Foreigners in the United Arab Emirates are perpetually finding themselves in legal trouble for their unawareness of local laws. Rather than make an attempt to learn about local ways of life, no matter how seemingly harmless certain actions may be, entitled outsiders to the Muslim nation continue to make headlines for their cultural ignorance.
Scott Richards, a 42-year-old dual British and Australian citizen living in Dubai, faces up to one year in jail for an act which, at surface level, appears to be pretty harmless.
Richards shared a crowd-funding page to his Facebook account, but did so without realizing that he was breaching UAE law of illegally raising money for a charity. Richards posted the message calling for donations to a charity aiding a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul.
United Arab Emirates authorities held Richards in custody for 22 days for the Facebook post and charged him for unlawfully attempting to raise money. Richards had shared a GoFundMe page for Zwan Family Charity based in Kabul, Afghanistan.
UAE legislation prohibits fundraising for charities which are not registered within the country. Penalties can range anywhere from two months to one year behind bars and fines up to $27,000.
Rather than pitting the blame against the UAE for an outlandish legal system, which has no reason to conform to the West’s way of doing things, foreigners such as Richards —despite being an expat living in Dubai—should pay more attention to cultural nuances. This incident just proves that many Western expats in Dubai continue to live in an isolated bubble, but they, like anyone else, are not above the law.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Matthias Seifert