Baker McKenzie’s Mideastern Sexist Social Media Mess

If there’s one thing Big Law firms do not like in an age of enlightened awareness, gender equality and rainbow-friendliness it is a sexist social media posting, which is just what megafirm Baker & McKenzie have found themselves with in their United Arab Emirates (UAE) office.

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The firm’s senior partner in UAE, Dr Habib Al Mulla posted in Arabic a Twitter a comment to his 61,000 followers on homosexuality, saying “. . problem with homosexuality in the West is not only in the ugliness of the act.”

Dr Habib is a highly experienced lawyer, arbitrator, author and overall business figure in the UAE, as well as having held many important government positions and creating the concept of financial free zones in the UAE and was the architect of the legal framework establishing the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the first financial free zone in the UAE.

“But in the necessity of atheism by its nature. A person may practice perversion in secret and with shyness, because he is aware of his mistake and that by his evil act he [a gay person] is disobeying the Creator in what he is doing.”

Baker & McKenzie announced that they had ‘parted ways’ with Al Mulla, who has since reiterated his views, thanking those who had shown their support for his views on homosexuality.

“My personal opinions, which I shared, represent my beliefs and convictions that stem from my religion and core values. I’m very proud of it and will not apologize over my comments. Although we are a tolerant society and welcome individuals who think differently than we do, we reject any ideas or beliefs that are imposed on us or that go against our Islamic ideals,” the lawyer said, adding, “out of respect for the friendship, I will keep quiet and avoid commenting on Baker McKenzie.”

Al Mulla also commented on a video that celebrated Emirati Women’s Day. In the short video, several women spoke about how they navigated their society, with one participant strongly encouraging female viewers that, “No matter what you look like or feel inside you are not alone.”

Al Mulla interpreted the words from the women as a radical celebration of women’s independence and the promotion of homosexuality. He wrote on Twitter how he had examined the video and saw it as “not a random act by a group rebelling against the values of society.” He claimed that the last phrase, in the video, “You are not alone” was frequently used in gay publications. 

Al Mulla also took aim at the women in the video, criticising them and asking, “who gave them the right to promote these ideas?They have every freedom to wear what they want and express what they want, but they have no right to falsely claim that they represent Emirati women and promote this model.”

Baker McKenzie  said that “Any social media comments by Dr Habib represent his own views and not those of the Firm.”

The firm posts glowing comments on their site about their former partner, a high profile figure in the UAE, saying he “is a strong advocate for the improvement and modernisation of UAE Laws. He is a frequent commentator on the legislation and economy of the UAE and is often consulted to draft and advise on Federal and Emirate level laws.

“Baker McKenzie strongly believes that however much we may disagree with the beliefs and personal views of others, we must find ways to disagree respectfully, encourage inclusive dialogue and to ensure an inclusive work environment for all,” the statement said.

They \ confirmed they will be parting ways with Habib, but “remain committed to supporting both clients and employees in the UAE and the wider region.”

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