Amos and Dubai
I really like the prophet Amos.
After all, the brother authored a powerful book, full of vivid, poetic imagery and compelling teaching featuring a strong call to justice and righteousness.
On the other hand, I “like” the prophet Amos in the same way I “like” a trip to the dentist. Or a performance review. Or someone sitting me down and setting me straight.
What I mean is that it’s not always easy to have our experiences or our perspectives challenged.
And in Amos’ case, the challenge is about injustice and false spirituality. For me the central message of Amos is that God cannot abide injustice and so God’s going to do something about it. As humans, then, the right move is to whole-heartedly join God in that pursuit. To not be on the side of justice is, well, akin to the ironic horror of “a man [escaping] from a lion only to meet a bear.”
See what I mean? Amos is a handful.
One particular hotbed of injustice in the book of Amos is the city gate. In Amos’ day, the gate was the hub of civic life. If you had judicial business, you went to the gate. If you needed the marketplace, you hit up a vendor at the gate. If you wanted to debate the issues of the day, forget an early morning at your local Panera and instead go to the gate.
As one commentator puts it, “when the Bible talks of the ‘gate’ it may mean: the ‘market’, the ‘law court’ (either formally in criminal cases or less formally as the place where family business or disputes were settled), the public forum where community business was discussed and gossip exchanged or the administrative center – the ‘Town Hall’.”
Basically, the gate is where you took the pulse of the city, for good or for ill.
In the spirit of Amos, I want to call out some injustice right now at the global gate. Specifically, in the cosmopolitan yet socially traditional country of Dubai.
According to this article, over four months ago, Norwegian woman Marte Deborah Dalelv was sexually assaulted while on business in Dubai. After a court process, her attacker was sentenced, but only to a 13-month sentence for sex outside of marriage and alcohol consumption. I daresay that sentence feels too lenient for the caliber of the crime.
But then it gets worse.
Because Dalelv was ALSO sentenced. To 16 months. For the same two crimes with perjury added in. Simply put, the Dubai court didn’t believe her.
It could be because Dubai’s legal standard for what constitutes sexual assault is steeped in male privilege. One London-based group is calling on Dubai, and the United Arab Emirates to which the country belongs, to overturn the decision, with the following rationale:
It said the UAE’s claims that it is attempting to end discrimination against women was undermined by a legal system that “prohibits the achievement of justice for cases of sexual violence against women”. According to the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, UAE law states a rape conviction can only be secured after a confession or as the result of testimony from four adult male witnesses to the crime.
An outright confession, or the testimony of four adult male witnesses? Really? That threshold for proof is just not good enough. It’s too high. Ultimately, it’s unjust to the violated woman.
And so in this case and too many more around the world, we join the prophet–we join the Lord–in yearning for a day when justice is established at the city gate. From Amos 5:21-24:
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
UPDATE: I know I’m good but not this good! About 10 minutes after I posted this, I read on the front page of cnn.com that Dalelv had been pardoned (here). She can now go home to heal. Great news for her, and yet the fact remains that the U.A.E. laws need to change!