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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK
The Gulf weighs up war
The skyline in Dubai
Dubai is bracing for the economic fallout of a war
By the BBC's Julia Wheeler in Dubai

The rulers of the Gulf states have joined other Arab leaders in expressing their revulsion at the events in the United States.

Wrong does not wear a turban or a cowboy hat - it happens everywhere in the world

Abdallah al-Serkal
They are strong American allies and remember clearly the support they received during the Gulf War.

But they will be treading a difficult line in the coming months between backing America's declared war against terrorism and dealing with their people's anger if innocent Muslims are killed.

And the effects of any military action are likely to be keenly felt in the Gulf.

Plain wrong

Inside Dubai's large Jumeirah Mosque, Abdallah al-Serkal is showing Westerners how Muslims pray.

In a city where around 75% of the population is ex-patriate, his organisation, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, aims to bring down the barriers between local Arabs like himself and the people they see as their "guests".

During the mosque tour, questions about Islam are encouraged - this week, there is a certain inevitability about the subject matter.

"Whoever did it, it is wrong. Wrong is wrong. Wrong does not wear a turban or a cowboy hat. It could come in anyone. It happens everywhere in the world."

Jumeira Mosque in Dubai
Dubai may be an ally, but is also Muslim
Abdallah believes such wrongdoing should be confronted, but thinks America must make sure of its facts before acting in a way that could make matters worse.

"You need to go after the sources, the roots of these, you do not create more enemies. No, you go after them calmly and you get the right people, when you are sure and you've done your homework with investigating who did it."

As UAE nationals leave their mosque after praying, there's only one subject on their minds and lips.

"You know, if you look at other terrorist attacks that happen, even in the United States - Timothy McVeigh - I mean, he's an American and he's, you know, Christian, and nobody came and said anything about the Christian people or Americans, you know," said one.

"I think, the Taleban, if they are involved, they get their consequences, I mean if they were involved, they hosted people which is dangerous to the world, I think they should get their consequences," said another.

Knock-on effect

Already there are rumours of American companies pulling out of the region and an expected downturn in the economy.

Karen Ellis's husband is a British expatriate working for an oil supplies company and is based in the UAE.

She says he is talking of contingency plans already being put in place.

"It has to be faced...The evacuation plans have been updated, upgraded in the last week. I mean, they have been working flat out," she said.

Burj Al Arab Hotel
"Postponements" at the Burj Al Arab Hotel
In Dubai, one of the areas of the economy already being affected directly is tourism.

At the Five Star hotels of the Jumierah International Group, including the prestigious Burj Al Arab tower, they are putting a brave face on the situation.

For the moment at least, they say, people are talking of postponing rather than cancelling their visits.

The head of sales and marketing, Andrew Abram, says the tourism industry in Dubai needs to work together and think positively.

"We are aware of the situation, it has had an effect, we have to understand that, we have to be open about that, but we're working very proactively," he said.

"Dubai will continue to develop and to grow its business. That's what we all want and that's what we want to get back to quickly."

Just how quickly people's confidence returns depends greatly on how events unfold in the coming days and weeks, and on the reaction to those events by the rulers and their people in the Gulf.

See also:

23 Sep 01 | Middle East
Gulf states back US
19 Sep 01 | Americas
US seeks global coalition
18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati flies to meet Bush
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Embassies act on Pakistan unrest
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan - a tough military option
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghan exodus gathers pace
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
19 Sep 01 | Middle East
Explaining Arab anger
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