Jamil Ahmed Mukadam, 23, a resident of Leicester, England was visiting Dubai in February when he apparently encountered a vehicle that came up close behind his rental car and started flashing their headlights. This apparently did not sit well with Mr. Mukadam, so he felt compelled to stick up his middle finger (a.k.a. "flipping the bird") at the other driver. He quickly forgot about the incident, but not so the other driver who felt violated by the gesture and subsequently went to the police to file a formal complaint.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Mukadam, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), raising your middle finger to someone is a criminal offense - it is well documented, with other people having been jailed in the country before. Armed with the license plate of the rental car, it was fairly easy for the local authorities to track him down through rental car records and his on-file passport.
When Mr. Mukadam returned to Dubai with his wife for another visit in September, he was arrested upon arrival at immigration control and detained for two days. He was then charged with indecency and could face a jail term of at least six months and a fine. He was completely unaware that there was a case against him when he returned to Dubai.
"When I came back last week for a holiday with my wife I went through passport control in Dubai and when they took a scan it started beeping loudly. Within seconds I was surrounded by police and taken off to jail."
Dubai's Government Media Office said the "complainant considered the act disrespectful and a humiliating gesture towards him and his wife and kids". "Dubai Police referred the case to Dubai Public Prosecution as complainant refused all attempts for amicable reconciliation," a statement on Twitter read.
Mr. Mukadam had his passport confiscated and has been told he must remain in the city until his court hearing. His wife returned home, but Mukadam is stuck in the country and short of cash while awaiting a formal charge. "I am worried about running out of money before I even get to court," he said. "No-one plans to spend two months, or more, in hotels in Dubai."
You would think after this experience that Mr. Mukadam wouldn't want anything more to do with the UAE, but you would be wrong there. He told The National, a newspaper in the region, "I am very stressed out at the moment and have no idea how this will end." Mr. Mukadam said he was particularly concerned about the prospect of not being allowed to visit the Emirates again, as it is a country he loves. "I visit the UAE regularly. It's a very relaxing place and I love the halal food. I have been here more than 10 times," he said.
I personally have visited Dubai twice and never ran into any problems with the law, although I have to admit that speed cameras there are fairly prevalent, so the final bill for my car rental included a few "add-ons" that drove up the price a bit. Dubai is an interesting city, and I would definitely recommend a visit. Drivers are generally courteous (this incident notwithstanding), and having a rental car allows visitors to get out and explore the entire area. Just keep your hands on the wheel and a light foot on the gas and you'll enjoy your time there.