The main driving force behind the post of Minister of State for Tolerance in 2016 was to promote the UAE’s policy of tolerance that was cultivated by our founding father. Sheikh Zayed applied the value of tolerance in the UAE based on Islamic teachings.
Quranic verses emphasise the importance of coexistence with different religious beliefs. For instance, the Quran states “We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another.”(Al-Hujurat, 49: 13).
The Muslim community should not impose on others to accept a point of view, religion or faith. “There is no compulsion in religion.” (Al Baqarah, 2: 256).
Islam also rejects the use of violence verbally or physically against mankind or doing any harm to others, “whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land — it is as if he had killed mankind entirely. And whoever saves one — it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.”(Al-Maidah, 32).
The UAE emphasises on respect and coexistence between people of different background based on this teaching.
Upon orders from Sheikh Zayed, the UAE was among the first nations to provide all kinds of aid and support in disaster relief around the world
Back in the 1960s up to the establishment of the UAE in 1971, there were not enough qualified Emiratis to hold posts in the UAE, thus most of Shaikh Zayed’s consultants, advisers and translators were non-nationals.
He welcomed people from other nationalities in the UAE.
Sheikh Zayed’s personality received a lot of interest from orientalists and European travellers. The famous British traveller, Wilfred Thesiger, documented his trip in his book ‘The Arabian Sands’, in which he recorded some impressions of his meeting with Sheikh Zayed.
He said: “Zayed is characterised by calm and strong personal behaviour.” Regarding his generosity, good reputation and morals, he said, “Bedouin and Westerners are welcome around Sheikh Zayed.”
Stories of valour
Countless stories demonstrate Sheikh Zayed’s tolerance. It is an honour to take you through these stories, some of which were captured through my interviews with important figures like Zaki Nusseibeh, UAE Minister of State.
He indicated that Sheikh Zayed believed that all humans belong to one family and that the welfare of the people of a state cannot be achieved without cooperation and exchange of human and economic resources.
Dr. Mohamed Saeed Al Qudis, cultural adviser of Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance, documents the essential events in the country. The information and memories he gathered are inexhaustible.
Al Qudis stated that whenever representatives of a church came to visit or congratulate Sheikh Nahyan on a special occasion, he would ask them about their condition and if they needed anything.
Omar Al Bitar, former UAE Ambassador in China, passionately recalled one of the most important moments in his life: He stated that he travelled with Sheikh Zayed to places where the UAE constructed schools, hospitals and roads (for countries that needed such help).
Some of those initiatives were not announced in public. The charities he offered were countless, and they were never related to a specific country or group of people and were not based on religion or faith.
Upon orders from Sheikh Zayed, we were among the first nations to provide all kinds of aid and support in disaster relief around the world.
Sheikh Zayed did not base his humanitarian assistance on political motives whatsoever.
According to reports in Gulf News, till date the UAE assisted 71 countries with 1,046 tons of medical aid to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.
Finally, in Heritage Journal, under the title Zayed and Humanity, Saeed Al Ameri tells a story about Zayed’s tolerance. At one time there were many Arabs and Muslims in Geneva who wrote letters to Shaikh Zayed requesting assistance.
Sheikh Zayed noticed that the person in charge of reading the letters had hidden one of the letters and Sheikh Zayed noticed that, so he asked him why he hid the letter, he replied that the letter was from a Jewish person.
Sheikh Zayed was disappointed and emphasised the need to respond to the letter and provided the needed assistance to the person.
To conclude, Sheikh Zayed did not differentiate based on religion and colour and would help all the needy without looking into their origin or ethnicity. In the UAE, he is rightfully the father of all Emiratis and expatriates alike.
Dr. Noura S. Al Mazrouei is a writer, academic and artist