Why one Arab country is telling its travelers to forgo traditional clothing

The United Arab Emirates has warned its citizens against wearing traditional garments while traveling abroad. This follows police in Avon, Ohio detaining a man wearing a traditional robe after a 9-11 caller accused him of having ties to ISIS.

Kamran Jebreili/AP/file
Emirati officials are shown wearing traditional garments during a visit to an exhibition at the World Government Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in February 2016. The UAE has advised citizens to not wear the traditional garb while traveling.

The United Arab Emirates has advised its citizens against wearing the traditional white robes, headscarf and headband while traveling abroad. This comes a week after police in Ohio detained an Emirati man after a 911 caller accused him of being associated with ISIS. 

"For citizens traveling outside the country, and in order to ensure their safety, we point out not to wear formal dress while traveling, especially in public places," the UAE's foreign ministry tweeted Saturday, as Reuters reported. 

Ahmed Almenhali, an Emirati businessman, was trying to book a room while wearing his country's traditional kandura at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Avon, twenty minutes from Cleveland, according to WEWS Channel 5 News in Cleveland. A clerk had her sister call 911, saying that a man dressed in Muslim clothing had pledged allegiance to ISIS. 

Police brought Mr. Almenhali to the ground, handcuffed him, and searched him. 

"They were brutal with me," Almenhali told The National, a UAE newspaper. "They pressed forcefully on my back. I had several injuries and bled from the forceful nature of their arrest."

The officers found no weapons on Almenhali, and after interviewing the clerk found that he had not actually made any statements related to ISIS, the National reported. 

After being released, Almenhali collapsed and was taken to St. John Medical Center. He told The National he suffered a panic attack. 

"I always wear my traditional clothes during all my travels and never encountered such a thing," Almenhali said.

Avon's police chief and mayor apologized to Almenhali for the treatment they received. Police Chief Richard Bosley called it "a very regrettable circumstance", WEWS reported, and said he should not have been put in that situation. 

"There were some false accusations made against you," Mayor Brian Jensen said, according to WEWS. "And those are regrettable. I hope…the person that made those can maybe learn from those."

Julia Shearson, the executive director of the CAIR in Cleveland, told The Independent that it was a "great irony" that Almenhali was looking for a hotel because his apartment was being used by the Republican National Committee for the upcoming Republican Convention.

"The fact that the police referred to his clothing in their report as a criminal indicator is very concerning," Ms. Shearson said. "Police need more diversity training. This is shocking to have happened in Avon, one of the most affluent and suburban neighborhoods outside of Cleveland."

Muslim groups have noted an increase in anti-Muslim incidents during Donald Trump's campaign, the International Business Times reported. Trump recently suggested hijab-wearing Muslim women employed by the Transportation Security Administration should be replaced by veterans, and previously has called for a ban of Muslims entering the US. 

Almenhali also pointed to Trump as a factor in the incident.

"Please tell Donald Trump to stop hating Mexicans and Muslims," he told the Independent. "Please tell Donald Trump to stop hating people." 

In an editorial, The National called the foreign ministry's advisory "completely understandable" in these tense times, but that society should strive to be more accepting.

"We don’t believe, for example, that women should have to alter their clothing to 'avoid' sexual assault, nor that ethnic or religious groups should hide their symbols to avoid hate crime," wrote the editors. "Rather, society ought to adjust to make sure those groups are protected from assault."

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