The UAE has passed a new draft law imposing fines and a jail term on anyone holding religious lectures or teaching the memorisation of the Quran without prior government approval, according to the Khaleej Times.
Passed by the Federal National Council (FNC) yesterday, the law could see offenders fined 5,000 dirhams ($1,360) and tougher punishments could be handed out to mosque officials who are accused of being connected to "illegal organisations" or engaging in "prohibited political activities".
Presided by FNC speaker Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, the session also focused heavily on the rules and regulations for UAE mosques. If the bill is passed, anyone who attempts to interfere with the weekly sermon delivered by the imam of a mosque could face three months in jail.
The UAE has sought to control Islamic discourse for many years and has listed several religious organisations as terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
During yesterday's national council meeting, lawmakers also called for more vigorous surveillance of foreign clerics engaged in religious debate with Emiratis on social media.
Representative Saeed Al Remeithi stated that the government wanted to control who Emirati citizens were gaining religious knowledge from.
"We want the authority to have followers on social media, to keep up with updates and have direct contact with the public."
"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 concluded.
An exclusive report, based on emails obtained by MEMO, revealed last week that senior officials in the Emirati government are attempting to influence the narrative on Islam in the West. This includes the promotion of "moderate Islam" and the endorsement of scholars, some of whom are known to have worked with the US government.
The latest comments made by the council suggest that employing such a strategy in the West is important in order to ensure that Emirati citizens do not acquire religious knowledge that the government construes as a threat to national security.