An online influencer has been arrested in Dubai over a satirical TikTok video in which he portrays a wealthy Emirati on a spending spree inside a luxury car showroom.
The comedic sketch, in which he tosses stacks of bills at bewildered employees and offers to buy the most expensive car — a $600,000 Ferrari SF90 — poked fun at the lavish lifestyles on display in the city, known for its gleaming skyscrapers and unique tourism attractions.
Dubai is more socially lenient than much of the Middle East, with a relaxed dress code, bars and clubs serving alcohol — and even a local comedy scene. However, some open-to-interpretation laws require residents to be careful of publicly being critical of authorities or mocking social norms, in the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a part.
The influencer, Hamdan al-Rind, who refers to himself as the “Car Expert” online, is a UAE resident of Asian nationality. He boasts over 2.5 million followers on the popular video-sharing site TikTok. His latest video attracted millions of views and was widely shared before being taken down following his arrest.
In the video, he is wearing a kandura, the long white robe typically worn by Emirati men, sunglasses and a surgical mask. He speaks in English with a heavy Arabic accent, shouting clipped sentences at the dealership’s employees while his assistants haul around a stretcher filled with stacks of cash.
The Federal Prosecution for Combating Rumors and Cybercrimes says he is accused of “abusing the internet” by posting “propaganda that stirs up the public opinion and harms the public interest.” It said the video “promotes a wrong and offensive mental image of Emirati citizens and ridicules them,” the state-run WAM news agency reported on Sunday.
The WAM report described the video but did not identify the influencer. It’s unclear when exactly al-Rind was arrested or what penalties he could face. It’s not known whether he has hired an attorney.