Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi with Sikh community members when she visited the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Jebel Ali, Dubai on Wednesday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE is a cradle of peace and a global role model of cross-culturalism and social harmony, said Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of State for Tolerance, during her visit to the Sikh temple in Jebel Ali on Wednesday.

Home to more than 200 nationalities, she said that the UAE far exceeds, in comparison, even the United Nations, which currently has 193 countries as its members.

“The UAE government is constantly promoting harmony and peace, and a cosmopolitan diverse society, to gain strength and show to the world the best mixture of ethnicities, religions and cultures, at a time where many divisive issues threaten global peace and plague modern world,” she said, adding that the UAE is eager to build peaceful inter-religious dialogue.

Pointing out the UAE’s lead role in promoting religious and cultural tolerance, she said the UAE government in Ramadan approved the National Tolerance Programme, to spread tolerance as the basis for building societies and promote respect for cultural diversity and peaceful coexistence, rejecting violence, extremism and racism.

“Religious tolerance is a fundamental pillar of a strong state, and a catalyst of prosperity in today’s world. The UAE constitution promotes equality of rights and non-discrimination between individuals, firmly ensuring the freedom of all to practise their religious beliefs and enjoy their freedom and rights, in conformity with international conventions and treaties,” she said.

She noted that the UAE’s efforts at establishing a model society has been recognised internationally.

“The UAE was recently ranked third globally in the National Culture Index for its mix of openness, generosity and tolerance, according to the Annual Report of Global Competitiveness, issued by the Institute for Global Development in Switzerland,” she added.

Welcoming the minister to the temple, Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, Dubai, hailed the UAE’s active role in promoting communal harmony and tolerance.

“The UAE Government became the active leader in spreading values of tolerance, peace and coexistence with the commencement of National Tolerance Programme. Institutionalising tolerance, initiatives and programmes along with value-driven objectives are key points in countering extremism and racism that plague most nations in the world today,” said Kandhari

He added: “We are indeed most fortunate that we are in the UAE that not only values harmonious coexistence but also upholds these values to be sustained and echoed to the rest of the world.”

Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara is the first and only Sikh temple in the country, which was inaugurated in 2012, and Kandhari said that the present space, which seemed very big initially is falling short to serve the growing number of worshippers.

He requested the minister to facilitate the allotment of the neighbouring plot of land to build a state-of-the-art kitchen and dining hall.

Currently, the gurdwara serves langar or food to around 1,000 people everyday and more than 10,000 people during Fridays and public holidays.

Kandhari said the number goes up to 50,000 during festivals.

Work on Abu Dhabi temple to begin soon

Work on the construction of a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi will begin shortly, Indian Consul-General Anurag Bhushan told Gulf News on Wednesday.

During his visit to Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Dubai along with Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of State for Tolerance, Bhushan said the Indian community is grateful for allotting a bigger plot of land for the temple in Abu Dhabi.

“The Abu Dhabi government had allotted a land for a temple for the Indian community in the emirate, but the community requested for a bigger plot, which was recently allotted and we are grateful to the UAE government. Work on the temple will begin shortly,” he said.

Speaking about Shaikha Lubna’s visit to the Sikh temple and the UAE’s role in promoting tolerance, he said: “I am very happy that tolerance has emerged as one of the foremost priorities of the UAE government, because tolerance is one of the values that unite India and the UAE. India is known as a land of tolerance, where all religions are equal.”

He said the UAE is ahead of others in promoting the message of tolerance and other countries can learn from its policies and initiatives.