Dubai sends American to max-security prison for … a YouTube satire video

posted at 4:01 pm on December 23, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Let this be a cautionary tale to Americans working abroad: not all countries appreciate a satirical sense of humor.  Minnesotan Shezanne Cassim has lived and worked in Dubai for PricewaterhouseCoopers for seven years, but he’s now imprisoned in a maximum-security prison. His offense? Making a social satire about rich Dubai “gangstas” on YouTube last October:

A UAE court jailed on Monday an American and four other men for one year after they made a YouTube video that mocked Dubai teenagers, The National daily reported.

Shezanne Cassim, a 29-year-old from Minnesota, has been held since April after being charged with endangering the security of the United Arab Emirates under a cybercrimes law.

He was also fined 10,000 dirhams ($2,725).

What was his “cybercrime”? Poking fun at wannabe gangstas in Dubai:

The 19-minute video, called the “Satwa Comedy School,” gently parodies Dubai teenagers from the city’s Satwa district who styled themselves as tough “gangstas” wearing hip-hop clothes and listening to rap music, but who in reality were known for very mild behaviour.

In the mock documentary, Cassim and his friends learn the latest techniques of “Satwa G’s combat” which include the correct way to throw a shoe at a newspaper, and how in extreme cases to use a mobile phone to call for back-up.

At the risk of never being able to visit Dubai, here’s the criminal satire in its entirety:

As comedy, it’s got good production values but doesn’t sustain itself over its longish run time. It would have worked better as a series of short skits rather than one 20-minute mockumentary. The late Chris Farley did this much better in Beverly Hills Ninja. On the other hand, it beats For Your Consideration by a mile.

It’s easy to joke about this, but it’s no joke to Cassim and his family. It’s outrageous of Dubai to have locked up Cassim for even a day, let alone for eight months — and adding another year in maximum security is absurd. Dubai and UAE want to position themselves as a modern, cosmopolitan oasis in the Middle East, but this suggests that they’re just another oppressive totalitarian state with enough money to buy good PR. The US should have demanded his release months ago, and his continued incarceration should be a high-profile story for anyone who cares about even rudimentary freedoms, such as the freedom to laugh.

The Cassim family spoke to CNN this morning in an attempt to raise Shezanne’s profile here in the US:

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…did the call Hillary?

KOOLAID2 on December 23, 2013 at 4:02 PM

…(they…4:02 PM),,,that John Kerry is doing one he11 of a job!

KOOLAID2 on December 23, 2013 at 4:05 PM

I here stories that say Dubai is not like other parts of the Middle East.

Oil Can on December 23, 2013 at 4:07 PM

The US should have demanded his release months ago

As you know, this administration is all about putting people away for making videos.

Kafir on December 23, 2013 at 4:07 PM

The Associated Press ‏@AP 5m

Producing a spoof documentary of would-be “gangsta” youth in Dubai gets 8 people sentenced to prison in the UAE: http://apne.ws/JWudw3
==================================================================

UAE sentences American to 1 year in video case
By ADAM SCHRECK
— Dec. 23, 2013 3:01 PM EST
***************************

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/uae-sentences-american-1-year-parody-video

canopfor on December 23, 2013 at 4:13 PM

At the risk of never being able to visit Dubai

Been there, don’t intend to ever return in my lifetime. What a dump.

TulsAmerican on December 23, 2013 at 4:14 PM

I always wonder why Americans work in these places. I would not feel comfortable going to most of them for vacation, let alone to work. Too many of them hate Americans and throw US citizens in jail for no real reason other than they can.

Doomberg on December 23, 2013 at 4:14 PM

At this point what difference does it make?

Mason on December 23, 2013 at 4:14 PM

I’d also like to add that I wouldn’t have Dubai in me if I had room for it. Thank you.

