Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
Right from the beginning, the visionary leadership of the United Arab Emirates institutionalized policy of interfaith harmony in the country. Now, it has a diversified society consisting of more than 200 nationalities in the UAE. It has become hub of culture diversity. Everyone allows following ones religion and living peacefully. No policy bar to practice religion or rituals throughout the country. Even no policy has been introduced to discriminate any religious affiliation, caste, creed or colour since its inception. Everyone is equal before the law.
UAE policy of interfaith is a message of love and peace to all countries of the world which renders the spirit of brotherhood and love. Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research said that the UAE has set a model of interfaith tolerance and peaceful coexistence under the leadership of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The UAE is a role model of interfaith tolerance, peaceful coexistence and respecting others regardless of colour, religion, race or nationality
The tolerant interfaith policy adopted by the UAE under the wise leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has drawn praise from the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. In the name of Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark, Ishaq Al Anba Bishoy, Pastor of Al Anba Antonio Orthodox Coptic Cathedral Church in Abu Dhabi, spoke highly to interfaith harmony of Sheikh Khalifa, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Their Highnesses Rulers of Emirates, His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, government and people of the UAE, for the support and assistance awarded to Christians to perform their religious activities with full freedom and safety.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash strongly condemned the EU Parliament recently issued resolution concerning the detainees, conditions of foreign labour, conditions of the women in the UAE and death penalty in the UAE laws. The said resolution labeled as “biased and prejudiced he added. The facts given in the resolution was baseless and far away from the ground realities. UAE regional and international recognitions have already endorsed its firm believe in interfaith harmony, peaceful coexistence and the last but not the least, holistic approach towards foreign labour, minorities and comprehensive social care and women’s empowerment. UAE represents a society of people of over 200 different nationalities. They live co-exist in a friendly and tolerant atmosphere. State policies are helpful to promote interfaith harmony. Every country has its own distinctive traditions, laws, rules and regulations which have to be observed to maintain security and stability.
The state minister elaborated that the UAE has not been summoned to this discussion and that it requested the EU Parliament to defer discussion of the motion for the resolution to allow for opportunity to express its points of view which would help give accuracy, balance and credibility to the resolution, but the Parliament s procedure made it difficult to consider that request. He concluded by saying: “There is no room for leniency when it comes to laws and constitutional foundations no matter what circumstances are.
In this connection, The Federal National Council (FNC) responded immediately to the statement issued by the EU Parliament concerning the human rights in the UAE. It showed its total displeasure and disappointment on the EU Parliament debate on human rights in the UAE. It shocked at the way in which the EU Parliament tabled such a sensitive issue without approaching the UAE through its constitutional, executive and legislative institutions as well as its social organisations. It hoped that the EU Parliament had not harried in taking such a decision and viewed the issue with neutrality and objectivity while giving the competent circles in the UAE the full opportunity to explain the UAE view instead of listening to biased reports that contain many baseless allegations and inaccurate information about the real situation in the UAE.
It said the UAE achievements for the last 40 years stand testimony to its respect for human rights for both its nationals and non-nationals. High development rates have also drawn commendation from all. Rights of women and foreign workforce, human trafficking, and domestic helpers, have been receiving full attention of the State since its inception it added. The UAE women have enjoyed their rights to education, public job and political participation it elaborated. The foreign workforce has been provided with suitable working conditions through proper housing, fair wages and human working environment. The FNC has debated the domestic helpers law in its previous term.
Furthermore, UAE has already been gained continuous appreciation from the international relevant organisations for its comprehensive efforts towards curbing human trafficking. UAE has rule of the law and everyone is equal before the law, the FNC stated. The UAE leadership stresses the need to have rights of the citizens. The UAE will go ahead with its plans for development so as to build a modern state that takes the lead in all fields, a state that is based on principles of religion, traditions, heritage and cherished political legacy left by the founding fathers led by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the FNC added.
The UAE Minister of Culture Abdul Rahman Al Owais emphasised the importance of interfaith dialogue. UAE has allowed the Christian communities to build their churches to exercise their religious rituals freely similar to Muslims. The Coptic Orthodox Church underscored that the religious tolerance set by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan “made UAE the forefront of love and sponsor of global peace and security in a time when the world is boiling in waves of intolerance, lawlessness and sectarian tension.”
UAE is known for its tolerance and respect for other religions and residents can freely pray at a Hindu temple, a Christian Church or a Sikh Gurudwara. Moreover, most non-Muslim worshippers hold their main mass or services on Fridays. Non-Muslims can enter mosques throughout the country but are advised to wear modest clothing and women must cover their head. The churches and temples in the UAE were built more than 35 years ago. According to the residency law of the country, those who employ a non-Muslim domestic helper must allow the employee to visit his or her church or temple to worship at least once a week. But no one is allowed to practice their particular beliefs in open places. However, all are allowed to celebrate their religious festival in public.
Churches in the UAE
Name of the Emirate Names
Abu Dhab Arab Evangelical Church
Evangelical Community Centre
St George Orthodox Church
St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church
Saint Andrew’s Church
Miracle Hands Ministry
Dubai Holy Trinity Church
Saint Mary’s Catholic Church
United Christian Church of Dubai
Emirates Baptist Church Int’l
Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints
The Deira Brethren Assembly
Mar Thoma Church
Mar Ignatius Church
Miracle Hands Ministry
New Covenant Church Dubai
Jebel Ali St Francis of Assisi Church
The Church of the Anglican
Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf
Sharjah Saint Martin’s Church
Saint Michael’s Catholic Church
Congregation of the Church of South India
Miracle Hands Ministry
Fujairah Church of our Lady of Perpetual Help
Umm Al Quwain Miracle Hands Ministry
Ras Al Khaimah St Mary’s Orthodox Church
Al Ain St Mary’s Catholic Church
Anglican Church Services
Evangelical Church of Al Ain
Source: Gulf News (2008).
Women empowerment drive has achieved tremendous success. Now, women account for around 70 per cent of all university graduates in the country and fill around two thirds of government jobs. UAE has now four women members of the Cabinet and ambassadors. They are now air force pilots and armed forces recruits. UAE-based learning consultant Carol Talbot report (October, 2012) says more than 30 percent of firms in the UAE’s SME sector are owned by women. According to Ministry of Economy (September, 2012 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) accounted for 60 percent to the nation’s GDP in 2011 which verified the active participation of women in the socio-economic development of the country.
Secrete of the UAE social tolerance, peace and co-existence rests on its interfaith harmony policy. It is the message of better understanding of culture sensitivity. It is concrete effort to acknowledge otherness and respect different people, religion, rituals and customs.
UAE is a dynamic country which has tolerant society. In the times of regional widening and international division on the basis of faith and religion, UAE provides an ideal platform for achieving sustainable interfaith harmony. It stands beacon of light in the siege of darkness, of prejudices, narrow-mindedness, hatred, and cleansing.