The UAE, a leading example of tolerance
Tolerance is a virtue and an intrinsic part of the Islamic culture. It is observed at all levels: individual, organisational and national. With more than 200 nationalities living peacefully and successfully in the UAE, the UAE society has been an undisputed example of being a tolerant and inclusive country. Now, the Federal Government is keen to promote acceptance and understanding as core values of the society.
As a practical application of the principle of tolerance, H. H. Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, ordered renaming the Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Mosque in Al Mushrif, Abu Dhabi, to ‘Mariam, Umm Eisa’ — Arabic for ‘Mary, the mother of Jesus’.
Minister of State for Tolerance
The post of the Minister of State for Tolerance was first introduced in 2016 when H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai announced structural changes to the 12th Cabinet, reinforcing the UAE’s commitment to eradicate ideological, cultural and religious bigotry in the society. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi was the first the Minister of State for Tolerance.
In the Cabinet reshuffle of 2017, His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan was appointed as Cabinet member and the Minister of State for Tolerance in the UAE.
However, the UAE Government had been taking efforts towards building a tolerant nation before the structural changes of the Cabinet. Some of these measures are enumerated below.
In July 2015, H. H Sheikh Khalifa has issued Federal Decree Law No. 2 of 2015 on Combating Discrimination and Hatred, which aims to protect everyone in the UAE and thus bring the concept of social security to a new level.
The law is intended to provide a solid legislative ground for the environment of tolerance, co-existence and acceptance. It aims to fight discrimination against individuals or groups based on religion, caste, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin.
The law criminalises any acts that trigger religious hatred and/or insult religion through any form of expression, which covers speech and the written word, books, pamphlets or online media. The law prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, his prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards.
The law prohibits any entity or group established specifically to provoke religious hatred and recommends stringent punishments for groups or supporters of any organisations or individuals that are associated with hate crimes.
It also bars any kind of events such as conferences and meetings within the UAE, which are organised with the sole purpose of sowing seeds of discrimination, discord or hatred against individuals or groups.
Receiving financial support for such activities is also punishable under the new law.
The law encourages anyone involved in any activity that violates the law to submit themselves voluntarily before the authorities and has provisions allowing the courts to waive penalties in such cases.
Centres for countering extremism
International Institute for Tolerance
Aiming to promote the culture of tolerance regionally and globally, the UAE Government of Dubai has launched the International Institute for Tolerance as per local Law No 9 of 2017. The step seeks to provide solutions to the challenges of extremism and promote the UAE as a role model for tolerance.
The law also launches the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Tolerance Award which seeks to honour the efforts of those who contribute in spreading the culture of tolerance in the societies.
The institute is open to scholars and tolerance advocates who wish to work towards establishing a culture of tolerance and openness in our societies and against all forms of discrimination among people, based on religion, gender, race, colour or language.
The institute will encourage open dialogue and highlight the honest and peaceful essence of Islam against extremism, fanaticism and intellectual repression. It will propose policies, legislations and initiatives to entrench the values of tolerance and co-existence and create an environment that is conducive to social and cultural harmony.
In December 2012, H. H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation launched Hedayah (Arabic for guidance) the new name of the International Centre for Excellence in countering violent extremism, in Abu Dhabi.
Hedayah serves as the premier international hub for policy makers, practitioners and researchers of Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) to enhance understanding and share good practices to build the capacity of CVE actors across the globe to promote tolerance, stability and security. It address current threats in CVE by organising capacity building activities and workshops.
In July 2015, the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America co-founded Sawab. (Sawab means the right path in Arabic.) It is an online engagement initiative, in support of the global coalition against extremism. Sawab seeks to give a voice to the millions of Muslims and others around the world who stand united against terrorism and the religious misinterpretations that are being propagated by them.
The centre works with religious leaders, organisations, businesses and youth in order to amplify their voices, challenge extremism doctrines of hate and intolerance and demonstrate the true values of the UAE’s community.