A Dance Class Triggers a Crisis in Kuwait

Friday 13 August 202111:00 am
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"ما تفكرون إلَّا بنظرة وصخة"... تدريب رقص يثير أزمة في الكويت

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Commerce and Industry has thoroughly and swiftly ended a crisis sparked by popular and parliamentary protests against a fitness club holding a belly dance class. The ministry, taking quick action, was able to once and for all, put an end to the clamor by issuing a decision to close down the club and suspend all its activities for the foreseeable future.

In exclusive statements to the United States-based Al-Hurra channel, the club’s manager confirmed that the ministry had officially notified him on August 9 of the shut down, and that he — along with others in charge within the club — has been summoned for investigation. The day before — Sunday August 8 — the Ministry of Commerce and Industry had indeed already closed the club down, before even alerting its owner.

An announcement published by the ladies fitness club stated that it is holding courses to teach belly dancing. As a consequence, this sparked an uproar and widespread controversy in Kuwait, forcing the authorities to announce its closure and summon those in charge for an investigation. This came after MPs in the Kuwaiti National Assembly became concerned with the coarse announcement and saw it as a violation of their values.

The crisis began when a ladies gym called “Viva Fit” in the Jahra region declared that it was organizing a course to teach belly dancing from August 8 to August 24, for a subscription fee of 78 Kuwaiti dinars (around 260 US dollars). This aroused the ire of some activists, who called it a violation of the customs and traditions of the conservative Kuwaiti society.

The crisis began when VivaFit gym advertised a belly dancing course for a subscription fee of 78 Kuwaiti dinars. This aroused the ire of some activists, who called it a violation of the customs of the conservative Kuwaiti society

Kuwaiti media sources stated that the Commercial Control Department at the Ministry of Commerce will follow up on the rest of the closing procedures during the course of this week, following the end of the Hijri New Year holiday. They added that the department will also enforce the sanctions list against the violating company as stipulated in the Commercial Companies Law.

Refusal and Defense

Standing behind the decision to close the club was the pressure exerted by a number of parliamentarians, including Representative Fayez Ghannam Al-Jumhour, who announced on his Twitter account: “I made a call to the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Abdullah Al-Salman, and informed him of this violation of licensing (legal permit) and our values, and he assured me that he will take legal measures against the license holder and prevent such promotional offers from being made in the future.” He added that, “We were, still are, and — God willing — will continue to be a stumbling block for those who want to steer the Kuwaiti society away from its religion, customs, and traditions.

Meanwhile, many other Kuwaitis considered these courses as a “normal” thing and can be found in all Kuwait gyms and clubs.

In defense of belly dancing, Kuwaiti writer and actress May al-Eidan tweeted: “I mean, have all the problems of the country been solved by closing down an institute or a gym that has a belly dance course? What is the problem? Maybe she [a lady] is learning to dance so that she could dance for her husband to make him happy, or with her friends at a wedding or event. Just because [a lady] is learning to dance doesn’t mean it is in order to dance at a nightclub or in some young men’s house. You only see things through a dirty mind (view).”

“Have all the country’s problems been solved by closing an institute that has a belly dance course? What is the problem?... Just because [a lady] is learning to dance doesn’t mean it’s to dance at a nightclub or for young men. You only see things through a dirty mind”

According to the tweets of a number of Kuwaiti women and some local online newspapers, many fitness clubs in Kuwait organize and hold belly dance courses as part of their slimming and fitness programs. However, they must file for and obtain special licenses in order to hold these types of courses.

It is noteworthy that the past two decades have witnessed a spread in belly dance classes and Zumba courses within fitness clubs in a number of Arab countries, as part of weight loss and physical fitness programs. According to assurances and assertions made by the fitness club’s director to the Kuwaiti online newspaper “Jaridatkum”, the course that had sparked such controversy was expected to be strictly coached and taught by female fitness trainers and attended exclusively by women.

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