Dubai: In the next phase of the Ramadan Tolerance campaign, we look at how tolerance needs to be taught at home, and why tolerance is not just about respecting other cultures and beliefs, but also about extending that open-mindedness to our own loved ones and their way of life.
Should parents expect conformity from their children or stay open-minded about their children’s opinions? After all, there is a genertion gap here and each generation has its own way of looking at life.
More important, how important is it for parents to be role models of tolerance? Children usually emulate the values of their parents and the absence of leading by example may not prepare the ground for children.
We talk to parents and children and experts about what defines tolerance at home and how it can be effectively nurtured.
Malyashree Mukherjee, Indian, mother of two daughters Adrija, 13, and Anushka, 7. Sharjah resident
“My husband and I have been raising our two daughters, Adrija, and Anushka, in UAE for the last 12 years and we want them to open to learning from different cultures. We stay in a building where we have many nationalities residing and my daughters kids play with the kids of other nationalities and as a parent I make it a point that they visit my neighbour’s house and learn about their culture. They appreciate their food, enjoy their company listen to different genres of music, and celebrate their festivals with them. As a family, we had been to Mushrif Park to plant a Ghaf tree (symbol of UAE Year Of Tolerance 2019) on Adrija’s birthday. It is absolutely possible to teach and practice tolerance with children and home is the cradle of this practice.
“During my childhood days in Kolkata, India, where I lived in a joint family - and Kolkata is known for its cosmopolitan nature - my parents always taught me that tolerance is about accepting people for who they are and treating them how ‘you’ wish to be treated.
“My daughters belong to a different generation and hence their outlook is different from ours but as parents, we are always ready to give them a patient hearing. My elder daughter Adrija’s closest buddies Sania, Angelina, and Manjusha, represent different religions but they celebrate all their festivities together and as parents, we are very supportive of this.
My parents always taught me that tolerance is about accepting people for who they are and treating them how ‘you’ wish to be treated.
“My husband and I not only teach them to be tolerant towards other human beings but towards animals also. We take them regularly to the Pet Market in Al Warsan Dubai to spend some quality time with pets.
“Kids cannot be dictated to, they need to experience first-hand how people who are different and similar to themselves can contribute [to the world] in numerous ways. My younger daughter, Anushka (aged 5 years then), asked me whether as non-Muslims, we could visit a mosque. We decided to take her to Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and she was spell-bound. This is the beauty of the UAE.
“On another occasion, we had iftar during Ramadan in one of the Ramadan tents.
“My kids have always been taught to be tolerant in whatever circumstances they are in. I teach my daughters to practice restraint and exercise cooperation; we should not become frustrated at any cost, I tell them. I choose to have them see movies, read stories and play games that value differences. I make sure they do not watch anything that is prejudiced.”
Sharis Shir, American, 37, entrepreneur, Abu Dhabi, mother of daughter, 11 and 14-month-old twin boys
“Children are, by nature, loving and non-judgmental, and in my opinion, it is adult influence and example that causes them to become intolerant of differences. It is therefore our responsibility not to impose our past experiences on children, and this begins at home.
As parents and guardians, we have to allow children to remain fearless and make friends from various backgrounds. This allows them to learn and appreciate differences in culture, religion and ethnicity.
I am an American married to an Emirati, and it is important to us that we protect our children’s natural acceptance of difference. But we are also lucky that our families are so very open-minded; in fact, I didn’t face any discrimination even when I married my husband more than a decade ago.
Children are, by nature, loving and non-judgmental, and in my opinion, it is adult influence and example that causes them to become intolerant of differences. It is therefore our responsibility not to impose our past experiences on children, and this begins at home.
Our twin boys are still only 14 months old, but with our 11-year-old daughter, we try to allow her to experiment, explore and learn. For instance, we recently allowed her to go on a class trip to Greece, and it was heartening to see how well they all did with one another, despite their differences. We also try to keep a very open relationship with her so she can discuss her concerns with her.
Maintaining this kind of a tolerant environment at home can only help our children carry forward the tolerance in their own lives.
In addition, the UAE is so safe that families can work to instill values in their children instead of worrying about their security [as they interact with people from different backgrounds].”
Vishwanathan Natarajan, 51, Indian, senior operator from India, Abu Dhabi, father of a son, 17
“Our life in the UAE has provided us with the best avenues to practise tolerance. I have been in the country since 2007, and have never once felt that I am being treated differently as a result of my religion culture. There is an overall sense of brotherhood and belonging, and since I’ve raised my son here, I’ve never had to do teach tolerance as a value; he has always been loving and accepting of people and their differences.
“But I have always stressed turning the other cheek in case something untoward happens with another individual. I tell him that if someone is unkind to him but he does not react, the situation will diffuse. This kind of calmness in the face of difference helps ward off aggression, which is important to maintain the spirit of tolerance.
From a young age, we have learnt about the tolerance of Shaikh Zayed [Bin Sultan Al Nahyan]. And here in the UAE, I have come across people from so many different races.
“We live in Ruwais, and people here are generally loving and friendly. So this too provides an environment conducive to tolerance.”
Karthik Vishwanathan, 17, Natarajan’s son, topped his grade 12 CBSE exams this year and he believes that tolerance is a value he has been imbued with from a young age.
“From a young age, we have learnt about the tolerance of Shaikh Zayed [Bin Sultan Al Nahyan]. And here in the UAE, I have come across people from so many different races. It was therefore easy for me to understand and accept that people are different but equal. In fact, I don’t think I would have been as tolerant had I grown up elsewhere.”