Mason on December 23, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Religion of peace … yeah right … :P

Cadian on December 23, 2013 at 4:18 PM

MeanWhile, two rappers found NK more friendly’er:
—————————————————

Two US rappers filmed a music video in North Korea and say ‘they treated us well’
****************

Pacman and Peso told reporters in China on Saturday that they filmed the first ever American music video in North Korea in the hopes that it would be a novel hit

The trip was planned through a travel agency specializing in bringing Westerners to North Korea

Past Americans visiting North Korea were detained but Pacman and Peso encountered no problems in the country

By Associated Press

PUBLISHED: 21:27 GMT, 30 November 2013 | UPDATED: 21:27 GMT, 30 November 2013
**************

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2516199/Two-US-rappers-filmed-music-video-North-Korea-say-treated-well.html

canopfor on December 23, 2013 at 4:18 PM

Not being allowed in Dubai is a bonus, not a bad thing, Ed. Their propaganda wants us to believe that they are a modern democratic society, but in reality they are just another tribal Arab emirate with lots of money and the western facade.

simkeith on December 23, 2013 at 4:21 PM

It’s outrageous of Dubai to have locked up Cassim for even a day, let alone for eight months — and adding another year in maximum security is absurd. Dubai and UAE want to position themselves as a modern, cosmopolitan oasis in the Middle East, but this suggests that they’re just another oppressive totalitarian state with enough money to buy good PR.

I’m not quite sure what’s outrageous about it. We agree they’re a totalitarian state; this is how totalitarian states behave.

I also agree with a couple of previous commenters here, I don’t know why you’d go there. The US is headed towards totalitarianism, but it’s not there yet.

Fenris on December 23, 2013 at 4:22 PM

He lives there seven years and never figures out it might be a bad idea to make fun of the children of the ruling class?

No. He should not be locked up, but he was definitely spitting in the eye of a very dangerous beast and he had to know it.

M240H on December 23, 2013 at 4:25 PM

While I agree that the punishment is outrageous, it simply points out yet again, that when an American citizen goes to a foreign country for ANY reason, they need not only to brush up on local laws and customs, but also abide by them. How many of these young people have wound up in a foreign prison because they said or did something that wouldn’t make a ripple here, but is a major crime “over there”. Once they find their butts jailed in some third-world hellhole, they will scream about their “rights” as if OUR Constitution applies outside the USA.

My condolences to the lad, and I hope public pressure may help get him “sprung”, but it’s worth remembering that dictatorships, be they Communist or Islamic, don’t have a sense of humor. Laughter is a gift from God, and when God is tossed out of a country the ability to laugh usually goes with Him.

oldleprechaun on December 23, 2013 at 4:28 PM

He’s been in custody since April, so hopefully, he will be out by then or sooner.

Blake on December 23, 2013 at 4:28 PM

I watched half of it.

Though most of my indignation has now evaporated, I still agree that jail-time is excessive.

. . . could still throw some shoes at them though.

Axe on December 23, 2013 at 4:29 PM

Arab Muslims are not noted for their sense of humor or tolerant nature, which may be the reason they have to live in the hot, brown and dirty parts of the world that no one else wants to live in. If you are going to make fun of them, it’s best not to be in their clutches.

Wallythedog on December 23, 2013 at 4:33 PM

Minnesotan Shezanne Cassim has lived and worked in Dubai for PricewaterhouseCoopers for seven years

And was this culturally deaf?

I’m not saying that the UAE is right but Cassim wasn’t more aware about the society where he was working?

Happy Nomad on December 23, 2013 at 4:34 PM

Arab Muslims are not noted for their sense of humor or tolerant nature, which may be the reason they have to live in the hot, brown and dirty parts of the world that no one else wants to live in. If you are going to make fun of them, it’s best not to be in their clutches.

Wallythedog on December 23, 2013 at 4:33 PM

Or anywhere else. The Benghazi offender who sparked all those riots was living in Los Angeles. Fortunately for the Muslims, there are domestic hate groups like CAIR which not only fund terrorist activities but also track down offenders of their so-called religion of peace.

Happy Nomad on December 23, 2013 at 4:35 PM

Damn that Western Patriarchy.

This is just more Islamophobia!

Trying to make the poor ole Religion of Death look bad.

profitsbeard on December 23, 2013 at 4:44 PM

If you’re going to go to other countries, respect their culture.

And I really don’t think an American can go around self righteously insulting other countries for their “gangsta culture” considering that here those “gangstas” are walking around punching people in the head and killing them.

Think, before you act.

And don’t follow hollywood’s lead on ANYTHING.

KMC1 on December 23, 2013 at 4:55 PM

I here stories that say Dubai is not like other parts of the Middle East.

Oil Can on December 23, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Yup, this is the fun-loving Islamic state… *ahem*

Fallon on December 23, 2013 at 4:56 PM

Did these guys write for SNL?

