New United Arab Emirates Anti-Discrimination Law Will Punish Vocal Atheists Who Criticize Religion

You’ll be happy to know that President Sheikh Khalifa of Abu Dhabi just enacted a new law making it a crime to discriminate on the basis of “religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin.”

Just one problem with that. They’re not kidding about protecting people on the basis of religion:

The law prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, his prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards…

[State news agency] Wam reported: “Strict action will be taken against any form of expressions of hatred or incitement to hate crimes spread in the form of speech and published media. “The law also criminalises any act that amounts to abuse of religion or vandalism of religious rituals, holy sites or symbols, and takes a serious view of violence on the basis of religious doctrines.

I understand criminalizing vandalism… but what happens when someone criticizes religious beliefs? I’ve never seen an anti-discrimination law double as a blasphemy law.

While the law ostensibly protects against radical Muslims looking to create religious strife, it could easily be used against people who question Islamic theology at all.

What’s the punishment for Speaking While Atheist?

Penalties for violation of the provisions of the law include jail terms ranging from six months to more than 10 years and fines from Dh50,000 to Dh2 million.

Unbelievable. Already, human rights groups are sounding the alarm for how this law will end up hurting more citizens than it will help:

“The concern is clearly that it will be used to further stifle speech under the guise of promoting tolerance,” Nicholas McGeehan, Gulf researcher at Human Rights Watch, told the Middle East Eye. He further called the law part of “the UAE’s draconian assault on free expression.”

Country’s that dismiss the idea of human rights usually don’t codify it so explicitly. This law, which is being lauded as a step forward, is a joke.

(via Sean McGuire. Image via Shutterstock)

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