Spreading hate 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 under a new decree issued by the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The law, No 02 of 2015, applies to any form of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion or caste. It also criminalises any act that incites religious hatred or insults religion, either verbally or in print or online. Any person who calls others ‘infidels’ or unbelievers can be punished under the law.
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.
Insults against God, as well as his prophets, apostles, or religious texts or establishments is also against the law.
Furthermore, it bars any event or conference that might encourage discrimination of any kind, and makes it illegal to receive financial support for such activities.
UAE stands for peace
Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development (MICAD) and Head of the UAE Committee for the Coordination of Humanitarian Foreign Aid, said the UAE stands for peace and has a culture of non-discrimination based on race, colour or religion.
The country promotes co-existence, security, safety and respect among peoples.
“Today, while we see a phenomenon wherein many societies are marred by division, conflicts, fighting and destruction of homelands due to the outbreak 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.
“We feel proud that more than 200 nationalities that embrace many religions live together in peace and harmony in the UAE. Thanks to the country’s prudent leadership, it has become a safe shelter and among the best place to live,” Shaikha Lubna said.
Abu Dhabi Attorney-General Ali Mohammed Al Balushi stressed that the new law will thwart any attempt to sow seeds of division in the country’s cohesive and diverse society.
In a statement, he noted that the new anti-discrimination law was issued 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.
Al Balushi noted that the punishments according to the law are in line with the spirit of Islamic culture embraced by the county’s society which rejects hatred and discrimination.
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.
Zayed Al Shamsi, Chairman of the Emirates Lawyers and Jurists Association, said the law has been issued for seeking justice and consolidation among members of the society.
He added that an earlier law stipulated 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 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.”
Al Shamsi said there are complementary punishments which feature dissolving the company, organisation or the association, and confiscates all its assets and properties.
“The law empowers the judge the authority of absolving the defendant of the penalty in case he cooperates, and this encourages defendants to confess.”
On whether the use of the law is wrong when accusing the person of sectarianism, he said there must be concrete and clear evidences, but there is difficulty in some posted tweets and writings which are incomprehensible and gibberish in terms of vernacular, the method and time, but the matter is left to the judicial authority to decide.
“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.”
The same law is applicable and enforced in Kuwait, Jordan and 26 countries in the world, he added.