Blasphemy law in the United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have Islam as their official religion, and the federation regards blasphemy as a very serious matter. The UAE use the school system as well as censorship and control of the press and the broadcast media to prevent blasphemy. When blasphemy occurs, the Emirates have two court systems to mete out punishment.
Citizens make up twenty percent of the Emirates' population. Of the citizens, eighty-five percent are Sunni; the remainder are Shia. The Constitution provides for freedom of religion subject to established customs.
The school system
The Emirates make the study of Islam compulsory in government schools and compulsory for Muslim students in private schools. Children whose passports identify them as Muslim (though their parents may be Bahai or Druze) must study Islam. Private schools must not teach subjects or use textbooks that offend Islam, defame any religion, or contravene the country's moral sensibilities.
The Emirates have a system of Sharia courts and a system of secular courts. Both systems handle criminal and civil cases. The secular courts are usually part of the federal system and are answerable to the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi. The Sharia courts are administered by each emirate, but they are answerable to the Federal Supreme Court. The court systems in the emirates of Dubai and Ras al Khaimah are independent of the federal system, but they apply the Civil Procedure Code. Each court system has a multilevel appeals process, and verdicts in all capital cases are appealable to the President. The nature of a case determines which court system hears it, but most cases fall under the jurisdiction of the secular courts. Due-process rights are uniform under both Sharia and civil court procedure. The courts operate on a presumption of innocence. The Federal Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that Sharia punishments may not be imposed on non-Muslims. Extrajudicial punishment of alleged wrongdoers is not unknown.
All English and Arabic newspapers published in the UAE receive government subsidies. Foreign and domestic publications are subject to censorship. The Censorship Department of the Ministry of Information and Culture reviews all imported newspapers, periodicals, books, films, and videos, and bans items considered pornographic, violent, derogatory to Islam, favorable to Israel, unduly critical of friendly countries, or critical of the Government or the ruling family. Religious books and audio/video tapes containing blasphemy are prohibited. The government does not own all the television and radio stations in the UAE, but it ensures that they all further the government's policies. In 2009, the Emirates were considering a media law which would give the government authority to regulate who can work as an editor, reporter, correspondent, or producer in the country. The government blocks access to websites which promote a secular or democratic point of view or which do not promote Islam.
In 1993, after an appeal, two of ten Indian expatriates convicted in 1992 of blasphemy for producing and performing in a play that was critical of Islam and Christianity had their sentences extended from six years to ten years.
In 2008, three Filipino workers were jailed in the Emirate of Sharjah allegedly for ripping a page out of the Quran and scribbling on the page. The allegation arose during a dispute between the workers and their employer. The government revoked the workers' permits to work.
In 2012, a French businessman was arrested for defacing the Quran by spitting on it before he assaulted and threatened to kill a new British Muslim convert after she refused to marry him. The Frenchman spat on the Quran and insulted Islam and all its prophets. He also threw on the floor a separate book that contained collections of Hadith. He was arrested and jailed for two years.
- Apostasy in Islam
- Blasphemy law
- Education in the United Arab Emirates
- Human rights in the United Arab Emirates
- Irreligion in the United Arab Emirates
- Islam and blasphemy
- Islam in the United Arab Emirates
- Sharia#Democracy and human rights
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