Thursday, March 23, 2006

UAE Justice and the Newspaper Police Report (con't)

The newspapers recently reported the imposition of Sharia law in the UAE: amputation for a thief (in absentia). A few months ago, they reported the death penalty was imposed for drugs (in absentia). Of course, newspapers here only print official government press releases, so we have no idea of the actual arrest rate, conviction rate, or sentences. [Before coming to Dubai, my local newspaper back home had a daily Police Report, which reported every arrest, every conviction, and every sentence.]

The normal story that appears in the UAE papers is that unruly guests in this Disney Dubailand are ejected by the bouncers: 'Murderer sentenced to deportation. Rapist sentenced to deportation. Thief sentenced to deportation. Etc.' [Sometimes, for serious crimes (murder of a prominent Citizen) the sentence is 'Life, followed by deportation,' but this is becoming unusual.]

But these are only the official stories.

I was watching Sharjah TV a few years ago, when they had a program about understanding Islam. The host asked the audience, 'Would you prefer to be robbed every time you step out of your house, or would you prefer that thieves have their hands chopped off, and be able to walk in perfect safety? Be glad we have Sharia law here in the UAE.'

Since there was nothing in print (then or now) about hands actually being chopped off, only a mention on a single late-night TV show, I wondered (and still wonder): What is the real crime rate, conviction rate, and actual sentencing?

An acquaintence who spent a month in gaol for fencing stolen mobile phones said about half the inmates were thieves and murderers, but the rest were in for nothing that would be illegal in the West (e.g., talking to a member of the opposite sex, failing to sell items purchased on credit and being unable to pay the debt, fencing stolen mobiles, etc.). But only one or two arrests get reported every day, not nearly enough to account for all the people he saw in the gaol.

Another acquaintence was sentenced to 180 lashes just for drinking beer. OK, he was driving while drunk, but there's nothing in Sharia about driving, so he was sentenced for the drinking. He wanted to go on Oprah and show what his back looked like, but I assured him Oprah would fully approve of the law, if it were for drunk drivers.

But nothing was in the newspapers about 180 lashes for drunk driving.

So (if you believe the newspapers, which I don't) harsh, Sharia sentences are now being imposed only in absentia, which pleases everybody: Islamic fundamentalists approve of the imposition of strict Sharia law, and Westerners approve of its only being imposed in absentia.

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