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Dancing or holding hands in public could now score you a prison sentence in the Arab world’s apparently most progressive and Western-friendly state.

From my favourite, Arab News:

DUBAI: Playing loud music, dancing, nudity, kissing and even holding hands in public is considered inappropriate behavior under new guidelines laid down by the authorities of Dubai, a report said yesterday.

The Arabic-language daily Al-Emarat Al-Youm said the Dubai Executive Council has urged residents of Dubai, where foreigners make up more than 80 percent of the population, to respect the customs of the country and avoid inappropriate behavior.

The rules, which apply to all public places, include a ban on all forms of nudity, playing music loudly and dancing, exchange of kisses between men and women — and even on unmarried couples holding hands.

Any breach of the guidelines, by nationals or expatriates, carries a possible prison penalty, the paper said.

The guidelines also stipulate that anyone caught under the influence of alcohol — even small amounts — outside designated drinking areas is liable to being fined or imprisoned, the paper added.

Dubai, a member of the seven-emirate United Arab Emirates, has a diverse culture as it is home to a huge foreign population.

Unlike most of its neighbors, the emirate tolerates a relatively relaxed dress code and hosts dozens of hotels that have bars and clubs.

However, a series of incidents, including crackdowns on cross dressers and the expulsion of two British expatriates found guilty of having sex on the beach, has thrown into the limelight the sometimes clashing local and foreign cultures.

This is just the latest example of Dubai’s inability to shed off its conservative medieval values, undoubtedly speeding up its fall from grace.

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