The small country United Arab Emirates (UAE) seems like an oasis in the Persian Gulf desert. Nevertheless, some people call it a mirage.
The United Nations recently recognized UAE as the Arab region’s happiest country, and the world’s 17th happiest country. Mostly known for its glamorous capital, Dubai, UAE boasts a GDP of $269.8 billion USD. It is a confederation of seven emirates. The oil rich country has some of the world’s tallest and most expensive buildings. Fashionable locals mix with tourists at luxury restaurants and shopping centers. But is this happiness?
A UN-commissioned happiness study surveyed residents worldwide to measure their happiness level and factors affecting it. UAE’s President Sheikh Khalifa aims for his country to become known as the world’s happiest nation.
However, some Muslims express displeasure about the recently ended Ramadan season. The Associated Press (AP) talked to Fozeya Ibrahim Al Mahmoud of Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency. Al Mahmoud said the fasting season has taken on a quality of consumerism. One Dubai boutique has Ramadan-inspired T-shirts with the slogan “Bad Girl Gone Good.”
“Now the month of Ramadan has been transformed from a season of spiritual ascension … into following desires and luxuries, and we totally oppose this,” Sheik Abdullah Roshdi, head of a Cairo mosque, told the AP.
Even UAE’s Christian Believers have reason to be unhappy. UAE claims it allows religious freedom. However, UAE citizens are regarded as Muslim by birth, and conversion is illegal by death penalty. Out of an 8.3 million population, 400,000 are Christian. Few of these Christians are Emirati. Many belong to underground churches.
Recently, the president declared “rumor mongering” on the social media websites to be a felony. Rumors may include speaking negatively about the nation’s policies on religious freedom, or the happiness found in Jesus Christ.
PRAY that UAE will allow real religious freedom, becoming an oasis of safety in the Islamic desert of oppression (The Bible. Psalm 91:1-3).
PRAY that Emirati Christians will boldly share the joy of a new life in Christ (The Bible, Psalm 30:5).
PRAY that Emiratis will turn from false gods of money and pride to serve the One True God Almighty (The Bible, Psalm 4:2).