Dubai/ Abu Dhabi/ Fujairah: Where should you draw the line at public displays of affection - to the point of being culturally insensitive or obscene?
The rules are fairly appropriate to that of the family-oriented society in which we live in and although some may argue that people dress or act in a way that is culturally insensitive, the majority said they draw the line when the situation becomes obscene.
In a recent Gulf News poll, 55 per cent of respondents said that they were not offended by public displays of intimacy, while the remaining 45 per cent said that they were.
City Talk took to the streets and asked residents if they were offended by public displays of affection. Are they aware of local sensitivities and should the authorities do more to spread awareness?
Ali Saukat, 36, a businessman from the UK, said: "This is an Islamic country and people should understand the culture and obey it as much as they can. But the problem is that many people don't really know that public displays of affection are not allowed, and it is important for the rules to be advertised, such as in newspapers or on the radio. There are limits as to what can be tolerated because after all, this is a family-oriented society and this should be respected."
Sheetal Sachdev, an Indian architect, 31, said: "I am not that offended when I see public displays of affection but there is a limit as to what is acceptable, because everyone should respect the country's culture. Holding hands is fine, but kissing and hugging should be done in private. If I see anyone doing this, then I try to ignore them because it is uncomfortable to look at, and people should know that the culture is different here than in Europe."
Emad Barakat, a Syrian, 38, who just arrived in the UAE less than 24 hours ago. "Since I am new in the country, I cannot judge the culture here, but I can say one thing, I am an open-minded person and believe in giving people certain privacy and freedom. I lived in Bulgaria for 14 years and I learnt to mind my own business there, if you don't like what you see in front of you, simply don't stare. "As for punishing a couple during a public display of affection, I don't believe we have the right to do so. Europeans know the rules of an Islamic country such as the UAE and should respect them."
Chacko Kuriakose, an Indian civil engineer, 52, has been in the UAE for 28 years and feels that according to UAE law, no one has the right to interfere, unless he/she witnesses a crime scene. "I would never interfere if I saw two people in the middle of something, that's their business not mine. I would only interfere if there was trouble or violence involved, and then I would call the police. This country has always offered freedom, stability and respect and I don't think we have any issues to date. However the new expatriates coming in lack cultural knowledge. I think the government should help enlighten them."
Issam Al Rawas, a Syrian hairdresser, 36, said: "Behaviour such as public shows of affection or outright indecency is alien to our Islamic and Arabic cultures and values, so it's no surprise that people will feel extremely uneasy and offended by it. Personal freedom is all good and well, but certain things should be kept behind closed doors and things that people feel need privacy should not be done in public.
"I think there should be more awareness of this issue by visitors and residents alike, and these laws should be strictly enforced by the authorities. In truth though, most people coming to this country know the local laws and sensitivities and should abide by them, and to be fair, many do."
Accountant Mehul Shah, from India, 40, said: "Leaflets should be handed out and posters should be put up in shopping centres reminding people about the rule of conduct in the country, because right now there is not enough awareness coming from authorities. The law should be implemented against those who implement it, but not that harshly." Samah Chouman, a senior sales and marketing executive from Lebanon, 24, said: "I am not offended by public displays if innocent, but if they exceed limits, I do get offended. I do not react when I see two people in the middle of something, I don't even look a second time. I feel the authorities have the right to interfere if things get out of hand."
Rabi'e Taha, a chef from Lebanon, 29, said: "In certain areas, some people show a blatant disregard to the values of this country, and one has to say more could be done by the authorities to prevent that. Certainly, if more of a stand is made against such behaviour it will subside and people will realise it is unacceptable. Many expatriates respect the culture of the country but there are some who don't show as much respect and should be treated as law breakers."