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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03ABUDHABI3509 2003-07-28 15:24:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Abu Dhabi
Cable title:  

UAE 2003 RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT

Tags:   PHUM KIRF TC 
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Diana T Fritz  03/21/2007 12:11:35 PM  From  DB/Inbox:  Search Results

Cable 
Text:                                                                      
                                                                           
      
UNCLASSIFIED

SIPDIS
TELEGRAM                                            July 28, 2003


To:       No Action Addressee                                    

Action:   Unknown                                                

From:     AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI (ABU DHABI 3509 - PRIORITY)        

TAGS:     PHUM                                                   

Captions: None                                                   

Subject:  UAE 2003 RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT                      

Ref:      None                                                   
_________________________________________________________________
UNCLAS        ABU DHABI 03509

SIPDIS
CXABU:
    ACTION: POL 
    INFO:   ECON DCM P/M RSO AMB 

DISSEMINATION: POL
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: AMB: MWAHBA
DRAFTED: POL: MMENARD
CLEARED: A/DCM: KVANDEVATE; CGD: JDAVIS; ECON: OJOHN

VZCZCADI665
PP RUEHC RUEHDI
DE RUEHAD #3509/01 2091524
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281524Z JUL 03
FM AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1054
INFO RUEHDI/AMCONSUL DUBAI 3304
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 ABU DHABI 003509 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR DRL/CRA, DRL/IRF, DRL/PHD, NEA, NEA/ARP AND NEA/RA

E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF TC
SUBJECT: UAE 2003 RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT

REF: STATE 197330



1. Sensitive but Unclassified -- entire text.



2. Following is post's submission for the 2003 Religious
Freedom Report (1 July 2002 - 30 June 2003) for the United
Arab Emirates. Per reftel, our update is keyed to the 2002
final report. A copy of the 2002 Report with tracked
changes will also be sent via classified email to DRL/CRA,
DRL/IRF, DRL/PHD, NEA/ARP, and NEA/RA.



--------------------------


PREFACE


--------------------------





3. In paragraph 1, sentence 2, please replace "freedom of
assembly and association" with "public freedom of assembly
and association" and replace "greatly limiting the ability"
with "limiting somewhat the ability".



4. In paragraph 1, please replace the last sentence with
the following:

"The Government permits de facto recognition of religious
groups through the issuance of land use permits to build
and operate religious buildings. Many religious groups
that operate religious buildings permit religious groups
without dedicated religious buildings to worship in their
facilities. Religious groups without dedicated religious
buildings also worship in private homes, generally without
government interference."



5. In paragraph 2, sentence 1, please replace "improved
somewhat" with "continued to improve".



6. In paragraph 2, please replace sentence 2 with the
following: "Two new churches opened with a capacity of at
least 1,000 people. The fifth Indian Orthodox Church in
the UAE also opened, and permission was granted to build
another Coptic Orthodox church."



7. In paragraph 3, please change "among religions in
society" to "among religions, nationalities and races in
society".



--------------------------


SECTION I. RELIGIOUS DEMOGRAPHY


--------------------------





8. In paragraph 1, sentence 1, please replace "3.1
million" with "3.7 million."



9. In paragraph 1, sentence 4, please replace
"professionals" with "expatriates."



10. In paragraph 2, please add the following as the first
sentence:

"There are foreign missionaries operating in the UAE."



11. In paragraph 2, new sentence 2, please delete
"nontraditional".



12. In paragraph 2, last sentence, please replace
"religious groups here" with "religious groups".



--------------------------


SECTION II. STATUS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM


--------------------------



-- LEGAL/POLICY FRAMEWORK



13. In paragraph 1, sentence 2, please replace "freedom of
assembly" with "public freedom of assembly" and replace
"greatly limiting the ability" with "limiting somewhat the
ability".



14. In paragraph 1, please add the following to the end of
the paragraph:

"Many religious groups that operate religious buildings
permit religious groups without dedicated religious
buildings to worship in their facilities. Religious groups
without dedicated religious buildings also worship in
private homes, generally without government interference."



15. Please delete paragraph 2. The first sentence is
moved to the end of paragraph 5. The remaining content is
included in the following two paragraphs.



16. In former paragraph 3, please replace "Virtually all
Sunni mosques are government funded or subsidized" with
"The Government funds or subsidizes virtually all Sunni
mosques".


