The Cabinet's approval of a national programme for tolerance on Wednesday is another step by the Government to promote acceptance and understanding as core values of society. Last February, the Government appointed a Minister of State for Tolerance. As The National reported yesterday, the new programme includes the establishment of a Council of Tolerance and other supporting entities, such as a UAE Tolerance Centre, a Tolerance Responsibility Programme for Organisation and a UAE Charter of Tolerance, Coexistence and Peace.
The announcement comes at the perfect time of the year. As was noted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Ramadan is “a great opportunity to spread the spirit of tolerance and show the real image of moderation, and respect for others”. Tolerance is celebrated in Islamic culture as a basic principle on all levels: individual, groups and states.
The newly announced programme will target young people and work on steering them away from extremist ideologies. This objective has been in place in UAE schools for some time and will be bolstered under the new scheme. The message is clear. We understand that teaching tolerance as a value starts at a young age.
As Egypt's minister of religious endowments, Dr Mohammed Gomaa, told the audience at the Ramadan majlis series of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, young people must be aware and able to distinguish between true religious leaders who call for peaceful tolerance and those who misinterpret religion and call for violence. Another component of the programme is the focus on enriching scientific and cultural content as a way to tackle intolerance. The Government is committed to playing its role not only as a promoter of tolerance but as an "incubator" of it by creating an environment that celebrates diversity and understanding.
On a separate but connected note, our ranking in the annual Global Peace Index dropped slightly this week. This doesn't mean, however, that the country has become less peaceful, a function of tolerance one might argue. Rather it reflects regional turmoil and the conflicts that surround us. If anything, it is a reminder to redouble our efforts. Through programmes and public engagement, the foundations of a tolerant and peaceful society are being put in place.