On November 15 and 16 the first world meeting dedicated to the theme was held. Over 1000 religious and political personalities of different faiths present. For the Prime Minister, the goal is to transform the country into the capital “of shared life”. Countering fundamentalism starting from schools and universities. A “model” but not without some shadows.
Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Promote a model of tolerant Islam and a society open to the outside, thanks to a general “stability” in terms of politics and of security. This is the project undertaken in recent years by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which on 15 and 16 November last promoted – on the impetus of the highest authorities – the first world summit of tolerance. Over 1,000 people attended the event, including political and religious leaders (including Christians), together with experts from around the world. Fr. Dr. James Channan OP, Director Peace Center Lahore and Regional Coordinator United Religions Initiative, URI-Pakistan lead the delegation from Pakistan for the summit.
The Emirates are among the very few nations of the Middle East that can boast stability. For some time the leaders of the country have proposed to export their model of society open to religious and cultural diversity, based on moderate Islam.
Of course, there is no lack of “dark” aspects such as the involvement of Abu Dhabi in the bloody war in Yemen or the clash (in support of Saudi Arabia) with Qatar in place for a year and which have in fact raised the tension in the region. And there are also cases of internal repression of the dissidence, as shown by the condemnation to 10 years of imprisonment of the dissident Ahmed Mansoor.
However, the Emirates remain a “happy island” in a reality characterized by widespread intolerance or persecution; just think of Saudi Arabia in which other religious practices are not allowed, except for Sunni Islam (and Wahhabita). In 2016 Abu Dhabi promoted a Ministry of Tolerance; the following year it founded the International Institute of Tolerance (IIT) and this year, on the occasion of the world day celebrated on November 16, the authorities promoted a world summit on the topic.
Inaugurating the two days, Prime Minister sheikh Mohammad ben Rached al-Maktoum pointed out that the purpose “is to make the Emirates the capital of tolerance and common life” to try to “bring cultures closer together and create a dialogue between religions and civilizations”. For his part, the Minister of Tolerance sheikh Nahyan ben Moubarak al-Nahyan illustrated various initiatives to counter extremism and encourage religious pluralism.
For some time now, the Emirates have been working to combat fundamentalism, with the Sawab center linked to the Foreign Ministry and the Hedaya center, which guarantees work to over 70 people, who are involved in monitoring any speeches of hatred and violence or the spread of a far right ideology. Initiatives that focus on schools and universities, where the youth population is concentrated.
The president of the Parliament Amal al-Qobeissi recalls the values at the base of the nation, fruit of the thought of the founding father Sheikh Zayed. He used to “help non-Muslims” by underlining that “there are no differences” and he personally ordered “the construction of three churches in 1974”. In the country there is also freedom of worship for the Shiites, an anomaly in a region torn by the division between the two main currents of Islam.
Re-launching the project of a “tolerance ID” within the Gulf Cooperation Council (CCC), al-Qobeissi concludes by emphasizing that the ultimate aim of the summit is to bring Islam closer to the West: “In the Emirates – he says – over 200 different nationalities live in harmony. The culture of diversity is the best weapon of prevention against radicalism”.
Group photo of URI leaders gathered in Dubai for the World Tolerance Summit. Rev Victor Kazanjian, URI Executive Director is on the left. And Ambassador Dr. Mussie Hailu on the right. — withEmmanuel Ande Ivorgba.