Who are the princes of Dubai

Dubai: The escape of the princess is a disgrace for the Arab world

A well-known Emirati princess escapes her golden cage and seeks asylum abroad - in Europe of all places. This is no coincidence, writes t-online.de columnist Lamya Kaddor.

The longing of some women in the West and in the Arab world for the glittering metropolis of Dubai on the Persian Gulf is widespread. The dream of 1,001 nights in luxurious penthouse apartments air-conditioned to arctic temperatures in the middle of the desert seems tangible - perhaps alongside a real prince ...

Behind the facades of the skyscrapers, not everything is bad in the "land of tomorrow" Dubai and in its somewhat less hip and often cheaper neighboring emirates, which together form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The mirror glazing of the high-rise buildings, however, also reflects many insights. In many respects society is the opposite of the hyper-modernity that Dubai and the country's second metropolis, Abu Dhabi, in particular, stand for. The Emiratis, who lived in sleepy desert villages without running water until the middle of the 20th century, have changed little despite all their wealth; I'm talking about the citizens, not the host of guest workers who make up 90 percent of the population in the UAE.

Dubai skyline: The United Emirates - especially Dubai - present themselves as modern and progressive. But the structures are still traditionally patriarchal. (Source: imago images)

If one of several wives of the ruler of Dubai, one of the richest and most powerful men in the world, Sheikh Mohammed bin Raschid Al Maktoum, is now fleeing and asking for asylum, as various media reports, then it is not surprising. Two of the emir's daughters had already tried in the past to stand in their mouths despite the golden spoon.

The degree of equality is determined by men

Arab women in the UAE have made progress in the past. They have become more visible in public. They participate in education, do training or study. Many smaller businesses are run by women. There are even awards for equality in the country. Well, the world made fun of it at the beginning of the year - and not without good reason. Because among the award winners there were only ... men!

It seems naive and unenlightened, but it has nothing to do with simplicity. Rather, it illustrates the UAE's anatomy. They become the old patriarchal structures of Near and Middle Eastern societies despite branches of famous universities like the Sorbonne, New York or Georgetown University, despite offshoots of highly cultural giants such as the Musée du Louvre or the Guggenheim Museum, despite the opera house and the huge, soon to be completed Mohammed Bin Rashid library just stuck. Or rather they do not want to get rid of them, because they firmly believe in the Islamic fundamentalist self-deception, according to which one can enjoy technical progress with all its conveniences to the fullest, but keep social progress away.

And if the truth does come to light and social progress breaks out, it is immediately pushed back with a hard hand. Like that of the other rich principalities in the region such as Qatar or Kuwait, the Emirati society remains dominated by traditional male power structures. And man doesn't even think about sharing these privileges. From this point of view, purely male equality award winners are only stringent and logical: Power always comes from men. Woman either has nothing to decide or he graciously enables her to decide something. For such generosity (attention: irony) the man deserves the prizes.

Luxury doesn't make up for a lack of freedom

The possibility of self-empowerment, of self-empowerment, is denied to women if men in the form of spouse, father, uncle or brother do not want it. Morality can only be learned by speaking to Aristotle. Many Emiratis are modern parvenus who can buy almost anything with their new money, but not the morality of the 21st century.

The royal family is not exempt from this. And so it happens that fairytale wealth and the highest comforts provided by servants, chauffeurs, cooks and chambermaids in some cases do not outweigh a life in a cage, under the knack of an almost all-powerful husband and father. We know stories like this from literature and the everyday life of old noble families and the traditionally wealthy. In the Emirates, however, people would be led to believe that this does not exist. Here everyone must be happy and content with their "just and good" ruler.

Internally, the wives and children of Mohammed bin Raschid have to do what the patriarch says. Outwardly, Mohammed bin Raschid presents himself as a beautiful spirit in front of his millions of followers on social media. He apparently acknowledged his wife's alleged escape, as befits an Arab, with a morally sour poem about trust and betrayal.

The emir perfectly embodies the double standards of his country: exaggerated modernity here, outmoded traditions with antiquated gender roles there. None of this will change if the boss - who is perhaps politically milder and more tolerant compared to other authoritarian rulers in the region - keeps several wives, like he has a parking garage full of luxury cars and a stable full of noble horses approved. Wives are degraded to status symbols.

Europe should not swing the moral club

The princess, who has now apparently fled, is none other than Haya bint al-Hussein, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, and half-sister of King Abdullah of Jordan. This woman of obviously high social standing is not fleeing to her parents' country, but to Europe. That is a disgrace for the entire upper class of society in the Arab world. Perhaps one or the other there is pensive that one of the most famous daughters apparently prefers to seek refuge in the West. Presumably that will only remain a pious wish. Too many people in the Arab world are big on inventing excuses to distract from their own responsibility. Self-criticism is still a mystery to them.


But before anyone in Europe or in this country lets out a howl of triumph, one should also consider: Any references to enlightenment achievements in the West as opposed to backwoodslots in the Arab world are particularly inappropriate from politics, as long as rich business is continued with the rulers in the Gulf . The accusation of double standards also affects Europe. Europe's forefinger on human and women's rights is only all too easy to raise if it does not disrupt economic interests. The billions from the UAE and neighboring countries are in numerous global corporations - including German companies. If you want to act credibly, you shouldn't just talk.

Lamya Kaddor is an Islamic scholar, religious educator and journalist. She is currently leading a research project at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Her new book is called "The thing with the bratwurst. My somewhat different German life" and was published by Piper. You can also follow our columnist on Facebook or Twitter.