Abu Dhabi: The majority of Emirati citizens and residents expressed their gratitude towards UAE policy makers for the country’s anti-discrimination speech law, which aims to shield the public from bigotry and hate speech.
Decreed by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the new law, which will be implemented a month after it has been formally published in the official gazette, outlaws any forms of religious defamation, from speech and written words to online media platforms and interactions.
Emirati Thiyab Al Aseery, head of Emirates Aikido Centre, 46, said: “I strongly believe that this is a solid decision. People cannot offend religion in any form or expression. The UAE is a country with defined rules and regulations that people should abide by.
“I believe that UAE’s new-anti discrmination law marks an era of peace in the Middle East and I hope that other countries consider implementing similar measures.”
Echoing similar observations, Mohammad Al Qubaisi, 40, an Emirati business owner, said that this new initiative falls in line with the vision of Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s vision of spreading peace as well as fighting against discrimination and intolerance to promote equality, regardless of people’s age, ethnicity or race.
“The UAE has a wealth of nationalities and is known for its diverse population. All its residents and citizens should keep their own potential inherent prejudices to themselves. Those who are willing to live in the UAE must leave any biases or preconceptions they may have behind. This country continues to endorse fairness as well as impartiality,” he added.
Another 23-year old Egyptian resident, Nagham Sami, social media executive, told Gulf News: “People often confuse right of free speech with the temptation to freely insult others. That’s a misconception that breeds hate and intolerance.”
“I believe this is an important statement for those who intend to use hate as a weapon against the stability of the UAE and its residents,” she added.
British Reverend Andy Thompson, of St. Andrews Church, said the UAE was setting a unique example in the Middle East with the new law, “Set against the backdrop of the religious violence breaking out in Iraq and Syria, a rising tide of hate crimes against minority groups across the globe, it is essential for governments to find a response to this problem.
“The UAE has taken a significant step towards addressing these issues and this is a unique response within a Middle Eastern context. The intention behind this law is to protect all groups and this is a really important message to send. There is a great consolation that the UAE is seeking to respect that and promote an open society which is accepting of all groups.”
Faris Yousaf, Pakistani, 21, also welcomed UAE’s anti-hate speech decision.
“This kind of law should be enforced in other foreign countries as well to reduce racism,” he said.
Other reactions from UAE expatriates
Zubair Haider, 36, Pakistani manager
“I applaud and welcome the new law, which will make people think twice before saying anything hurtful and disrespectful about others. There needs to be an atmosphere of mutual respect between people, regardless of their background and differences. This new law will seek to achieve exactly that objective. There needs to be an effective deterrent against hate crimes. I agree with the punishment prescribed in the law. As they say, ‘let the punishment fit the crime’. The law will send a strong message to those who intend to hurt others wrongfully.”
Surinder Singh Kandhari, Chairman Al Dobowi Group, Indian
“I congratulate the UAE government for bringing in the law on discrimination. This shows the government’s commitment to the growing need for peace and harmony in this region. Acceptance, giving and service to humanity is the duty of all humans. This law will help in fostering harmony and peace.”
Marah Mohammad, Palestinian mother of three
“I think the new law is a good move. You would think that in this time and age, everyone would be treated equally but, unfortunately, many political and extremist groups are spreading hatred and discrimination to serve their own motives and goals regardless of this leading to turmoil. I think this law will make people think twice before spreading discord.”
Bruce Forsyth, 23, works in the media industry, British
“In my opinion, religious and racial tolerance is the cornerstone of a healthy, functioning society. However, in a non-ideal world such as the one we live in today, initiatives such as this from the UAE government mark a step in the right direction towards a more equal, progressive and secure environment for us and future generations to enjoy. Well done, UAE.”
Albert Alba, 50, works in the media industry, Filipino
“It’s good that such a law has been issued in a multicultural society such as the UAE. It goes to show that the UAE has a progressive stance in eliminating discrimination against all races and religious beliefs. A majority of the people are tolerant of other people’s beliefs and ethnic origin. No one would dare publicly insult someone’s beliefs, although there could be exceptions. I hope it would effectively deter discriminatory acts.”
Daniel Brown, 26, owner of private business in Dubai, British
“The world has been struggling with ensuring equality for centuries. Initiatives such as these by the UAE government give us hope. Individuality is the key to a Utopian society. By discriminating against one’s characteristics, you are ultimately stifling one; s creativity and individuality. Let’s move forward together as the united people of the world, eradicate the energy of hate, because if we don’t pull together soon, we will see our planet fail right before our eyes.”
Amr Medhat, 35, engineer, Egyptian
“The new law is very good as it shows how progressive the UAE as a country is. Many people tend to react in an ill-mannered and sometimes offensive way to people’s opinions as they think there are no consequences. This law will make them think twice before saying something that can be offensive or hurtful to people on their nationality or religion, or their background.”
(Maisoon Mubarak and Heidi Pullyard are trainees at Gulf News