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Widespread praise for UAE’s new anti-discrimination law

ABU DHABI // Rulers, religious leaders and legal experts on Monday welcomed a new law against hate crime and religious or racial discrimination.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said the law “guarantees the freedom of individuals from religious intolerance … and underpins the UAE’s policy of inclusiveness”.

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, said Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development.

“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, who is also head of the Committee for the Coordination of Humanitarian Foreign Aid.

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.

He said the law would punish those who incited hatred and preached destructive and intolerant ideas.

Mr Al Kaabi said developed countries implemented such laws to combat discrimination and hatred and protect people from verbal or intellectual abuse. “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.”

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 spawned “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 choose hate as a doctrine has a right to ruin humans’ innate will to coexist, cooperate and come together,” Mr Al Kaabi said.

Analysts said the new law would also combat the threat of global terror.

“The law appears to be addressing the current lack of tolerance in extremist organisations such as Daesh,” said Dr Richard Burchill, director of research and engagement at Trends, Research and Advisory in Abu Dhabi.

“A new law alone will not resolve the problems of discrimination, extremism and hate crimes. But laws of this nature are a necessary part of government and social responses to intolerance and discrimination being used by others to further their extreme views,” he said.

“The law is not inclusive of any, or every, form of discrimination with actions based on gender, age or disability being excluded, but there are already legal provisions for these groups in place.

“The focus of the new law is on hate crimes so it needs to be more limited in scope to ensure effective prosecution. Women, children and others are still protected by the law when they are a victim of a crime as a direct result of their religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin. Therefore the law does appear to have appropriate coverage and scope.”

Dr Farouq Hamada, the religious adviser at the Crown Prince Court in Abu Dhabi, said the law came at the perfect time as certain groups had a misconstrued violent concept of religion.

“There’s a desperate need for this law at this time because certain individuals and groups have crossed a line with ideologies that have no relation to our religion at all. They’re smearing the religion,” said Dr Hamada.

“Islam prohibits us from insulting other religions. This is important for diversity and inclusion. The law also addresses intra-Muslim conflicts of groups ostracising people and calling them infidels. Doing so is a major offence in Islam and cannot be taken lightly.

“Such ideologies are the root of global conflicts worldwide. They create disorder, violence and conflict. Putting an end to this by blocking those ideologies from spreading and holding those individuals responsible for the evil they’re spreading is a national mandate.”

The Rev Canon Andrew Thompson, senior chaplain at St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi, said the law would combat the growing trend of hatred and intolerance between religions, and sectarianism worldwide.

“As a Christian leader, I regret the misunderstanding and prejudice between different religions and I recognise that the UAE is doing its best to address that,” he said.

The law will thwart any attempt to sow seeds of division in the country’s cohesive and diverse society, said Ali Al Balushi, the attorney general of Abu Dhabi, according to Wam.

It is in line with the international human rights law as well as Arab and Islamic civilisation, he added.

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, first deputy speaker of the Federal National Council, said that religious tolerance is one of the core values endorsed by the UAE since its inception. The country hosts hundreds of nationalities who live in peace, stability and an environment of mutual respect.

The UAE always stresses at all forums the directives of its leadership to combat discrimination and hate rhetoric, said Dr Al Qubaisi, who is also member of the Abu Dhabi Government Executive Authority and director-general of Abu Dhabi Education Council.

The decree was commended by Dr Hanif Al Qasim, chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

The UAE is well ahead in spreading a culture tolerance and cooperation, he said, adding that these constitute the vision of the founding Father, Sheikh Zayed.

“These values are the pillars of our national identity, which the state cherishes to pass on from one generation to another,” said Dr Al Qasim.

The Emirates Writers Union, based in Sharjah, also praised the decree, saying it highlights the community’s responsibilities, whether institutional or individual, to sensitise their roles to confront extremism and terrorism.

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(via The National)