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UAE issues new law against religious discrimination, hate crimes

UAE issues new law against religious discrimination, hate crimes

Violators will face jail-terms of between six months to 10 years and fines ranging from Dhs 50,000 to Dhs 2m

The UAE has issued a new law penalising discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin, official news agency WAM reported on Monday.

The Anti-Discriminatory Law, No. 02 of 2015, follows a decree issued by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

It criminalises “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,” WAM reported.

The law forbids any act that would be considered as insulting God, his prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards.

It also prohibits calling other religious groups or individuals as “infidels or unbelievers.”

The new ruling 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 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,” the report said.

Receiving financial support for such activities is also punishable under the new law.

Actions that would comprise hate speech or the promotion of discrimination or violence against others will also be penalised.

Violators will face jail terms of between six months to over 10 years along with fines ranging from Dhs 50,000 to Dhs 2m.

“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 report said.

However, anyone involved in any activity that violates the law can voluntarily submit themselves before the authorities, since the ruling has provisions allowing the courts to waive penalties in such cases, the report added.

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.

It is intended to provide a “sound foundation for the environment of tolerance, broad­mindedness 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,” the report said.

The new law comes even as the Middle East struggles to battle growing religious division posed by hardline extremist groups such as ISIL. The GCC countries have taken a strong stance against any involvement with such groups, with Saudi Arabia arresting 431 people suspected of belonging to ISIL cells this weekend.

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