UAE’s Anti- Discrimination Law: A Giant Step

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

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Most recently, His Highness President of the United Arab Emirates Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued a new law on different hate crimes. It covers all forms of hate crimes which fully endorses UAE human values. The law has come at the right time to secure the UAE, its people and expatriates too. It is an historic step. The UAE has taken a giant leap for its people and society, something that has never been witnessed in the Arab world.

The UAE has rightly taken measures and decisions in shape of No.02 of 2015, which safeguard against all negative factors that can lead to in-fighting and discrimination. Furthermore, the law secures peaceful co-existence among the people in the country with their different religions, sects and ethnicities.

The UAE’s leaning to enforce this law is a civilised and an advanced giant step of a human friendly state that realises its responsibility towards its people and expatriates living in its land, and looks forward to preserving their rights and dignity. The new law will thwart any attempt to sow seeds of division in the country’s cohesive and diverse society.
It outlines different crimes and penalties fall in the category of hatred crimes.

Crimes: Discrimination: Basis of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnicity, Hatred: Speech or the promotion of discrimination or violence, Insulting: God, his prophets or apostles, holy books, houses of worship or graveyards, Describing: other religious groups or individuals as infidels or unbelievers. Abuse: religion or vandalism of religious rituals, holy sites or symbols. Penalties: Jail from six months to more than 10 years, fines from Dh50,000 to Dh2 million.

UAE stands for peace and has a culture of non-discrimination based on race, colour or religion and promulgation of new law would further strengthen UAE’s striving towards universal peace, collective harmony and reaching out to struggling people. The UAE’s model of peaceful coexistence is an example for the world. “Over 200 nationalities living together is a good example of a perfect, harmonious society. Such new moves (new anti-discrimination law) will help solve global conflicts sparked by religious hatred.”

Right from the beginning, its successive visionary leadership promulgated many effective decrees to promote harmony, peace and cohesion in the country. It is indeed a right legislation coping with forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin. It would further promote safety, security, stability and spirits of co-existence in the UAE where more than 200 different nationalities already live peacefully.

The law aims to consolidate the principles of freedom, tolerance and acceptance of others and respect for the views, ideas, beliefs, values of others, as adopted by the UAE since its inception. The UAE guarantees, protects and defends these principles by the force of law.

The new law, No.02 of 2015, criminalizes any acts that stoke religious hatred and/or which insult religion through any form of expression, be it speech or the written word, books, pamphlets or via online media.

It also asserts the government belief in criminalising Takfir/Division and extremism/fanatics of different kinds, and encourages peaceful co-existence with different religions, thus giving one the freedom of thinking and belief, and explains that each and every person in the society has the freedom to follow the sect and the faith but within the parameters of the law.

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It consists of certain provisions for punishing anyone terming other religious groups or individuals as infidels, or unbelievers. It promotes sense of civic responsibility and spirits of caring. The law has been issued for seeking justice and consolidation among members of the society. The law also addresses intra-Muslim conflicts of groups ostracising people and calling them infidels.

UAE already stipulated a law that scorning religions is a punishable misdemeanour that invited a jail term of one month, but the new law makes it a crime and toughens punishment. The new law punishes the juridical person entity like firm or corporate and mentions that explicitly. Anyone who represents the company shall shoulder legal responsibility in case there is a sectarian or racial slur in his comment.

The law mentions complementary punishments which feature dissolving the company, organisation or the association, and confiscates all its assets and properties. It empowers the judge the authority of absolving the defendant of the penalty in case he cooperates, and this encourages defendants to confess.

It is meant to provide a sound foundation for greater tolerance, broad mindedness and acceptance in the UAE. It is meant for those of criminal attitude of deviant concepts as the UAE in its nature adopts moderate ideas and has already launched a slew of initiatives supporting that trend.

It clearly underlies criminalising whoever attempts to differentiate between people of different religions, beliefs and ethnicities and who may hurt others by spelling out any description. The punishments according to the newly announced law are in line with the spirit of Islamic culture embraced by the county’s society which rejects hatred and discrimination.
This law penalises anyone who gives himself the right to enflame hatred in society and agitate prejudices, and deters many destructive and extremist thoughts which caused the annihilation of the society and seed grudges in its.

It aims to protect the pure and simple form of humanity free from all kinds of prejudices and prosecutions. It safeguards people regardless of their origin, beliefs or race, against acts that promote religious hate and intolerance. It also includes sets of penalties violation of the various provisions of the law include jail-terms of six months to over 10 years and fines from Dhs50,000 to Dhs2 million.

The new anti-discrimination law has been decreed to protect all the components of the fabric of society and safeguard their privacy within a framework of respect that is in line with the international human rights law, and more importantly, with the Arab civilisation and the Islamic civilisation. It would play a prominent role in further supporting the human rights system in the UAE. Moreover, it will not serve as a source for restricting freedoms.

It prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, His prophets or apostles or the 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 newly promulgated decree provides guideline to all form of media (online/social, print, radio or visual media) not to publish or relay hate speech or the promotion of discrimination or violence against others. The law has become an imperative need especially after the unstopped provocation of messages posted on the social networking media which incite discrimination and hatred around the world.

Though the UAE society is far from the phenomenon of inciting hatred among different religions and races, it has become necessary to enact laws and regulations against hatred and incitement to safeguard human rights and preserve the consolidation of the local society.

The anti-discrimination law has been promulgated to silence and curb such practices, even minor, in social networking websites and TV channels which people watch and browse without realising the components of the society. It has been enacted before these practices reach the UAE, and the statute will be deterrent to who-ever tries to follow those deviants, and thinks he will be able to deviate from the humanitarian trend the country is adopting,” he said, adding the law is complementary to the legislations. It says that any person, even if he/she is outside the UAE, will be prosecuted under the purview of the law, as he incites sectarianism, and accordingly commits crimes inside the UAE shows seriousness on the part of the UAE government.

It upholds that 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. It 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.
It 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 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. Moreover, receiving financial support/assistance for such mentioned activities/functions is also punishable under the new law.
It 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.

In real power politics terms, hatred is a cashable commodity especially where vested interests based on religious dogmas, biased ideologies and personal taboos tend to dominate over national causes of survival, unity, peace and harmony but sinners of its promotion will now be deemed a crime and discrimination against any resident will invite fines ranging from Dh50,000 to Dh2 million. Offenders will also be sent to jail for six months to 10 years.

Leaders Statements

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His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said on his official Facebook and Twitter accounts: “The new law guarantees freedom of individuals against religious intolerance and hate crimes and underpins the UAE’s policy of inclusiveness.

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development said it also showed the wisdom of the leadership in a country that was sending a message to spread peace and a culture of non-discrimination.

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“Today, while we see a phenomenon wherein many societies are marred by division, spread of conflicts, fighting and destruction of homelands due to outbreaks of racial or religious discrimination, the UAE has taken measures and decisions which safeguard against all negative factors that can lead to in-fighting and discrimination,” said Sheikha Lubna.

Sheikh Lubna also brought to attention that this shrewd vision of the UAE’s leadership is gleaned from the teachings of religions and in conformity with the Islamic tolerant teachings which call for equality among all people.

She also indicated, “We feel proud that more than 200 nationalities who embrace a number of religions are living together in peace and harmony in the UAE, thanks to the UAE’s prudent leadership, the country has become a safe shelter and the best place to live, in comparison to a number of other countries across the world.”

Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi, First Deputy Speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC), Member of the Executive Authority of Government of Abu Dhabi, and also Director-General of Abu Dhabi Education Council, has appreciated the newly announced decree issued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on criminalisation of acts related to contempt of religion and its holy sites, the fight against all forms of discrimination, and the rejection of hate speech.

The head of the Emirates Human Rights Association, Mohammed Al Kaabi, said the law was an advanced civilised step to protect the rights and dignity of citizens and residents. The law would punish those who incited hatred and preached destructive and intolerant ideas, he further added.

“I think the existence of such laws is an urgent need for all countries, especially amid many messages of concern that incite racial hatred on social networking sites, he added. The law would also enhance social stability, he said.
Dr Mohammed Matar Al Kaabi, director general of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, said hatred germinated “a culture of isolation that leads to racism, violence and disharmony between factions of society and discord between nations, cultures and civilisations. This is what no sane person wants.”

“No small faction of society who chooses hate as a doctrine has a right to ruin humans’ innate will to coexist, cooperate and come together,” Mr Al Kaabi said.

Ali Mohammed Al Balushi Attorney-General of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi stressed that the new law of UAE against any form of discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin, following a Decree by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will thwart any attempt to sow seeds of division in the country’s cohesive and diverse society.

Concluding Remarks

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His Highness President of the United Arab Emirates Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued/signed a new “anti-discrimination law” on different hatred crimes. It is a giant step coping with all kinds of hatred based on religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnicity. It was introduced at the perfect time as certain groups had a misconstrued violent concept of religion and tried to pollute the minds of innocent people. The law sends a message of peace, tolerance, harmony and co-existence.

It eliminates criminalisation of acts related to contempt of religion. It demonstrates that the freedoms shall be protected by law as they have become the core duties of the state. It shows open-mindedness of the UAE government towards humanity, global peace and harmony.

It stresses at all forums the directives of its visionary leadership to combat discrimination and hate rhetoric. It showcases UAE’s culture tolerance and cooperation and constitutes the vision of the founding Father, Sheikh Zayed.
It prohibits promotion of discrimination or violence. It bans insulting God, his prophets or apostles, holy books, houses of worship or graveyards. It discourages other religious groups or individuals as infidels or unbelievers. It strongly dislikes religion abuses or vandalism of religious rituals, holy sites or symbols. Moreover, it penalizes all the above mentioned sinners and enemies of humanity, peace and harmony to jail from six months to more than 10 years, fines from Dh50,000 to Dh2 million.