Fallon on December 23, 2013 at 5:01 PM

Religion of peace … yeah right … :P

Cadian on December 23, 2013 at 4:18 PM

When someone holds a sword to your throat, you tend to be pretty peaceful.

Socratease on December 23, 2013 at 5:06 PM

I here stories that say Dubai is not like other parts of the Middle East.

Oil Can on December 23, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Yup, this is the fun-loving Islamic state… *ahem*

Fallon on December 23, 2013 at 4:56 PM

Laurie Penny says it’s all cool, bro.

davidk on December 23, 2013 at 5:06 PM

Yup, this is the fun-loving Islamic state… *ahem*

Fallon on December 23, 2013 at 4:56 PM

Yeah as fashion forward as the old Soviet Union.

LINK

Happy Nomad on December 23, 2013 at 5:06 PM

but this suggests that they’re just another oppressive totalitarian state with enough money to buy good PR.

Ya think?

davidk on December 23, 2013 at 5:10 PM

canopfor on December 23, 2013 at 4:18 PM

Rodman homies?

davidk on December 23, 2013 at 5:03 PM

davidk:Lol,..btw, good to see news linkys you put up,..carry-on:0

canopfor on December 23, 2013 at 5:40 PM

Dubai has some nice hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls, but that’s about all it has going for it.

Hayabusa on December 23, 2013 at 6:36 PM

Reality check: muslim country – muslim laws. Don’t like it? Don’t go there.

Pork-Chop on December 23, 2013 at 6:43 PM

Anyone that goes to those countries is asking for it…and I feel no sympathy for them.

Dr. ZhivBlago on December 23, 2013 at 6:48 PM

But if a Christian fires off a letter to the editor because you made fun of Christianity, we’re living under the Taliban, or something.

CurtZHP on December 23, 2013 at 7:38 PM

Dubai has some nice hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls, but that’s about all it has going for it.

Hayabusa on December 23, 2013 at 6:36 PM

So does Allentown, PA.

CurtZHP on December 23, 2013 at 7:39 PM

Dubai sends American to max-security prison for … a YouTube satire video

Sometimes I envy the simplicity of the “Dubai solution” to problems:

*Can we jail Hollywood Americans for bad movies??

…and/or bad TV shows???

*Can we jail “journalists” for fake or falsified news??

/satirical comment>

…please don’t imprison me for Christmas!

landlines on December 23, 2013 at 10:12 PM

Islam has a unique sense of humor.

Perhaps from having started out as a bad joke…

profitsbeard on December 23, 2013 at 11:43 PM

Having lived and worked in Dubai for years, this video was much funnier to me than it probably was to most of you.

The royal family is literally treated like gods and no matter how fun-loving and open-minded the local Arabs seem, you learn early on in your time in the UAE that you do NOT mock the royal family in front of any local.

I had a friend get “asked to leave” the country for linking some news articles that were deemed “unfavorable to the UAE image” on his facebook page…according to his employer.

The link that got him voluntarily deported.

JetBlast on December 24, 2013 at 7:57 AM

The lesson here is that Western nations have gone soft. All sorts of sports leagues now play in Dubai e.g. Golf and they pretend it is a civilized nation. Unless and until western governments and especially businesses and sports organizations start boycotting Dubai and the UAE and the rest of the racist islamists that run these places this will continue to happen.

This is all about Westerners worshiping islamist petro dollars rather than valuing human rights and common decency.

This is why news outlets (attention Hotair.com) that associate themselves with the racist Al Jazeera are liable for this problem

georgealbert on December 24, 2013 at 8:52 AM

Happy Nomad on December 23, 2013 at 4:34 PM

Yeah, another case of un-wise, yet shouldn’t be illegal behavior.

GWB on December 24, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Pretty funny. And typical of the Muslim loons to entirely miss the point. As Ayatollah Khomeini said “There is no humor in Islam”. And indeed it is true. Real Muslims are psychotics or mentally retarded.

pat on December 24, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Dubai has some nice hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls, but that’s about all it has going for it.

Hayabusa on December 23, 2013 at 6:36 PM

So does Allentown, PA.

CurtZHP on December 23, 2013 at 7:39 PM

Not in my recollection! :)

virgo on December 26, 2013 at 10:29 PM