The United Arab Emirates relies on tourism to fuel its economy, but that’s a problem when large parts of the UAE are run under Sharia Law. That’s about to change. On Saturday, the UAE announced that many Islamic rules would be relaxed, likely in hopes that it would lead to better press coverage and more visitors from abroad.
The reforms aim to boost the country’s economic and social standing and “consolidate the UAE’s principles of tolerance,” said state-run WAM news agency, which offered only minimal details in the surprise weekend announcement. The government decrees behind the changes were outlined extensively in state-linked newspaper The National, which did not cite its source.
What are the changes? Here are some of them:
- There is no longer a penalty for drinking, selling, or possessing alcohol (for anyone 21 or older).
- Unmarried couples may now cohabitate.
- Attempted suicide will no longer be criminalized.
- “Honor killings” will no longer receive more lenient sentences.
- Foreigners won’t have to go to Sharia courts to deal with their divorces.
- Harassing women could lead to harsher punishments.
Some of these “crimes” were already relaxed for tourists but remained in effect for citizens. Now most of them will be relaxed for just about everyone.
You would think these changes would lead to resistance but the local populations are relatively small. Unlike Saudi Arabia, there will be no major pushback here.
On the one hand, great. It’s about time these archaic rules went out the window. But at the same time, the rules aren’t going away because authorities realized they were too harsh or they’re suddenly embracing church/state separation. They’re doing it because they want money from Western tourists who would otherwise reject Islamic law. They’re doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. But it’s still mild progress. So… yay?
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Bob for the link)