Dubai: Today’s free flow of ideas, especially on social media, ironically poses the risk of youth radicalisation, the World Tolerance Summit heard in Dubai on Wednesday.

Experts from various sectors said “hate” must be prevented through various forms appealing to youth, such as sports and volunteerism.

The two-day summit, taking place at Madinat Jumeirah resort, is featuring talks by more than 70 local and international experts from various fields, to promote tolerance.

Tech threat

During a panel discussion, Dr Abdul Latif Mohammad Al Shamsi, President and CEO, Higher Colleges of Technology, UAE, said, “Now the technology is open for radical groups to spread negativity targeting youth. The rise of digital tech, such as social media and mobile phones, has put greater pressure on grown-ups to pay closer attention towards youth.”

Dr Al Shamsi warned that the world cannot take for granted that the traditional values of tolerance, passed down generations in the UAE and other cultures, will automatically find their way to youth today. There is “a lot of junk” online in terms of intolerant doctrine that some youth can fall prey to, he added.

Youth expressing such negative ideas or behaviour need guidance and intervention, be it counselling at university or professional psychological care, Dr Al Shamsi said.

‘Oxygen of expression’

Hubertus Hoffmann, President and Founder, The Global Tolerance Initiative, Germany, said young people must be given “the oxygen of self-expression” but warned it is also “so easy to inflame hate”. He said “freedom” for youth needs to be balanced by some “criticism”.

Hoffman added that it was more important to prevent “fires” of intolerance than “fighting” them “when it’s almost too late”.

Multi-stakeholder strategy

Juliana Uribe Villegas, CEO and Founder, Movilizatorio, Colombia, said tolerance “does not need to be abstract”, adding that “there are many entry points” to appeal to youth – and society at large – when it comes to promoting and practicing tolerance.

She called for a “multi-stakeholder strategy” coordinated between religious leaders, government, private sector, and NGOs. “The responsibility lies in everyone’s hands, if no one leads, then we can’t stop the fire,” she said.

Unity in diversity

Sultan Al Mutawa Al Dhaheri, Executive Director – Community Engagement and Sports Sector, Department of Community Development – Abu Dhabi, said sports “can be a vehicle” for not only promoting health among youth, but also tolerance. He said when youth from various backgrounds come together to play, it promotes harmony between them.

Al Dhaheri added that tolerance in the UAE “is not new or something which started only this year”, rather “it was the basis of founding this country”.

He went on to say that non-Muslims “are part of us” in UAE society and Abu Dhabi is working on a unified system to regulate their places of worship and address any issues they may be facing.

Al Dhaheri also mentioned ‘Abu Dhabi Moments’, a new initiative that sees community events organised according to each neighbourhood. For example, he said predominantly for Indian communities, festivals such as Diwali will be held, while Western neighbourhoods would enjoy Halloween-themed events.

Summit at a glance

Held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the second edition of the two-day World Tolerance Summit started on Wednesday at the Madinat Jumeirah Conference and Events Centre, Dubai, under the theme ‘Tolerance in Multiculturalism: Achieving the Social, Economic and Humane Benefits of a Tolerant World’.

The summit, an initiative of International Institute for Tolerance under the wider Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has gathered around 3,000 participants from over 100 countries, including top level officials, peace experts, diplomats and youth. More than 70 speakers are addressing the summit in various sessions.

Around 1,000 students from across various universities and schools in the UAE are attending the summit. The event is a platform for the student community to share their projects to promote tolerance in the society.

Details of the summit is available on www.worldtolerancesummit.com