A Qatari campaign urging tourists and foreign residents to respect the country’s strict dress code has sparked controversy and sent jitters among its majority expatriate population.
The campaign says a visitor or a resident in Qatar is required to wear “decent clothes.”
“Women should avoid wearing any garments that are too tight, too short or translucent such as mini-skirts or sleeveless dresses,” according to a campaign poster posted on the campaign’s Twitter account @reflect_respect.
The banned attire were shown in a picture tweeted by the campaign. The pictures also appear to show a list of garments including short dresses, leggings and shorts.
“Both men and women should also avoid walking around in their swimming suits away from beaches or swimming pools,” according to the campaign.
The campaign says visitors and residents of Qatar “should know that courtesy and hospitality are of the virtues that are highly appreciated and respected in the Arab world. They will surely feel how friendly and gentle the Qatari people are.”
Expression of discontent
While some expats seem unperturbed by the campaign, others expressed discontent.
One American man living in Qatar, who preferred not to be indentified, said the dress code should only apply to “religious and official places.”
“It is completely understandable to ask expats to dress appropriately in religious and official locations but not in malls, beaches or souqs, commonly known for being the first attractions of expats,” he said.
Egyptian expat Nada Ramadan told Al Arabiya News: “We should not forget the golden rule: when in Rome, do what the Romans do. We must respect the country’s local customs and beliefs.”
The dress code in Qatar is a sensitive topic among locals and expatriates alike.
Hammoud Brahim, an Arab expatriate who grew up in Doha, said: “Qatar is becoming a multi-cultural country and needs to accommodate the ‘cultures’ of other people.”
Show of support
“Restricting what people wear is absurd. If there is an imposed dress code, it will only encourage oppression and intolerance in Doha … people must be able to wear what they want,” he added.
Some Qatari nationals took to social media to show their support for the campaign.
“This is something we needed a lot earlier @reflect_respect glad it’s starting now at least. ppl need to be aware of the country's customs,” remarked Twitter user @justaasim.
“This is how, we can preserve our religion and nation … Till the government adopts the idea of the campaign and issues a similar official law,” another user wrote.
@Asmaalkhatib wrote: “I totally support this and express my respect to everyone who respect our culture and heritage.”
Qatar’s Islamic Culture Center previously launched an initiative to educate foreigners on Qatar’s dress code.
“The amount of immodest clothing is growing in public places, especially shopping malls. Such foreigner behavior conflicts with our traditions,” Nasser al-Maliki, the center’s public relations’ chief told the UAE based daily news website Gulf News.
“We do not want our kids to be exposed to it or learn from it, and that’s why we will start this campaign,” he said.
Article 57 of the country’s constitution stipulates that “abiding by public order and morality, observing national traditions and established customs is a duty of all who reside in the State of Qatar or enter its territory."
Qatar’s ever-growing majority expatriate population and its increasing visibility on the world stage - especially with its winning bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup - have turned the spotlight on the small Gulf country.
The campaign has raised questions about what conditions international fans can expect when they visit Qatar to watch the games, particularly in summer where temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius.
In 2013, more than 208,000 expats arrived in the country, making nearly 85 percent of the population foreigners.SHOW MORE