Dubai: Two young girls in a university set out to study the tolerance culture of the UAE and the results reiterated the all-round acceptance that UAE extends to all its people.
Ardra Meletath, 19, and Nermin Abu Al-Zakhab, 21, of the Canadian University of Dubai undertook a research among 200 young people representing more than 40 different nationalities, with over 55 per cent of respondents from a non-Arab background. The survey found that 82.5 per cent of those surveyed felt accepted in the UAE, while 96 per cent said they do not discriminate on the basis of individuals’ differences.
The project, which culminated in the research paper ‘Exploring tolerance in diverse cultural and social settings among youth in the UAE’ was among the winners at the 7th annual Abu Dhabi University Undergraduate Research Competition. Shortlisted from over 700 original entries, the students’ presentation won them a top-three place and Dh1,500 prize money in the Tolerance, Psychology and Sociology category of the region-wide contest.
“I’ve always known the importance of tolerance and feel that I’ve been a very tolerant person even before exploring the subject,” says Ardra, who has just completed first year of Bachelor of Arts in Communication majoring in Public Relations. She came to the UAE as a four-year-old.
“Having been educated in an all-Indian high school, I didn’t have much first-hand experience of [tolerance], until coming to Canadian University Dubai. That really opened my eyes to the extent of diversity in our community here,” she says. “I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world where we could benefit from such diverse cultural learning experiences,” says Ardra.
Nermin, 21, Syrian-Russian, a third year student who has done her Bachelor of Arts in Communication majoring in Public Relations, and who was born and raised in the UAE, was exposed to diversity as a big part of her upbringing. “Born into a diverse family and educated at an international school with children from 93 different nationalities, interacting with other cultures was the norm for me,” she says.
The decision to undertake the study, say both students, was driven by the inalterable fact of the world being a global village. “The subject [of tolerance] is of great importance to our society,” says Ardra.
“As this is the Year of Tolerance, we wanted to take the opportunity to explore what this idea actually means to young people, and how it varies across different communities,” says Nermin.
Both students would want to use them to embed the theme of tolerance in both international and non-international schools in the UAE, say the two students. “We think it is important to do this in an interactive way, through art, music and literature,” says Ardra.
Dr Ghada Abaido, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Communication, Arts and Sciences, Canadian University of Dubai, says, “The purpose of this paper is to investigate how youth in the UAE, specifically Dubai, are affected within this diverse cultural and social setting and their level of tolerance. It aims to contribute to the concept of ‘Tolerance’ as articulated in the pillars of the UAE Ministry of Tolerance.
“The research findings reveal that the majority of youth in the UAE have a concrete understanding of the value of tolerance and practice it daily. This could be because certain core values are embedded within the UAE society and therefore play a huge role in influencing and instilling the spirit of tolerance and acceptance in this multicultural society, said Dr Abaido.
The research is being submitted for journal publication and the CUD is building the teams to take forward the proposals for action with the involevemnt of the two students.
The prospective plan for taking the research forward:
Establish a Graffiti Wall of Tolerance in schools and universities, through which students from different nationalities can express their understanding of tolerance through quotes, words or drawings. This will be conducted using Smart paint in order to preserve it over time and to be eco-friendly.
Film a series of short videos that would help solidify the true meaning of tolerance [which could also be] a part of a media campaign aimed for the same purpose. A series of fun theatrical events to be conducted in schools for the younger generations to help instill the true meaning of tolerance.
To proceed with further research in order to index tolerance as a term with specific indicators.