Anti-discrimination law in the United Arab Emirates advances religious liberty - A courageous decision

2015-07-28 L’Osservatore Romano

“Under the new law, 'all forms of discrimination based on religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin' are outlawed. This means that in the UAE, discrimination based on Islam is banned. The Sunni-Shia divide has been a fault-line around which many wars have been fought in the Arab world. With the new law, equality will be guaranteed among people, largely inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

This is a step forward”. These are the words of the Jesuit priest and Islamic scholar Fr Samir Khalil Samir, who spoke to AsiaNews about the new law against discrimination recently passed in the United Arab Emirates. Fr Samir explained that this act goes against the current, especially in comparison to other countries in the region, which are locked in Islamic totalitarianism. There are 24 churches in the region, which were built by the people themselves. Christians are treated with respect and it is not uncommon to see believers living in Saudi Arabia move to Abu Dhabi to celebrate Christmas or Easter.

“It is important to note”, Fr Samir continues, “that another positive element is the fact that the laws anti-discrimination provisions will also cover written communication, broadcasting (TV) and social medial. UAE leaders are well aware of the ubiquitous presence of such media; hence, they have decided to deem 'a criminal act' all forms of discrimination in them or hate spread by them. With the new law, calling someone else ‘infidels’ (takfir) is punishable. Why? Because under Islamic law, someone who is an ‘infidel’ or an ‘unbeliever’ (kafir) could be put to death. Although the same law prohibits the killing of Christians and Jews because they are ‘dhimmi,’ protected, this does not apply to pagans, atheists or members of other religions. Under Islamic rule, infidels enjoy no protection. He or she can either convert to Islam or be killed. The Islamic State group has used this principle, and used it to kill Christians (even if it is against Islamic law)”. Another new step, the Jesuit priest explains, is the fact that provoking religious hatred is also banned. “In the past, hate crimes were not banned under the law. Now this is the case, and this is something a daring step to take. And we in the West might have a thing or two to learn. Consider all the contempt people have for migrants in Europe, or blacks in the United States. In your countries, hate is mostly racial in nature. In our region, in the Middle East, hate is always about religion”. The law “outlaws support for violent foreign groups, especially by making monetary donations”.