“Dubai dreams the way I dream,” effused actor Will Smith at a recent press conference in the luxe emirate to promote Suicide Squad, his latest horribly reviewed, massively profitable contribution to the art of cinema. “It really flows with who I am….You never know why a city speaks to you… it’s just the energy of progress here.”
As we’ve seen, this is a dude who fancies himself a deep thinker, a moral authority, a preacher of good values and responsible parenting, and an all-around paragon of principle. He plainly thinks he’s worked out an intellectually sophisticated and ethically admirable philosophy of life that he’s obligated to share with us lesser beings. When his daughter, Willow, now 15, tweets that “ANYTHING that I EVER do is geared towards the evolution and vibrational elevation of this planet through the inspiration of individuals,” it’s because she’s been hearing her father and her actress mother, Jada Pinkett Smith, spout this kind of inane New Age rhetoric ever since she was in the cradle.
And yet there he was, Will Smith, the fount of all that self-consciously high-minded claptrap, sitting in front of a worshipful media audience at the Mall of the Emirates, rhapsodizing over a country that Freedom House considers “not free” – a sharia-ruled country where public kissing and drinking alcohol are punishable by 80 lashes, where premarital sex is punished by 100 lashes, and where adultery, apostasy, and homosexuality are punished by death. Yes, death. (Usually stoning.)
It’s a country where critics of the regime are routinely imprisoned, tortured, and “disappeared.” A country where Muslim women, in accordance with sharia law, are at best second-class citizens: they’re prohibited from marrying non-Muslim men (even though Muslim men can wed non-Muslim women); the law recognizes their husbands’ absolute right to rape and beat them at will; and their own rights are thoroughly subordinated to men’s in cases of divorce, child custody, and a range of other matters.
It’s also a country where a woman who accuses a man of rape is likely to be flogged and imprisoned as punishment for having had extramarital sex. (Three years ago, a Norwegian woman, Marte Dalelv, was sentenced to sixteen months in Dubai after saying she’d been raped; she was released and allowed to return home only after her case sparked international media outrage.)
Did Will Smith take a stand on the UAE’s barbaric human-rights practices? No. He didn’t say a word.
But hey, this doesn’t meant that he and his wife, Jada, shy away from speaking up about moral outrages. After all, it was just a few months ago that Jada courageously addressed (in the video below) an equally appalling example of man’s inhumanity to man – namely, the fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had failed to nominate any persons of color for this year’s acting awards. (Many observers speculated that Jada was irked that Will hadn’t received an Oscar nod for his movie Concussion, even though he’d made the short list at the Golden Globes.)
Unsurprisingly, the UAE media welcomed Smith’s harsh remarks about his own countrymen – the Donald Trump followers he wants to see “cleansed” from society, the “Islamophobia” he views as primitive and misguided. But this slick know-it-all didn’t seem to be remotely aware (or, perhaps, simply didn’t care) that he was savaging his fellow Americans in a nation where any criticism of its own public officials or royals is absolutely verboten. Where, indeed, the very freedom of expression that makes Smith’s entire career possible is severely restricted – along, we might add, with the freedom of religion and of assembly that, back in the U.S.A., allow him to spout his vapid creed before the TV cameras without fear of incarceration, torture, or death.