17. In former paragraph 3, please add the following to the
end of the paragraph: "All Sunni imams are government-
employed. The Government distributes guidance on religious
sermons to mosques and imams, whether Sunni or Shi'a, and
monitors all sermons for political content."



18. In former paragraph 4, please add the following as new
sentence 3: "Shi'a imams are government-appointed only in
Dubai Emirate."



19. In former paragraph 5, please add the following to the
end of the paragraph (from former paragraph 2): "The
Government does, however, permit de facto recognition of
other religions through the issuance of land use permits
for the construction and operation of religious buildings."


20. Please add the following between former paragraphs 5
and 6 (Language is taken from "Restrictions" section and
placed in "Legal/Policy Framework" because the following
language describes policy. Language that explains how the
policy can be restrictive is contained in the
"Restrictions" section.):

"Non-Muslim groups are permitted to practice their religion
freely in religious compounds built on land grants from the
local rulers. In such cases, a religious group leader
requests from the local ruler a grant of land (title to
which remains with the ruler) and permission to build a
religious building thereon. Religious groups without land
grants and religious buildings built thereon are thereby
limited in their ability to assemble for worship and to
conduct business, but are allowed to worship on the
compounds of other religious groups if permitted by such
religious groups to do so. Discreet, off-compound private
and public gatherings are not targeted or disrupted by the
police or other security forces."

"There are approximately 23 Christian church buildings in
the UAE built on land donated by the ruling families of the
emirates in which they are located. One Hindu temple and
two Sikh temples also operate in the UAE. Three emirates
are home to parochial primary and secondary schools. Abu
Dhabi and Dubai Emirates have donated land for Christian
cemeteries, and Abu Dhabi has donated land for a Bah'ai
cemetery. There are two operating cremation facilities and
associated cemeteries for the Hindu community, one in Dubai
and one in Sharjah."

"Non-Muslim religious groups do not receive funds from the
Government. However, those with land grants are not
charged rental payments and some of the religious buildings
constructed on land grants were donated by the local ruling
families. Also, Sharjah Emirate waives payment of
utilities for religious buildings. Non-Muslim groups raise
money from among their congregants and receive financial
support from abroad. Religious groups also advertise
certain religious functions in the press, such as memorial
services, choral concerts, and fundraising events."



21. Please delete former paragraph 6 and insert as the
next paragraph after former paragraph 7 beginning "As the
state religion...."



22. In the former second to last paragraph, last sentence,
please replace "forbidden publicly to eat, drink, or smoke
during fasting hours" with "forbidden to eat, drink, or
smoke publicly during fasting hours."



23. Please add the following as the new second to last
paragraph:

"The rulers of the various emirates regularly pardoned
prisoners on religious and national holidays without regard
to the prisoners' religious affiliations. Those pardoned
generally are serving sentences from 3 to 5 years for
financial crimes, immigration violations, and other minor
offenses; pardons reportedly were not extended to prisoners
convicted of murder, rape, and kidnapping. Most of the
pardoned foreign nationals were deported, while those
jailed for financial crimes were given a grace period to
settle amounts still owed prior to deportation."

-- RESTRICTIONS ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM



24. In paragraph 1, sentence 2, please delete "either" and
replace "ministries" with "departments."



25. In paragraph 1, sentence 3, please replace "controls
in all mosques the appointment of preachers and the conduct
of their work" with "controls the appointment of preachers
and the conduct of their work in all mosques".



26. Please add the following as new paragraph 2:

"The UAE Government espouses and supports in practice a
moderate interpretation of Islam. In concert with other
governments, in 2001 the Government arrested and detained
numerous individuals suspected of ties to extremist groups.
Most of them were subsequently released."



27. In former paragraph 2, sentence 1, please replace
"There does not appear to be a formalized method" with
"There is no formalized method".



28. In former paragraph 2, sentence 2, please replace
"access to land to and permission to build a church
thereon" with "access to land to religious groups with
permission to build religious buildings thereon."



29. In former paragraph 2, sentence 3, please replace
"churches" with "religious buildings" and please replace
"Christian congregations" with "religious groups".



30. Please delete former paragraphs 3 and 4. Reason:
Moved to "Legal/Policy Framework" section.



31. In former paragraph 5, sentence 1, please replace "Ras
Al-Khaymah" with "Ras Al-Khaimah".



32. In former paragraph 5, please delete sentences 2-4.
Reason: Sentences moved to "Positive Developments" section
to join other information on new religious buildings.



