Mr. Rebates

Monday, July 22, 2013

What A Wonderful World!: Get Raped In Dubai And You'll Serve 16 Months In Prison

July 21, 2013
A court in Dubai has sentenced a young Norwegian woman, Marte Deborah Dalelv, to 16 months in jail after she brought charges of rape against a colleague. Dismissing her allegations, the court saw fit instead to find her guilty of drinking alcohol and wanting the sex that she alleged was forced upon her. Meanwhile she was fired by her Qatar-born employer, the interior designer Wissam al Mana, who is otherwise known as Janet Jackson’s latest husband. (See postscript below for a statement from al Mana’s company.)
The circumstances are complicated but, after listening to an interview Dalelv has given to Ritula Shah of the Media Service, I haven’t the slightest doubt she is the victim of a grotesque miscarriage of justice: not only is she telling the truth but the Dubai court knows it. As for her colleague, he is probably a local man though he seems not to have been named in English-language accounts. You can listen to the podcast here (the interview is about 9 minutes into the program). Here and here are some other useful links. Why would the victim of a terrible crime receive a jail sentence? Asia is not America, and for me, as someone who has spent 27 years watching the world from a vantage point in East Asia, the episode illustrates in microcosm an obvious and profoundly troubling fact: globalism is a one-word  oxymoron. It has never made sense and probably never will. Cultures are different and, in their attitude to truth and human rights, the many brands of Asian culture are particularly remote from Western expectations.
Certainly, all American wishful thinking to the contrary, the world is NOT converging to American values. Yes, of course, more and more consumers around the world are drinking Coca-Cola and eating Big Macs. But this is a superficial observation that says nothing about any values worth the name.
Of course, Dubai, which is the most populous constituent of the United Arab Emirates, seems on a superficial view to be highly Westernized. A more accurate description is that Dubai is highlyeconomically advanced. It is home, for instance, to major regional operations of such U.S. corporations as Hewlett-Packard, EMC Corporation, Oracle Corporation, Microsoft, and IBM. It also boasts the world’s tallest building, the 163-floor Burj Khalifa. Meanwhile the Emirates airline, which is based in Dubai, counts, on some measures, not only as the world’s largest international carrier but the world’s best (it was so designated a few months ago by the British consultancy, Skytrax).
But Dubai’s official religion is Islam — and not a particularly liberal brand. This means that Westerners are tolerated only under sufferance. Western women in particular are not always welcome. This despite the fact that Dubai features one of the most disturbingly imbalanced male-female ratios in world history: in the overall population, males outnumber females more than three to one. The ratio for adults is probably even more imbalanced. The only foreign women who seem to be welcome are prostitutes, particularly Russian and Indian ones. Other foreign women enter Dubai at their own risk and woe betide them if they rock the boat. The status of ordinary decent local women in Dubai is powerfully symbolized by the fact that wives can be beaten with impunity so long as no marks are left.
Justice in an American sense does not exist. For me the characteristically Asian aspect of Marte Deborah Dalelv’s fate is that she has been indicted on a “crime” – drinking alcohol – that is widely tolerated among other foreign residents of Dubai. Basically she is a victim of a principle I call “selective enforcement.” It is a principle that is observable in many parts of Asia (see my books on Japan and China for a fuller account). The idea is that though a lot of things are nominally illegal, they are widely tolerated – provided only you don’t rock the boat on issues that matter more to the authorities. The tax system in many East Asian nations provides an example. Although taxes are ostensibly high, the authorities turn a blind eye to some types of evasion – provided only taxpayers show “discretion” on what really matters. One example that can be succinctly described is the South Korean government’s policy (one learned from Japan in a previous era) on foreign cars. There are no import barriers – absolutely none, except that the tax authorities make a policy of auditing  anyone who buys a foreign car. In a nation where much of the tax code is considerable “optional,” this elegantly end-runs American pressure to open the market.
The larger point here is that Eastern and Western cultures are mutually incompatible. Rudyard Kipling made the point more than a century ago: “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”
My bet is that, on appeal, Marte Deborah Dalelv will be shown some leniency. But for globalism, the Asians will never cut much slack. This applies in spades to the naïve American view that globalization and Americanization are somehow the same thing (thank you George H. W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, and, of course, Thomas L. Friedman). Asians are incandescent with rage at such casual cultural imperialsm but, being Asians, rarely give any explicit indication of their anger. They expect people to read between the lines.

I have now received an official statement from Al Mana’s company. See below.
(July 20, 2013) – “We are sympathetic to Marte Dalelv during this very difficult situation. Al Mana Interiors has repeatedly offered Marte support and company representatives were by her side throughout the initial investigation and police interviews, and spent days at both the police station and the prosecutor’s office to help win her release.
“Company representatives have been supportive and in communication with Marte throughout her ordeal. Only when Ms. Dalelv declined to have positive and constructive discussions about her employment status, and ceased communication with her employer, was the company forced to end our relationship with her. The decision had nothing to do with the rape allegation, and unfortunately neither Ms. Dalelv nor her attorneys have chosen to contact the company to discuss her employment status.
“We continue to be open to helping Ms. Dalelv and extending her resources during the Dubai legal process. We are hopeful that we can resume a positive discussion about the assistance she needs during this difficult time.”

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