The new anti-discrimination law has also regional and global importance would combat the threat of global terror. We are living a complex world where many societies are marred by division, conflicts, fighting and destruction of homelands due to the outbreak of racial or religious discrimination and introduction of new anti-discrimination law would act like a first line of defense maintaining societal harmony, peace, and tolerance.

It would foster all the efforts relating to fight against all kinds of terrorism, discriminations, conflicts and divisions based on hatred crimes. It would address the current lack of tolerance (religious, ethnic, sectarian, creed, caste, and race) in the region and around the globe.

It would be a necessary part of government and social responses to intolerance and discrimination being used by others to further their extreme views in the society. It distinguishes self-centered ideologies with true spirits of religion. It limits the scope of hatred crimes in the society.

It is a preemptive legislative measure to protect the lives, beliefs, faiths and properties of people. It is a national narrative and discourse to purify the true spirits of Islam from the wrong notions and false ideologies used by different separatist’s organizations, groups and clans in order to achieve their own vested interests.

The UAE has an excellent record on human rights and has good relations with all countries of the world, based on the foundations of justice, equality and cooperation, mutual respect. The UAE always seeks to help and resolve the problems by peaceful means and introduction of new anti-discrimination law stands for a legal remedy instead of naked force.

It is a national mandate of the UAE government, armed forces, police, judiciary, administration, intellectuals, researchers and the last but not the least, common people to fight against all trouble-makers and worshipers of hatred, discrimination, division, destruction, and sabotage by blocking their self-fabricated ideologies and spreading of sentiments of disunity, disharmony, and disbelief.

It also highlights the community’s responsibilities, whether institutional or individual, to sensitise their roles to confront extremism and terrorism.

It would combat the growing trend of hatred and intolerance between religions, and sectarianism worldwide. It would promote better understanding instead of misunderstanding and greater socio-economic prosperity instead of prejudice between different religions, sects, faiths and ideologies. Moreover, this law will thwart any attempt to sow seeds of division in the country’s cohesive and diverse society like UAE.

It projects the true spirits of Islam and of course Arab civilization which are based on tolerance, freedom, respect, peace and harmony. It is also in the line of international human rights law. It speaks about equality and equal rights. It is not against any kind of freedom and especially human freedom and rights. Actually it further strengthens the UAE Human Rights System which cares about people and their necessities based on their dreams. The essence of this law is love which must be ruled the world not hatred.

The law also outlines certain guidelines to use social media (Facebook, Tweet, WhatsApp, Skype, Instagram, Viber etc.) in order to tame the raw feelings/writings of people. New technologies have double-edge sword. It is easiest means/modes in the hands of miscreants to attract the unlimited souls near to their webs of destructions and disinformation.

Inclusion of increasing youth in the Europe, Central Asia, Africa and even South East Asia towards ISIS and such other organizations/groups via social media is wake-up for all of us. The UAE new law would stop promotion of all kinds of hatred through social, mass and print media. The same law is applicable and enforced in Kuwait, Jordan and 26 countries in the world.

God-fearing and righteousness are the pillars of superiority not colour, religion, language, culture, race, or backgrounds and new promulgated decree justifies it. The new law demonstrates the UAE’s continued commitment to the principals of tolerance. The government of the UAE has always had a policy of not discriminating. The UAE successfully showcase the international community/world their sincere beliefs and enhances the confidence of multi-ethnic communities to establish the UAE as an ideal hub and land of unlimited opportunities.

It will enhance comfort and reduce pain in the society. Nationals and residents express support and satisfaction for the new legislation. Development heavily rests on diversity and human dignity and open-mindedness creates more innovations and ideas of collective survival, greater production and progression. Tolerance is the way forward. Intolerance promotes anti-development policies/programs and spreads nations and gestures of disunity, disharmony and of course hatred. UAE has the best model of tolerance and co-existence where more than 200 different nationalities live in search of their dreams. The new law would be Bluetooth of greater harmony, better understanding, peace and socio-economic prosperity in the days to come.

Sheikh Zayed, the founding father of the UAE, established the UAE on the golden principle of being accepting of other faiths and philosophies, unlike the divisive agenda of ISIL, where followers of anything other than their twisted misinterpretation of Islam are declared to be defectors. Now any kind of discrimination is outlawed.
Black power genies are acting like wandering souls in the region and around the globe whereas the UAE newly promulgated decree would be angle of blessings for its people, expatriates, region and the world. It promotes sense of relief and feeling of security. It guarantees the freedom of expression and religion. It upholds UAE values and traditions.

Hatred crimes have existential threat. The newly introduced law stands UAE firm resolve to fight, uphold and preserve the core values of the UAE, to the benefit of all who live in it and to the detriment/fatal of those who misinterpret the message of Islam and seek to sow discord, instability and chaos for their own vested interest.

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