The United Arab Emirates has issued a new law against any form of discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin following a decree by the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The new law, No. 02 of 2015, criminalises any act that stokes religious hatred and/or which insults religion through any form of expression, be it speech or written word, books, pamphlets or via online media.
Islamic European Council hails UAE law
The Islamic European Council has commended the law, and called on the governments of Islamic countries, members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and member states of the United Nations to follow the United Arab Emirates in order to activate Resolution No. 65/224 on Combating Defamation of Religions, issued by the 65th session of UN General Assembly.
In a press statement, Dr. Mohammed Al Bashari, Secretary-General of the Islamic European Council, said under the rapid regional and international changes that threaten global peace, it has become necessary to pass a law criminalising the defamation of religions in all the Islamic countries.
The law also includes provisions for punishing anyone for terming other religious groups or individuals as infidels or unbelievers.
The law is intended to provide a sound foundation for the environment of tolerance, broad-mindedness and acceptance in the UAE and aims to safeguard people regardless of their origin, beliefs or race, against acts that promote religious hate and intolerance.
Penalties for violation of various provisions of the law include jail terms of six months to over 10 years and fines from Dh50,000 to Dh2 million.
The Anti-Discriminatory Law prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, his prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards.
It also has provisions to fight discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of religion, caste, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin.
The law condemns actions that would comprise hate speech or the promotion of discrimination or violence against others using any form of media, including online, print, radio or visual media.
Strict action will be taken against any form of expressions of hatred or incitement to hate crimes spread in the form of speech and published media.
The law also criminalises any act that amounts to abuse of religion or vandalism of religious rituals, holy sites or symbols, and takes a serious view of violence on the basis of religious doctrines.
The law prohibits any entity or group established specifically to provoke religious hatred and recommends stringent punishments for groups or supporters of any organisations or individuals that are associated with hate crimes.
It also bars any kind of events such as conferences and meetings within the UAE organised with the sole purpose of sowing seeds of discrimination, discord or hatred against individuals or groups on the basis of faith, origin or race.
Receiving financial support for such activities is also punishable under the new law.
The law encourages anyone involved in any activity that violates the law to voluntarily submit themselves before the authorities and has provisions allowing the courts to waive penalties in such cases.
The new law does not contradict with any other existing laws meant to protect specially privileged groups in the society such as women, children and individuals with disabilities or others.
‘Anti-discriminatory law promotes UAE's coexistence model’
'Akhbar Al Sa'a', the News of the Hour Bulletin, has said the Anti-Discriminatory Law, issued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, promotes the Emirati coexistence model, which, through its contents, guarantees equality among members of society and criminalises discrimination among individuals or groups on the basis of religion, creed, doctrine, denomination, caste, race, colour or ethnic origin.
Under the headline, ‘Anti-discriminatory law promotes UAE coexistence model’, the bulletin in its editorial today said the UAE has been able to provide a unique model of coexistence and multiculturalism, where its demographic composition includes a mixture of nationalities living in complete compatibility despite differences among them in relation to culture, religion and race.
This model has received great attention from the wise leadership, which spares no effort in working for the promotion of coexistence and compatibility through a variety of initiatives, mechanisms, frameworks, laws and legislation.
The bulletin, issued by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), said the new anti-discriminatory law reinforces this model and establishes the exterior image of Emirates as an active party in promoting a culture of global coexistence and dialogue among different civilisations and cultures.
At the same time, the law also stresses the UAE's ability to provide a civilised image of the principles of the Islamic religion, contrary to those that promote injustice for Arab and Islamic culture as a source of extremism, violence and terrorism in the world.
The bulletin concluded its editorial by saying that the Anti-discriminatory law reflects clearly the outstanding role played by the UAE in bolstering coexistence and moderation values as a strong wall in the face of tendencies of extremism and violence, which seek to revive the clash of civilisations and religions, demonstrating that the UAE is on the road to building a global culture which respects beliefs and religions and believes in global humanitarian coexistence.