33. In former paragraph 6, please delete sentence 1.
Reason: Moved to "Legal/Policy Framework" section.



34. In former paragraph 6, please replace former sentences
2 and 3 with the following:

"There is only one Hindu temple for the large Hindu
community. There are also only two Sikh temples. All
three temples are located in Dubai."



35. Please delete former paragraph 7. Reason: Moved to
"Legal/Policy Framework" section.



36. Please replace former paragraph 8 with the following:

"The conversion of Muslims to other religions is regarded
with extreme antipathy; therefore, the Government prohibits
non-Muslims from proselytizing or distributing religious
literature under penalty of criminal prosecution and
imprisonment for engaging in behavior offensive to Islam.
While there is no law against missionary activities per se,
the authorities reportedly have threatened to revoke the
residence permits of persons suspected of public missionary
activities."

Reason: Remaining information placed in other following
paragraphs to improve the flow of this section.



37. Please add the following paragraphs after former
paragraph 8 beginning with "The conversion of Muslims to
other religions":

"In November 2002, two members of the Dubai Police Criminal
Investigation Department (CID) arrested an evangelical
Christian pastor for distributing religious materials at a
public shopping mall in violation of the prohibition
against proselytizing. The CID had received a complaint
from a Muslim expatriate that the pastor had distributed
religious literature to him at that same location the day
before. The pastor was detained for almost one month
before being released on bail; he provided his passport to
the authorities as security for his release. His movements
in the country were not restricted, and he reportedly
preached to various church congregations throughout the
country during his release. The court gave the religious
materials to a local panel of Islamic scholars for review
to determine if they were offensive to Islam -- the panel
concluded that the religious materials were not inherently
offensive to Islam, but would be offensive to a Muslim if
given to a Muslim. The court convicted the defendant on 27
April, sentenced him to one year, suspended the sentence,
and ordered his deportation. Although, prior to his
arrest, the pastor had planned to leave the UAE in January
2003, he appealed the deportation order and requested a
grace period to allow his children time to complete the
school year. The court granted the requested grace
period."

"In March 2001, Dubai police arrested four visiting
noncitizens for violating laws barring non-Muslims from
proselytizing because they distributed Christian religious
materials, including videos and CD-ROMs, on a public
street. One of those arrested was detained for less than a
week. Authorities held the passports of those arrested
during the investigation; the accused persons deposited
their passports as security to guarantee their appearance
in court. They were able to move freely about Dubai but
not permitted to leave the emirate. The charges against
the noncitizens were dropped on April 8, 2001, and they
left the country on April 9."



38. In former paragraph 9, sentence 1, please replace
"foreigners to declare" with "foreigners applying for
residence permits to declare".


39. In former paragraph 9, sentence 1, please replace "the
Government does not collect" with "the Government
reportedly does not collect".



40. Please add the following new paragraph after former
paragraph 9 beginning with "Immigration authorities
routinely....":

"In addition customs authorities have questioned the entry
of large quantities of religious materials (such as Bibles
and hymnals) that they deemed in excess of the normal
requirements of existing congregations, although in most
instances the items have been permitted entry. Customs
authorities reportedly are less likely to question the
importation of Christian religious items than non-Muslim,
non-Christian religious items, although in virtually all
instances importation of the material in question
eventually has been permitted."

Reason: Moved to this location from location earlier in the
Section.



41. Please replace former paragraph 10 with the following
(Reason: Rewording and additional language.):

"There is a dual system of Shari'a (Islamic) courts for
criminal and family law matters and secular courts for
civil law matters. Non-Muslims are tried for criminal
offenses in Shari'a courts. Not all crimes are punishable
by Shari'a penalties. In cases punishable by Shari'a
penalty, non-Muslims may receive civil penalties at the
discretion of the judge, which generally occurs. Shari'a
penalties imposed on non-Muslims also may be overturned or
modified by a higher court."



42. In former paragraph 11, please add the following as
new sentence 2: "Dubai has a special Shi'a council to act
on matters pertaining to Shi'a family law."



43. In former paragraph 11, former sentence 2, please
replace "marry non-Muslim women;" with "marry non-Muslim
women "of the book," that is Christian or Jewish women;".



