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On Emirati laws, from imprisonment to the death penalty

Modern societies in the world are seeking to develop laws promoting social peace and making the state a home for all

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

In the past, there existed good ethical standards for rejecting discrimination and promoting coexistence at a time when no laws regulated relations amongst people and between societies. However, communities have changed, expanded, mixed and become complicated. Ethics are no longer sufficient as a control, and customs have stopped deterring people from harming each other or violating others’ rights.

In Lebanon, a group has been formed to defend the rights of domestic workers, most of whom are foreigners prevented from socializing with the rest of society. In Egypt, the citizens of Upper Egypt have complained about the media and cinema making fun of them. The situation is more dangerous in the Gulf, with provocation amounting to incitement and blasphemy, and reaching the level of government officials inciting to kill.

Modern societies

Modern societies in the world are seeking to develop laws promoting social peace and making the state a home for all. They are developing laws that ensure the protection of the weakest groups. There is no country in the world that has not undergone this difficult transition. Saudi Arabia banned slavery a hundred years after the United States banned it in 1866. All societies change; the old and the modern need to develop their regimes to deal with the changes.

Shiites and Sunnis have been living in the same area for a thousand years. In order to remain living together, the modern state has to enact regulations and laws

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Politics has tarnished social relations in the Arab world. When the relationship with the state gets tarnished, hostility is reflected in the same direction, and when it is fixed, the brotherly and friendly language between the state and society is reinstalled. In our society that is crowded with foreigners, when a foreigner kills a local, the language of the media and social networks degenerates, blaming the whole community of the perpetrator, and then it starts to spread hatred.

The problem is not only experienced by foreigners; it is a sectarian problem too between Sunni and Shiites, and an ethnic one against the Bedouins. It is a regional problem as well, working against people of certain regions; and disrespecting them has become a cause of discrimination against them. These contemporary diseases persist and spread due to lack of explicit regulations defining responsibilities and establishing guidelines.

Shiites and Sunnis have been living in the same area for a thousand years. In order to remain living together, the modern state has to enact regulations and laws that grant them equal rights and punish those who violate that right. In order for everyone to live within their own country, it is necessary to protect them from racism and nepotism.

Language of atonement

The extremely religious must be aware that using the language of atonement is like carrying weapons, as it could lead to abuse and possibly murder. The spread of hatred and atonement is a crime; and perpetrators should be punished.

The United Arab Emirates recently introduced the first comprehensive law dealing with racism, hatred and incitement; and this law deserves to be read in detail. The law “criminalizes acts associated with the contempt of religious and holy sites, religious discrimination and hate speech using any form of media.”

One of the challenges facing this law is extensive cynicism and racism. The most severe penalties are against government officials, who face jail terms of ten years and fines of 500,000 dirhams ($136,127) if they commit during work hours. Those who exploit religion and accuse others of blasphemy will be imprisoned. Penalties might reach the death penalty in cases of murder.

The purpose of this law is not the mere application of sanctions. Rather, it serves to establish a proper relation between members of society and install civil peace. The protection of societies and their rights is not a matter left to the wishes of the people. It cannot be the subject of a referendum. Even in democracies, the opinion of the majority regarding this issue does not matter. However, it should be expressly stated in a constitution, and the international community should hold accountable any government that does not adhere to these values.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 31, 2015.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.


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