This week, Dubai hosted for the first time about 5,000 lawyers from around the world for the International Bar Association’s annual meeting. And of course it was touted as another example of Dubai’s joining the cohort of international business cities. This morning, however, came reports that officials here nearly canceled the entire thing five weeks ago.

From the National Post in Canada: “International Bar Association authorities compromised with the United Arab Emirates after the UAE’s security branch threatened to cancel the IBA Annual Conference currently being held in Dubai because ‘its content might precipitate instability in the region.’

An internal memo sent to IBA members today indicates that seven sessions were ‘retitled’ to satisfy the UAE. According to the memo, ‘The session descriptions now focus more on standards of international law, in an effort to clarify any misconception that they were particularly targeting the GCC countries.’

The IBA has responded that no direct censorship took place. Um, you had to change titles of panels because they seemed to be threatening enough as to cause the entire conference – which are very expensive, logistical endeavors, not to mention all the money committed by attendees – to almost be scuttled. Then again, how else would a lawyer respond to such a situation?

I don’t know which titles were changed but The Globe and Mail in Toronto reports that typically the bar association’s conference “features speakers and discussions among delegates on a wide rage of topics in international and cross-border law, including human rights.”

What interested me the most – or, really, makes me most crazy – was the panel discussion deemed so threatening that it was eliminated entirely from the program: “Women and Islam.”

The ostensible reason for the cancellation of that program? The IBA said it “might not attract sufficient attendance.” Sigh.

Advertisements