ABU DHABI, 14th February, 2017 (WAM) -- On the occasion of her recent visit to Washington, DC to attend the Annual National Prayer Breakfast, UAE Minister of State for Tolerance, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, has written an OpEd for the Huffington Post discussing the UAE policy of promoting tolerance and fighting extremism.
"This year, more than ever, people from all over the world who attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC should continue their dialogue and together find ways to promote coexistence and acceptance – and counter the waves of division that are increasingly inciting hatred and extremism.
Extremism has no religion or nationality, and violent terrorist groups threaten the safety of all countries and people. Securing borders and strengthening immigration and refugee policies alone are not the answer.
In fact, one way to defeat extremist ideologies is to promote greater interfaith dialogue at events like the National Prayer Breakfast, where I was pleased to take part, along with Muslim and Christian leaders from the UAE.
Facilitating dialogue that builds understanding between cultures is important. But governments, too, have a critical role to play. In the UAE, for example, new policies and initiatives are promoting greater understanding among all people and bringing cultures together.
Recently, I had the honour to be entrusted with our newly-established National Programme for Tolerance as Minister tasked with strengthening the government’s role as an "incubator" of tolerance, promoting tolerance, coexistence and respect for others throughout the UAE.
The UAE’s philosophy of acceptance is deeply rooted in our history and heritage. We have always been a gateway to the world, a hub for trade, culture and industry. The UAE is home to over 200 nationalities from almost every corner of the world, with 80% of our population being expatriates. It fills me with pride to see people of many faiths and backgrounds coexisting peacefully.
That’s part of our history. Earlier this month, I accompanied nearly 30 Christian leaders, including American Evangelicals, Catholics and Arab Christians, on a visit to a key part of the UAE’s heritage, a 7th Century monastery west of our capital, Abu Dhabi.
The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founder and first president, was an advocate of peace among all cultures, a strong believer that hatred and terrorism have no place within humanity.
Today, the UAE is part of an international coalition combatting extremism, on and off the battlefield. We and our partners have developed initiatives to counter extremist rhetoric, understand the root cause of dangerous ideology and provide hope and opportunity for those seeking a more peaceful path.
The SAWAB Centre in the UAE is a joint US-UAE initiative to combat the negative online propaganda of ISIS and promote positive alternatives to extremism, in support of the Global Coalition Against Daesh. Hedayah is an international hub for policy makers, practitioners and researchers on countering violent extremism, to enhance understanding and share good practices in promoting tolerance, stability and security.
Our constitution guarantees freedom for all to practice religious worship of their choosing. The UAE’s anti-discriminatory law enacted in 2015 forbids discrimination against anyone because of nationality, race, class, culture, gender or religion.
In support of this law, the National Programme for Tolerance, part of the country’s 2021 Vision, was established to promote five principal areas: strengthening the government’s role as an incubator for tolerance, consolidating the family’s role in nation building, promoting tolerance among youth and steering them away from extremism, enriching scientific and cultural content, and integrating international efforts to promote tolerance.
Emiratis are champions of change. We are global citizens, eager to build the future faster; determined to be at the forefront in the fight for equality, dignity and the right to live in peace, a model that can serve as a road map for others to promote greater tolerance and openness. We choose to coexist, to accept, to question and to grow through our differences."