A new campaign started in the petro-rich Gulf state of Qatar seeks to encourage tourists to dress modestly and not offend religious sentiments in the staunchly Muslim country.
The grass-roots campaign, started by a group of Qatari women, will officially launch next month, according to Gulf News. It includes a brochure to be distributed to arriving visitors that details what sort of attire conforms to accepted societal standards. As expected, dresses, sleeveless attire and other garments believed to reveal too much skin (or chest hair, it seems) are a strict no-no.
More surprisingly, the campaign, which has its own Twitter and Instagram accounts, advises against men wearing shorts. One wonders how this particular mandate jibes with Qatar's plans to host the 2022 soccer World Cup. The "reflect your respect" campaign has already started populating social media with advisories:
There's a similar campaign in the nearby U.A.E.; its @UAEDressCode Twitter account celebrates official reminders of dress codes in buildings and malls and hails foreigners who obey local protocol:
Two years ago, the Qatari government's Islamic Cultural Center tried its own awareness campaign. "The amount of immodest clothing is growing in public places, especially shopping malls. Such foreigner behavior conflicts with our traditions. We do not want our kids to be exposed to it or learn from it, and that’s why we will start this campaign," an official told Gulf News at the time.
With its vast oil and natural gas reserves, Qatar has seen a population boom over the past decade, tripling in size from 600,000 people in 2001 to 1.9 million in 2011. This is almost entirely thanks to an influx of foreign expatriates and migrant workers, almost all of whom will never be entitled to Qatari citizenship and the lavish benefits that come with being a national of the world's richest country per capita. Still, the existence of a foreign majority in Qatar has caused anxiety over the challenges it poses to the country's traditions.
The brochures now in the news tell foreigners that the mere fact of their presence in Qatar means "you are one of us." That is an interesting designation: Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers toiling away on the country's countless construction sites rarely are made to feel "one" with Qataris. Indeed, the emirate's old-fashioned "kafala" labor system effectively treats migrants like indentured servants, kept in the thrall of employers. The situation has prompted myriad reports of abuse. One hopes there would be as much local grass-roots concern regarding their plight as there is about the exposed knees of sweaty tourists.
Update: Sufficiently chastened by reader reactions, I will point your attention to a message in the brochure that escaped my earlier scrutiny: the asterisked note in all caps, advising: "LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS." In Doha, consider yourself warned.