Monday, July 10, 2023

It’s Iimi! Not My Will But Yours Be Done!

Resuming where Issue 174 left off, Kismetta is still in the airport jail. Kismetta’s friends pray for her while her parents try to find a way to get her out. Meanwhile, Kismetta is left praying… Not My Will, But YOURS Be Done.

Preliminary Notes:

For those who forgot since last issue, the Shah’ada is the Muslim profession of belief that there is one God (in a sense that misunderstands the Trinity) and Muhammad is a prophet. A Christian cannot make it without denying who Jesus is. Kismetta was arrested for blasphemy in saying she did not believe Muhammad was a prophet.

Now that the story is over, you may wonder what happened from the author’s perspective. This would be a brief summary:

  1.  A bystander overhearing Kismetta’s refusal to make the shah’ada last Issue complained to a police officer. This is how foreigners often find themselves in trouble over this, violations of dress code and breaches of decorum. You can get in trouble, but only if someone makes a formal complaint.
  2. The police involved decided to arrest her. Kismetta was held in a cell at the airport until she could be deposed. If she had been charged, Kismetta could have faced a sentence of one-half of the sentence given to an adult. So, she’d likely be sentenced to six months in prison if found guilty.
  3. The US Embassy and Bahrudin’s lawyer could not see her until the deposition ended.
  4. The deposition ended with the Prosecutor dubious about the case.
  5. The Maliki school of thought holds that a blasphemer cannot wipe away a blasphemy charge by making the Shah’ada. However, the UAE’s laws don’t always align with the Maliki interpretation of the Sharia.
  6. Connections do mean a lot in the UAE. While the Prosecutor was unsure of whether to prosecute, getting a call from a government minister with a lot of clout tipped the balance.
  7. Because of Raziq’s influence, if Kismetta had reverted, the prosecutor would have dropped the charges. This was not seen as an attempt to coerce Kismetta. It was seen as giving Kismetta a chance to remain with her family with the charges dropped, given that Bahrudin was seeking to gain citizenship for his family, and only Muslims can be citizens of the UAE.
  8. Because of that refusal, Kismetta being a minor and a non-citizen meant she would be deported.
  9. Kismetta was waiting for a seat to become available on Emirati Airlines. The next open seat (three flights a week between Dubai and SFO) was in a week. Because she would be deported, she could not stay with her parents… Kismetta would have to remain in jail while she waited.
  10. Bahrudin paid for the next available flight from Dubai to SFO to prevent Kismetta from being held for a week. This was an Air Korea flight that left at 10:45 that night. Because Air Korea has a 24-hour notification policy for unescorted minors, Bahrudin had to get strings pulled and pay a premium to expedite this.

If anyone is confused about the days and times, this Issue (until Kismetta leaves the UAE) takes place on July 3 and 4 in California time and entirely on July 4th in Dubai time. Dubai and California are 12 hours apart. Kismetta’s Air Korea flight takes 23 hours and 35 minutes (with a 3hr 55min stopover in Seoul), which means she arrives in Seoul on the 5th around noon and California on the 6th around 11:00 AM.

This was a challenging story to write. Researching laws for a foreign country and how they would typically be applied is difficult. Dealing with blasphemy laws—which critics call subjective—is doubly so. They do take blasphemy laws seriously there. I was trying to capture that sense without portraying Emirati officials as cardboard villains. In their view, Kismetta had broken the law, even though it depended on the interpretation of the man who complained in Issue 174.

 The trick was putting Kismetta into a reasonable level of jeopardy that was not, on the one hand, so severe that getting her out of it would be unbelievable; or so light that there was no sense of jeopardy. The UAE is considered a “not free” country.

Some information on the Emirati legal system can be read HERE. Critics describe the blasphemy laws as “extremely broad.”

Some laws were changed in 2020, which affect the accused’s rights. You can read about them HERE. Others believe that these reforms were later negated or meaningless. I do not have the knowledge to assess these claims. But I wouldn’t want to live under them.

On a more trivial note, as I understand it, many UAE government officials wear traditional flowing white robes and kaffiyeh. While I wanted to do this to show a high-ranking official, I don’t have the resources to portray that. So Zara’s Father, Raziq, wears a suit.

Many of the cars seen are white. That’s the most popular color as it’s believed to reflect the heat somewhat. That claim is apparently untrue. But every country has its own urban myths.


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