UAE announces relaxing of Islamic laws for personal freedoms
The reforms aim to boost the country’s economic and social standing and “consolidate the UAE’s principles of tolerance,” state-run WAM news agency reported.
The announcement follows a historic U.S.-brokered deal to normalize relations between the UAE and Israel, which is expected to bring an influx of Israeli tourists and investment.
The changes also reflect the efforts of the Emirates’ rulers to keep pace with a rapidly changing society at home.
“I could not be happier for these new laws that are progressive and proactive,” said Emirati filmmaker Abdallah Al Kaabi, whose art has tackled taboo topics like homosexual love and gender identity.
“2020 has been a tough and transformative year for the UAE,” he added.
Changes include scrapping penalties for alcohol consumption, sales and possession for those 21 and over. The government decrees behind the changes were announced on WAM and detailed in state-linked newspaper The National, which said they would take immediate effect.
Although liquor and beer is widely available in bars and clubs in the UAE’s luxuriant coastal cities, individuals previously needed a government-issued license to purchase, transport or have alcohol in their homes. The new rule would apparently allow Muslims who have been barred from obtaining licenses to drink alcoholic beverages freely.
Another amendment allows for “cohabitation of unmarried couples,” which has long been a crime in the UAE. Authorities, especially in the more freewheeling financial hub of Dubai, often looked the other way when it came to foreigners, but the threat of punishment still lingered. Attempted suicide, forbidden in Islamic law, would also be decriminalized, The National reported.