UAE expats and visitors falling foul of Shariah law

Published:  27 Jul at 6 PM
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Expats and tourists are advised to study the UAE’s Shariah law or stay away Dubai and rest of the UAE are popular for expat relocations and the entire region I waking up to its tourism appeal, but too many Westerners are falling foul of the region’s Shariah-based legal system.

Regular online reports of tourists and expatriates in the emirates being arrested and often jailed for breaching the region’s Shariah-based laws are causing concern as the Gulf States finally wake up to the money-spinning possibilities of tourism. Recent cases include a Scottish electrician who accidentally touched a local in a bar and found himself in jail for three months, with another Briton jailed for seven months for supposedly sending a tweet when he was already in prison and without a mobile phone.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the wealthiest of the emirates, are proudly claiming to be the most popular visitor destinations in the region as well as having an expat population of around 80 per cent. According to head of Dubai’s civil court Judge Ahmad Saif, Arab culture is totally different from Western culture, with incomers obliged to conform to Arab laws based on the Islamic system of justice. As well as stating the obvious, the judge added rude gestures in the West may be impolite but are not illegal, but here the culture is very different, making this kind of behaviour illegal as it is unacceptable to Muslims.

However, many expats and tourists often complain the legal system in the UAE is stacked against foreigners, with both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in agreement and accusing the region of abuse and arbitrary confinement. Even using social media to criticise the country’s outdated legal system is illegal, although the law is mainly used against domestic critics. Other offences resulting in a prison sentence include staring at another person, even unintentionally, not paying or delaying payment on credit card bills, touching a stranger or photographing a person without their express permission.

It’s easy to understand why top-talent expat professionals are queuing up for top-salary jobs in the Emirates, but why tourists with no experience or practical knowledge of Islam and its Shariah laws should wish to risk their liberty by visiting the UAE is a mystery, especially as the experience comprises just another skyscraper-heavy conurbation surrounded by a large expanse of desert.
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