44. In former paragraph 12, sentence 2, please replace
"schools" with "public schools".



45. In former paragraph 12, please delete the last
sentence.



46. In former paragraph 12, please add the following
sentences as new sentences 3 and 4:

"Religious groups may, however, conduct religious
instruction for their members on their religious compounds,
and there are parochial schools operating in the country.
According to Article 84 of the Executive System of Private
Education, private schools found teaching subjects that
contravene Islam, defame any religion or contravene the
nation's ethics and beliefs may face penalties, including
closure."

-- IMPROVEMENTS AND POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS IN RESPECT FOR
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM



47. In paragraph 1, please replace sentence 1 with the
following:

"In mid-2003, the Coptic Orthodox Church received
permission to build a church in Abu Dhabi. Two new
churches also opened during the period covered by this
report -- in April 2003, a 1,000-plus capacity Coptic
Orthodox church and service facilities opened in Dubai, and
in October 2002, a 1,000-plus capacity Catholic Church and
hall opened in Fujeirah emirate."


48. In paragraph 1, please add the following sentences
between former sentences 3 and 4: "The Indian Orthodox
church opened in May 2003 in a public ceremony. In early
2001, ground was broken in Jebel Ali for the construction
of several churches on a parcel of land donated by the
Government of Dubai to four Protestant congregations and a
Catholic congregation."



49. In paragraph 1, former sentence 4, please replace "A
Catholic church" with "The Catholic church".


50. In paragraph 1, please add the following as the new
second to last sentence: "In May 2001, the Crown Prince of
Dubai authorized the construction of a Greek Orthodox
church on donated land."


51. In paragraph 1, last sentence, please replace "Also
during the period covered by the report," with "Also in
2001,".



52. Please add the following paragraphs as new paragraphs
2-5:

"In April 2002, UAE President Shaykh Zayed bin Sultan Al
Nahyan announced that he would personally fund, through the
UAE Red Crescent Authority, the repair and restoration of
Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity and Omar mosque, both of
which were damaged during Israeli-Palestinian hostilities."

"In June 2002, a Palestinian Greek Orthodox priest paid an
official visit to the UAE. In February 2003, UAE Supreme
Council member and Ruler of Ajman Emirate received an
official visit from the Catholic Bishop to the Arabian
Peninsula. Also in February 2003, the Coptic Archbishop of
Jerusalem and the Near East delivered a lecture on
religious tolerance at the Zayed Center for Coordination
and Follow-Up in Abu Dhabi. In May, the Bishop of the
Delhi Dioceses was the chief celebrant at the public
consecration ceremony of the fifth Indian Orthodox church
in the UAE. In July, the Zayed Center for Coordination and
Follow-Up hosted the Catholic Bishop to the Arabian
Peninsula, who spoke on religious tolerance in the UAE and
the importance of dialogue among religions."

"In May 2002, the Council of Evangelical Churches hosted a
3-day public conference in Abu Dhabi, which featured an
internationally renowned Christian speaker, seminars, and
workshops, with events for adults and children. Tickets to
the conference were available upon request."

"Also in 2002, the Dubai Evangelical Church Center hosted a
youth event called "Desert Challenge" attended by adults
and children from six countries."



--------------------------


SECTION III -- SOCIETAL ATTITUDES


--------------------------





53. In the second to last sentence, please replace "they
are able to best limit unwanted foreign influence" with
"they can best balance foreign influence."



54. Please delete the last sentence.



--------------------------


SECTION IV -- U.S. GOVERNMENT POLICY


--------------------------





55. Please replace paragraph 2 with the following:

"Embassy officials in Abu Dhabi and Consulate General
officials in Dubai have discussed religious tolerance and
freedom with UAE Government officials on a number of
occasions, and have encouraged the government to increase
religious freedom here by permitting the opening or
expansion of religious facilities for the large expatriate
population. Embassy and consulate officials also help to
protect religious freedom by monitoring its status through
informal inquiries and meetings with UAE Government
officials and representatives of Muslim, Christian and
other faiths. For example, Embassy and Consulate officials
closely monitored the criminal proceedings in 2002-2003 of
the evangelical Christian pastor arrested for
proselytizing, and the Consul General urged Dubai officials
to dispose of the case in a manner acceptable to all
parties involved."

WAHBA