It sounds absurd, right? But it's exactly what happened to Jamie Harron in Dubai, when he was thrown in jail with murderers 'for just brushing past some bloke' in a busy bar.
UAE: Modern vision, archaic outlook
The 27-year-old was arrested for 'public indecency' and originally sentenced to three years in jail, all for touching a man on his hip to avoid impact in a busy bar.
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Somehow, this split-second encounter was threatening this young man's very future – inexplicably, he'd been charged with a serious sexual assault. And if the ruler of the Dubai emirate did not intervene after an international outcry, Harron would have wallowed in jail for a terrible misunderstanding.
I have the utmost respect for the rulers of the small state in the Middle East. The respect stems from the fact that they were/are able to sell sand's potential to the world. It was a touch of brilliance.
The oil economy of the 1980s and '90s did wonders for the nomads of the Middle East. They were wise in exploiting the country's resources, ruthless in their expansion and modernisation. But they were also extremely demanding of labourers and immigrants to achieve these objectives.
Now, they are open to the idea of change and reform.
The strict Islamic laws followed in many of these nations limits anything that they set out to achieve. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia recently announced that the country is going to follow a moderate form of Islam. This has opened a lot of eyes.
The fact that women can now legally drive is not sitting well with the strict authoritarian and influential minority. One waits with bated breath to see what the Crown Prince comes up with in the future.
I wonder how long it will be before the people see through it all and there is a backlash against the rich/influential. Remember the French Revolution - where the aristocrats with their wealth or influence could no longer buy or coerce the masses? The only thing they got, in the end, was the guillotine.
Of course, that is not the situation in the Middle East. Most of the people love their rulers because they keep the citizens happy. Not giving citizenship (there are exceptions) to outsiders is a by-product of this.
It works well. But businesses and world leaders are watching these inhumane rules and laws.
There will come a time when they say enough is enough. If they don’t start instilling this change and reform soon, the economic guillotine is coming soon from these countries. It has already started.