Sheikh Mohammed’s new bid for a more tolerant region

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The UAE’s rulers have announced that they want the region to be free from extremism, and open to many religions. Here are two new ideas to help make that happen…

“Our Arab societies need to be prepared intellectually to embed the culture of tolerance, openness and peaceful co-existence,” said H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, as he launched two new initiatives to boost tolerance in the Arab world this week. “We must strive for an intellectual and cultural renaissance,” he explained.

The first new entity is an award that will honour those who help to promote tolerance in the region, the second is an institute to educate, advise on and research ways to make the region a more open place, and one free of extremism.

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“The UAE has established itself as a global role model for tolerance,” explained Dubai’s ruler when announcing the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Award for Tolerance and the International Institute of Tolerance (which is the first of its kind in the Arab world).

Dubai is home to many Christian churches, a Hindu temple and a Sikh Temple. Here’s a glimpse inside the beautiful Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple in Jebel Ali:

And here’s a glimpse inside the beautiful Saint Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Jebel Ali, which is on a 1,800 square metre plot of land that was donated to the church by Sheikh Mohammed:

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“We cherish tolerance as a key value. Yet, we intend to transform that value into a sustainable institutional work that will reflect positively on our peoples in the Arab world,” he explained, going on to note that tolerance provides stability in communities.

So what is the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Award for Tolerance? Well, it will honour young Arab leaders who do good work to promote the intellectual and cultural values of tolerance and openness. Meanwhile, the International Institute for Tolerance will offer the government expert advice on policies that will promote tolerance, while also publishing reports and studies on the issue.

The institution will look into ways to combat fundamentalism, seclusion and sectarianism. It will also contribute to the discussion about education in the UAE.

These two new entities have been announced just days after the UAE’s Charter for Tolerance was inaugurated by Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi, the Minister for Tolerance. She explained that the government document (and ethos) will aim to combat bigotry, extremism and racism.

Mohammed bin Abduallah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, described the two new initiatives as practical responses to “the sources of tension in the region” and to the “cultural slump in the Arab world”.

PART OF A WIDER INITIATIVE

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The new award and institute are part of the Dhs5 billion fund Sheikh Mohammed pledged earlier this year to help boost the lives of millions, particularly those in the Arab world.

Overall, the money will be used to develop knowledge and education, to help boost research in important areas (including the medical field) and aid social causes across the Arab world. It will help those who cannot afford education, medical treatment and access to transport in the region.

H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, wrote about the need for a Minister of Tolerance in his open letter on the future of the UAE earlier this year: “We have also learned from hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of refugees in our region that sectarian, ideological, cultural and religious bigotry only fuel the fires of rage. We cannot and will not allow this in our country. We need to study, teach, and practice tolerance – and to instill it in our children, both through education and our own example.”

He goes on to explain that when the Arab world was “tolerant and accepting of others it led the world”. Explaining that, from the civilizations of Damascus to Andalusia, Arab people “provided beacons of science, knowledge, and civilization, because humane values were the basis of our relationships with all civilizations, cultures, and religions.”

THE MINISTER OF TOLERANCE

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”The UAE is making strenuous efforts within the international community to counter violence, extremism, hate speech, and terrorism – phenomena that hamper the security and stability within communities,” explained Sheikha Lubna, the UAE’s Minister of Tolerance recently at an event with British MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. At the event Sheikha Lubna discussed how the UAE focuses on “co-existence among people without making a distinction on the basis of race, colour, religion, ethnicity or sect”.

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