Soaring self-esteem: Dubai's pride may be scraping the underside of Icarus' wings. (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
Philadelphia famously (and sometimes more ironically) calls itself the City of Brotherly Love. Dubai now wants that distinction for itself, at least in the Arab world (and presumably with all due respect to the brothers to the West in Mecca, the city of presumed brotherliness).
"City of Trust and Tolerance," goes the headline on today's leading story in Gulf News, one of the United Arab Emirates' seemingly numberless English dailies (no newspaper crisis over there, for all you prospective and laid-off reporters over here). "The majority of Dubai residents," Gulf News reports, "find the city a very tolerant and safe place, according to the first social survey conducted by the Dubai government, which was released on Sunday." The paper goes on:
About 75 per cent of Dubai's residents, including Emiratis, have a high level of tolerance and trust towards various cultures and nationalities in the emirate, according to the findings of what is considered the largest social snapshot of the attitudes of various communities living in the city.Brotherly love, maybe. But what about women? Not so sisterly. Remember Human Right Watch's report on the mistreatment of imported domestic servants in several nations of the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates? Here's what one South Asian domestic worker said about her workload for a family in Dubai--during Ramadan, when the people she was serving were supposed to show more compassion, not give her hands-on experience with slavery:
The Dubai work was harder, because I had to get up at 4 a.m. and until I finished work at 10 p.m. I did not have time to rest or sleep, and during the Festival [Ramadan] I could not sleep until 12 a.m. During the fasting time, which is Ramadan, it is very difficult to work in Dubai. I had to prepare and get the food for males and females separately for them to break fast daily, so it was a lot of work for me.Maybe that family didn't participate in the social survey. Or maybe that survey didn't include the nearly two-thirds of people who live and work in Dubai, or rather, who make Dubai work (because Emiratis don;t like to work that much) but aren't citizens. Emiratis unquestionably have reasons to be proud of themselves. But their idea of tolerance is a mirror of their severely stratified society. There are those who matter. And then those who don't. Invisible Man, I'd imagine, would be a popular book over there, but not necessarily among the people who could use reading it most.