x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Tweets take on immodest dressers

An Emirati woman has launched a #no2nudity Twitter campaign that calls on her compatriots and expatriates alike to 'say no' to immodest dressing.

DUBAI // An Emirati woman has launched a Twitter campaign titled #no2nudity against indecent exposure and public displays of affection.

Maryam Bintheneya's campaign was launched last week on Twibbon, Twitter's social action programme, and asks people to show their support for modesty by retweeting the hash tag and confronting those who are scantily clad.

So far, 292 Twitter users have signed up as supporters and carry the no2nudity stamp on their profile pictures, which is a long black overall in a red circle. Many others are retweeting the no2nudity tag.

Yasmine, an 18-year-old Emirati, said the campaign was long overdue although she worried the message was unclear.

"I don't think 'nudity' is a very precise term to explain what the message is, because Muslim Arabs have a different definition of nudity to westerners," she said, explaining that a V-neck top or shorts might be considered immodest in her culture, but appropriate elsewhere.

Yasmine said she often felt uncomfortable going to malls. "To be honest, it makes me mad. It feels like my culture is being insulted. I understand that Dubai is a metropolitan city of different cultures and faiths, which I respect, but people must understand that this is a Muslim country. Everything has a limit."

Abdulla Al Kendi, 25, an Emirati, said he believed the campaign was a great initiative, but agreed the wording was misleading.

"I think the word 'nudity' has resulted in some misunderstandings," he said. "Nonetheless, the campaign should continue to spread awareness because fixing the word now will diffuse the efforts."

Mr Al Kendi said he always approached offending dressers to offer his advice. "I do approach them with a smile and advise them in a respectful and polite manner to educate them about our culture and values and that the mall discourages indecency," he said.

He said he also sometimes distributed leaflets from the Islamic authority, Awaqaf, which have information about indecency. However, he was aware change would not happen overnight.

"I would like to advise the individuals who support the campaign to be patient because change takes time. Never give up," he said.

Ruth Cardona, a 27-year-old Muslim convert from America, said the rules of dress - covered shoulders and knees - were clear. The problem, she said, was enforcement.

"This issue is not a Muslim versus non-Muslim, or expat versus local thing. We see people from all backgrounds who do dress and behave inappropriately.

"There are so many mixed messages: Muslim women who wear the abaya and shayla in a disrespectful way, men who use women's dress as an excuse to be disrespectful. If there's no enforcement of the rules, how can we expect people to respect it?" she asked.

"People aren't going to change their dress by reading a hash tag," she added. "Enforcement of the rules is the only thing that will help, and leading by example."

aalhaddad@thenational.ae