x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

FNC concern over import controls

The Ministry of Economy says it is not its responsibility to monitor any imported products that could insult Islam.

FNC member Mohamed bin Ham cited the example of offensive children’s toys.
FNC member Mohamed bin Ham cited the example of offensive children’s toys.

ABU DHABI // Confusion remains over who is responsible for ensuring products that insult Islam do not enter the country, the Federal National Council has heard.

In a February meeting of the council, the Minister of Economy said it was not his department's job to stop inappropriate products from entering the UAE, but he has since made public statements that seem to contradict that view.

Sultan Al Mansouri was scheduled to meet the council in person for a second time after his February appearance, but has not yet done so.

In February, member Mohamed Musallam bin Ham (Abu Dhabi) asked the minister to coordinate with customs authorities to improve supervision at ports.

He said there had been an increase in the number of toys that are offensive to Islam landing in the hands of local children.

He gave examples of toys that carried offensive writing, images or bad language, including a toy gun found on sale in Dibba last year that voiced insults to the Prophet's wife, Aisha.

These toysare harmful to the upbringing of children, he said.

"The formation of one's character begins at an early age, and everyone has to work together and exert all efforts to raise future generations that adhere to our Islamic traditions," he said.

The minister said it was not his department's responsibility to do so. A few days later, however, he was reported by anewspaper as saying the ministry was working to stop this new trend.

"I believe this is contradictory to what the minister said in the session, which witnessed the discussion of the question and the insistence of the minister that the ministry was not the one to be held accountable," Dr bin Ham told the council last week.

He said he had attempted to address the ministry on March 15, and again on April 17, but did not receive a reply.

On May 15, 83 days after being asked, the minister responded that there were no explicit articles related to monitoring goods that insult religions.

The minister, the member said, had failed to answer the second part of the question related to monitoring the import of products that are potentially harmful to public safety.

He gave the example of a soft drink that was withdrawn from sale in shops in Dubai after supplies were found to be contaminated.

Eighteen children, all between the ages of six and 11, were victims of products sold in Umm Al Quwain stores in February that were found to contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals, he added.

As the council will observe its scheduled break from next week, Dr bin Ham said the FNC would not have time to call the minister before the council again.

Instead, he said, it should raise a recommendation to the Cabinet.

The council agreed to issue a call to increase supervision at the country's ports and stop such products from entering the UAE. It will also recommend the introduction of new legislation to clarify which entities are responsible for the monitoring of these products.

osalem@thenational.ae