Naked hypocrisy: In the UAE's Dubai, cancer awareness clashes with immoral decency (photo courtesy of Jad Aoun).
In court records, he's identified as "RN." His first name is Raffi. He's 28, Lebanese, living and working in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Or was, until he became the latest victim of the UAE's fetid brew of repressive and rarely justifiable sanctimony.
Raffi worked as a brand manager for Chalhoub Group ("Ambassador of Luxury Lifestyle in the Middle East"), which markets products by designer Marc Jacobs in the Middle East. Jacobs designed T-shirts for a skin-cancer-awareness campaign that features celebrities posing almost nude (their nethers are tastefully and discreetly covered) under the caption, “Protect the Skin You’re In.” Profits from sales of the T-shirts go to New York University's Melanoma Cooperative Group. The campaign has raised $1 million for NYU. (Full disclosure: I'm a Lebanese-born NYU graduate who supports skin-cancer research, especially when it involves near-naked celebrities, who are generally less interesting or useful fully clothed.)
As a result of what? An unfortunate encounter with an Arab descendant of the Salem witch trials who took it on himself to turn vigilante on Raffi's T-shirt. It's not as if Dubai residents couldn't use a little education about skin cancer, though they have a more insidious cancer to worry about. On one hand the UAE, its own hypocrisy aside, has no issue with enslaving migrant workers in abject conditions, shorn of labor rights and decent pay. More than 80 percent of the UAE's population is made up of foreign workers, who also generate most of the emirates' wealth. On the other, the UAE never hesitates to smash the hands that feed it, as was the case with Raffi. The two strategies aren't really contradictory. They're the essence of regimes too imperious, too blind to see the degeneracy of their own phony morals. In the UAE, you're a prole in good standing as long as you comply with the regime's rigid, capitalist gospel. Or dollar-sauced-Sunna. Public, let alone free, expression, no matter how edifying, interesting or necessary, interferes with the regime's only aims: to make money, and to to do so under Islamic pretenses of decency and propriety.
At the core of it all burns the biggest indecency of all, veiled and confined to the rulers' palatial boudoirs: duplicity so rich that an alphabet's worth of scarlet letters wouldn't do it justice. Raffi is the latest victim.
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