World

United Arab Emirates Makes New Law Protecting Religion, Censoring Free Speech

| by Michael Allen

The United Arab Emirates recently enacted a new law that protects people against discrimination based on their religion, race, ethnic origin, religious creed and doctrine, and caste or social class.

In accordance with the law, UAE President Sheikh Khalifa issued a decree making it a crime to cause religious hatred or insult religions, God, prophets, apostles, places of worship, holy books and graveyards, notes The National.

Stoking religious hatred is not allowed through books, other kinds of print, Web, radio or TV.

Religious groups and individuals may not be called infidels or unbelievers.

Other forms of hate speech, such as causing discord or supporting those who do, have also been banned.

People who break the law could spend six months to 10 years in prison.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the law was enacted to stop Islamic extremists, including those who sympathize with Islamic State group.

The UAE is not a democracy, but is rather ruled by royal families, which feel threatened by recent tensions between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Most in UAE are Sunni Muslims.

The UAE recently helped the U.S. bomb Islamic State group strongholds in Syria.

Human Rights Watch has reported in the past how the UAE has clamped down on critics and activists, tortured detainees before their trials, allowed the abuse of migrant construction workers and not protected female domestic workers.

"The concern is clearly that it will be used to further stifle speech under the guise of promoting tolerance," Nicholas McGeehan, of Human Rights Watch, told Middle East Eye.

"The context to this law is the UAE’s draconian assault on free expression and a judicial system which is under the de facto control of the executive. I don’t think that in the current climate that this will help the UAE be more inclusive," McGeehan added.

Sources: The National, The Jerusalem Post, Human Rights Watch, Middle East Eye / Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, CIA/Public Domain/Wikimedia