In 2008, New York University (NYU) President John Sexton boasted that his project to open a campus in the UAE was “an opportunity to transform the university and, frankly, the world.” Now, working conditions have led to abuse and imprisonment of laborers involved in the process.
In 2009, the university, moving forward with the plan, issued a “statement of labor values” to ensure that workers engaged in the project would be treated fairly. Recently, Abu Dhabi police imprisoned and beat the laborers who were brave enough to strike against conditions that might best be described as indentured servitude.
As it turned out, the statement of labor values had been summarily ignored. Recruitment fees, costing up to a year’s wages, had not been reimbursed, as was guaranteed by the statement. Workers were forced to labor 11-12 hours a day, seven days a week, just to earn what they had been promised. Some of the men lived 15 to a room.
The mistreatment is, unfortunately, an all-too-common occurrence in Abu Dhabi. Sharia law is supreme, even over foreign contracts. Therefore, there is no rule of law, and there is certainly no freedom of speech or guarantee of fair treatment under the law. Westerners are tried in absentia and held for years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Men are allowed by law to beat their wives and children – as long as the beatings leave no visible marks. Indeed, the UAE is a movie set surrounded by a nation under the thumb of sharia-ism.
It’s strange that a liberal university from New York would deem this an appropriate place to build a full-blown campus. What’s stranger still is that NYU didn’t see the abuses coming.
Joy Brighton is author of Sharia-ism is Here – The Battle to Control Women and Everyone Else.