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Tolerance and forgiveness: ‘Year of Tolerance’ reflects approach adopted since UAE’s establishment

Since my appointment here in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, I have deeply enjoyed the warm welcome and hospitality of this brotherly nation, with its rich history of different civilisations and great potentials in all fields. It is Pakistan’s human potential which sets it apart — a country blessed with such highly talented people, the proof of their myriad capabilities apparent in all fields.

Aside from such potential, this beautiful country has been facing issues of extremism and terrorism in recent years — and there is a subtle difference between the two. Though the country has successfully fought against terrorism, extremism can only be defeated on ideological grounds.

To combat this menace on the regional and global level, we must adhere to the values and principles inherited from our civilisations, the crown jewel of which, is tolerance.

Tolerance means the acceptance of coexistence of different opinions, cultures, beliefs, colors and languages. It has four aspects: humanity, respect, coexistence and openness to different cultures. Given prevailing circumstances, tolerance has become more important than ever, and keeping this in view, the United Arab Emirates has taken many steps to promote it on a national, regional and global level.

The Founding Father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan left behind a legacy of noble values such as equality, tolerance and charity. He said: ‘Tolerance and forgiveness are a duty. If the Almighty Creator forgives and we as human beings are His creation, then shall we not forgive?’

These are values that continue to play an important role in UAE’s society today, where acceptance and diversity are an integral part of the country’s identity and culture and of its people, with more than 200 nationalities living together in peace.

Therefore, the UAE established a Ministry of Tolerance for the first time in history, and announced 2019 as the “Year of Tolerance.”

The Year of Tolerance reflects the approach adopted since the UAE's establishment: to be a bridge of communication and convergence between the world’s peoples and cultures in an environment based on respect and acceptance.

The spirit of tolerance and respect with which the UAE treats all faiths and cultures is a fundamental aspect of its public policies. Led by Sheikh Zayed, this has been a central part of the country’s vision right from the beginning.

The UAE is a special case and a good example of a country that has managed to attract more than 9 million people from hundreds of nationalities around the world and still managed to build an open society.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis paid a visit to the UAE, and during his stay, His Eminence, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, considered a main Islamic reference at one of the world’s leading Islamic institutions, also visited. Together, the two religious leaders signed the ‘Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,’ which sends a strong message for hope and peace to the entire world. Additionally, the presence of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar is a very strong signal to Muslims in the region to accept these values of tolerance.

The government of Dubai has also launched the International Institute for Tolerance, aiming to promote the culture of tolerance regionally and globally, to provide solutions to the challenges of extremism and to promote the UAE as a role model. Particularly, the institute will focus on encouraging open dialogue and highlighting the honest and peaceful essence of Islam against extremism, fanaticism and intellectual repression.

In 2012, the Hedayah Centre was launched in Abu Dhabi, which is the International Centre for Excellence in countering violent extremism. It serves as an international hub to increase understanding and share good practices in the field of counter-extremism, while promoting tolerance, stability and security especially in the region.

This month, the World Tolerance Summit was held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE’s premier and ruler of Dubai, which brought together government leaders, key figures from the public and private sectors, peacekeeping ambassadors and change-makers from around the world, to discuss the great importance of tolerance, peace and equality, and to celebrate diversity among people from all walks of life.