by Daniel Pipes
As the Muslim world settled into ever-deeper decline over the past decade, mired in political extremism, religious sickness, economic irrelevance, WMD, anarchy, dictatorship, and civil wars,
Under the leadership of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum,
In three distinct arenas – economics, culture, and sports – very recent developments show how much the statelet has in common with the impoverishing and separating Muslim world.
The huge oil revenues that have been pouring in for two years have nowhere else to go but into more and more real estate speculation. It makes for great business for the developers and their Western and Asian contractors, as well as for the owners - the sheiks, kings, emirs, and their big businessmen friends who own the deserts on which these mirage-like projects are being erected.
The formula from their perspective is straightforward: Sell desert land to investors at a premium. Then double the profits by financing the construction of artificial islands, lakes, and massive air-conditioned shopping malls, alongside pie-in-the-sky projects like the largest ski slope in the desert, a
When the music stopped last fall, with a world-wide recession and the price of oil tumbling over two-thirds, no one got harder hit than the
With Dubai's economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the
This unique abandoned-car syndrome results in part from the emirate's stringent work rules. As Worth explains, "jobless people here lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices, in a downward spiral that has left parts of
Signs of the new penury abound:
real estate prices, which rose dramatically during
There is every reason to think that the economic descent has just begun and has a long way to go. As this happens, foreigners are fleeing. Christopher Davidson, a specialist on the UAE at
When it comes to cultural extravagance, Dubai cedes first place to its neighbor, Abu Dhabi, which in early 2007, announced the "Cultural District of Saadiyat Island" to include satellites of the Guggenheim (costing US$400 million) and Louvre ($1.3 billion) museums, plus about two dozen other museums, performing arts centers, and pavilions.
EAIFL is the first true literary Festival in the
The festival boasts authors from twenty countries, including such big names as Frank McCourt and Louis de Bernières.
All good, but the EAIFL hit a bump before it even opened, one that threatens to overshadow the event itself. Never mind "the world of books in all its infinite variety"; the festival banned British author Geraldine Bedell because Sheik Rashid, one of the minor characters in her novel The Gulf Between Us (Penguin), is a homosexual Arab with an English boyfriend; to make matters worse, the plot is set against the background of the Kuwait War.
As Abulhoul wrote to Bedell, disinviting her. "I do not want our festival remembered for the launch of a controversial book. If we launched the book and a journalist happened to read it, then you could imagine the political fallout that would follow." As for the Kuwait War, that "could be a minefield for us."
Bedell responded that her novel "is incredibly affectionate towards the Gulf. I feel very warmly towards it, except when things like this happen. It calls into question the whole notion of whether the Emirates and other
Indeed, the biggest name of the Dubai event, Canadian author Margaret Atwood, stayed away in protest at Bedell's exclusion ("I cannot be part of the festival this year."), eventually agreeing to appear via video link-up in a debate on censorship to be staged by International PEN at the festival.
Nor can you ban one of the game's finest players and expect your tennis tournament to be taken seriously. But
Why? Well, she is Israeli. Organizers of the event cited security fears as their reason to bar Peer.
In consultation with Peer, the Women's Tennis Association decided to continue with the
Still, Peer's exclusion had immediate repercussions for
Not only was Scott was bombarded with messages from upset fans ("It's an issue that obviously touches a nerve") but he reported "a real snowballing effect": "I've been contacted by representatives of other businesses, academic institutions, cultural institutions that equally would only have invested in being in the UAE if they had the same assurances we had that Israelis could participate in the activities."
As a result of the Peer fiasco, Andy Ram, an Israeli ranked 11th among male tennis players was granted a "special permit" to enter
In other words,
Through a heady mix of speed and affluence,
But that will not happen. The sharp drop in oil prices exposed the country's inescapable weakness, while
This course is doomed to failure. At a certain point, the issues at the center of Muslim life for the past two centuries – the tension between tradition and modernity, the opposition of Muslim identity to universal values, the strains of economic development – will have to be faced. Hucksterism and fast talk will not solve these problems. As
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