March 8, 2020, The Sunday Times
Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum has only nine months left to realise his dream of making the United Arab Emirates “one of the best countries in the world by 2021”. He has a way to go. Right now it is 195th best in the world on my list of 196 countries and, frankly, it’s a toss-up for that last place with Kim Jong-un’s deranged rocket-launching strip.
I haven’t been to North Korea. But I have been to the UAE, of which Sheikh Mohammed is prime minister and vice-president. It is a wholly vile and despicable slave state characterised by hideous Arab bling and grotesque iniquity. Its architecture is seemingly a collaboration between Victoria Beckham and Albert Speer.
Some of its imported, largely Muslim, workers from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have been deprived of passports and human rights and worked to death for a pittance, building more and more phallic monstrosities. It is ridden with the usual rank Stone-Age misogyny in which miscreants can be stoned or flogged.
There are likeable people in Dubai — the foreigners (and I don’t mean the Brits). The Pakistani taxi drivers, the tough and cheerful prostitutes from Russia, the exploited Bengali labourers. All I spoke to shared the same view — that their hosts were the most appalling people they had ever encountered. The women wouldn’t sleep with them no matter how they’d be paid, they said.
Oh, and the Brits, the Brits. Driving around in their sports cars, courting tumours on the baking beaches, occasionally being arrested for shagging in public. Apparently 1.5 million Brits visit this rancid, scorching sandpit every year. Each to their own, I suppose.
I would never go again — not least because I was told after I’d written an article about the place for The Sunday Times that I wouldn’t be very welcome. Don’t come back, they said. Well, that’s put a real crimp in my holiday plans.
What sort of man — because it will always be a man — would run this sort of place? The answer is, of course, Sheikh Mohammed: a psychopathic, woman-hating bully and tyrant who believes — with some justification, frankly — that he is beyond the law. That he is the law.
We have discovered this from our own Family Court, in an action brought by his now mercifully estranged wife Princess Haya (don’t worry, he has five others), who fled to London with her two children (don’t worry, the sheikh is said to have 21 more kids). The sheikh had his own daughter Princess Shamsa abducted from the UK, drugged and then flown back to Dubai, where she was tortured and imprisoned. She is still held captive and is said to have tried to kill herself. He also sent commandos to abduct another daughter, Princess Latifa, now locked inside a Dubai palace somewhere. His wife, the one who got the hell out, feared she would be killed.
But the sheikh, like the UAE in general, is given a free pass. He is a friend of the Queen, natch (the royals choose their friendships so wisely, don’t they?). He has a massive hunting estate in Scotland, some kind of horse farm in Suffolk and a huge mansion in Surrey.
He is “our friend”, and friends are in short supply in the Islamic world. It is alleged that the last Labour government blocked an investigation into the kidnapping of Princess Shamsa because it was diplomatically expedient to do so — and as a result we connived in the torture and imprisonment of an 18-year-old. But that’s what friends do, isn’t it? Turn a blind eye. You call it realpolitik; I call it astonishing hypocrisy.
The lefties stage demos almost every week of the year against Israel — a country that, incidentally, affords its large Arab population the vote, whatever else you might say of it. But no demos outside the UAE embassy for its violations of human rights, its treatment of women, its lack of democracy, its horrible and demeaning exploitation of impoverished Muslim workers.
Our governments, Labour and Conservative, ignore the behaviour of the sheikh and the UAE because at least it isn’t Iran or Isis or the Muslim Brotherhood. As a consequence, ordinary Muslims look at our double standards and think to themselves: there is no principle in these people, despite their supposed regard for democracy and human rights. Why should we ever trust them?
I wonder whether the revelations from this court case will have any effect whatsoever. My guess is we will still snivel around Sheikh Mohammed — and the Saudis and Qataris. And a million or so Brits will still flock there every year in pursuit of skin cancer. And we will all somehow kid ourselves that the UAE is the good guy out there.