Belly dancing class at Kuwaiti women’s gym sparks uproar, prompting government interventionGlobal Voices


Several lawmakers in Kuwait’s National Assembly have pressured the government to shut down the women’s fitness club. Photo in the public domain.

This article was originally posted on Raseef22, an independent Arab media platform, on August 13, 2021, and an edited version is reposted under a content sharing agreement.

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Trade and Industry has rushed to shut down a sports club and suspended all its activists for the foreseeable future, in response to a crisis sparked by popular and parliamentary protests against the belly dancing class from the fitness club.

In exclusive statements to the American channel Al-Hurra, the club manager confirmed that the ministry officially informed him on August 9 of the closure and that he had been summoned, along with other officials within the club, for investigation. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry had in fact already firm the club fell a day earlier, on August 8, even before alerting its owner.

Al-Jahra residents demand a ban on belly dancing lessons at a women’s gymnasium in Al-Jahra district. They rejected support for such courses which do not suit Kuwaiti society, especially Al-Jahra.

The crisis began when a women’s gymnasium called “Viva Fit” in northern Al-Jahra governorate, home to a largely tribal and conservative population, posted an advertisement for a dance class. of the belly reserved for women from August 8 to 24. for a subscription of 78 Kuwaiti dinars (about 260 US dollars).

The announcement sparked widespread controversy, prompting several Kuwaiti National Assembly deputies to voice concerns about the nature of the class, saying it violated the values ​​of Kuwaiti society. This forced the authorities to announce the closure of the gymnasium and to summon those responsible for an investigation.

Kuwaiti media sources said the Commerce Ministry’s Trade Control Department will follow up on the remaining closing procedures.

Behind the decision to close the club was pressure from a number of parliamentarians, including Representative Fayez Ghannam Al-Jumhour, who announcement on his Twitter account:

I called the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Abdullah Al-Salman, and informed him of this violation of the license (legal permit) and our values, and he assured me that he will take legal action against the licensee 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 distance Kuwaiti society from its religion, customs and traditions.

Meanwhile, many other Kuwaitis considered these classes to be a “normal” thing that can be found in any gym and club in Kuwait.

In defense of belly dancing, Kuwaiti writer and actress May al-Eidan tweeted:

I mean, have all the problems in the country been solved so that there remains the closure of an institute or gymnasium that has a belly dance class? What is the problem? Maybe she [a lady] learns to dance so that she can dance for her husband to make him happy, or with her friends at a wedding or event. Just because [a lady] learning to dance does not mean that it is to dance in a nightclub or in a house for young men. You only see things through a dirty mind.

Another Kuwaiti opponent of the decision wrote:

A gym for women.
For women only.
Like all other women’s fitness clubs in Kuwait, offering various sports classes and classes of all types including belly dancing.
Where is the problem?
All women-only sports clubs run these types of classes, belly dancing, zumba, hip hop, etc.
Why the discrimination?

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

The manager of the fitness club told Kuwaiti online newspaper Jaridatkum that the class that sparked the debate should be strictly supervised and taught by female fitness coaches and attended exclusively by women.

The incident came shortly after another member of the country’s stateless population, also known as the bidoon, committed suicide, the latest in a series of suicides that reflect community frustration. for decades in the face of their suspended legal status, and the idle approach of political decision-makers in managing their aggravation.

Referring to this incident, a Twitter user wrote:

I am surprised at the civil society in Kuwait.
They are outraged by a belly dancing class in a women’s institution, and are not outraged by a Muslim who commits suicide. #Priority_to_bidoons

Kuwait is home to the only freely elected assembly in the Persian Gulf and has the most democratic political system in the region.

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