Jail sentences for unauthorised religious meetings in the UAE

Unauthorised religious gatherings and Quranic recitations in the UAE could be outlawed if a new law is passed.

Members of the Federal National Council (FNC) passed a draft law regulating building, maintenance and religious activities at mosques across the UAE.

Under the bill, lectures, sermons, Quran memorisation, meetings, collecting donations, book distribution, among other activities, may not be carried out without permission from the Islamic Affairs authorities.

Anyone caught holding prayer meetings, religious gatherings, lectures or lessons, and memorising the Quran without the government’s permission could face up to three months in jail or a fine of 5,000 UAE dirhams ($1,360).

The law also prohibits posting any material, providing Quran copies or furniture or holding Ramadan iftar banquets.

The UAE has sought to control Islamic discourse for many years and has listed several religious organisations as terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

Representative Saeed Al Remeithi said that the government wanted to control who Emirati citizens were gaining religious knowledge from.

“The fear today is that people looking for fatwas in the UAE will go outside to look for it, if they were not able to find it here, and eventually listen to fatwas that we don’t want them to listen to. We want to prevent our nationals from listening to fatwas from outside the country,” he said.

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