country is a progressive state, friendly to rich tourists and open for business.

The country's rulers believe flashy public relations will always prevail over wishy-washy notions of equality, justice and fundamental rights, and that it is possible to go on violating those rights in the most obscene and flagrant manner, as long as the brand remains untarnished. You can beat women, you can rape women, and you can throw them in jail when they protest, but as long as you dress the country up all shiny and sparkly, and put it in a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, nobody will be all that bothered.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 19 May 2010. Comment

Against homophobia in Beirut

Photo: mozzoom

The International Day Against Homophobia (Idaho) was observed in Beirut on Sunday with a programme of events. (I think Lebanon was the only Arab country where this happened, though there may have been something in Morocco.)

set of photos has been posted on Flickr and there are reports (in Arabic) from al-Akhbar newspaper and the Bekhsoos website.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 18 May 2010. Comment

UPDATE, 19 May: Details of Moroccan Idaho activities here.