A culmination of efforts over the years has pushed the United Arab Emirates to become a global role model for acceptance, harmonious coexistence, and religious tolerance.

Home to expats from some 200 countries, the UAE puts tolerance and coexistence at heart.

"Tolerance is a key value of our ancestors and our founding fathers," once said Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Over the years, the nation has taken extra measures to ensure tolerance is practiced among its people. Here's how: 

1. There has been an anti-discrimination law in place since 2015

In 2015, an anti-discrimination law was passed in the UAE in an effort to prevent any behavior that could potentially spread discrimination within the community.

Under the law, any act that triggers religious hatred "through any form of expression, which covers speech and the written word, books, pamphlets or online media" is prohibited

In 2017, the Abu Dhabi Public Prosecution Office ordered the arrest of a sports journalist in Abu Dhabi for using "racist language" in a post shared on Twitter. 

"Abu Dhabi's prosecution office orders the arrest of a sports presenter after he shared a racist tweet. This behavior is considered criminal under anti-racism and discrimination laws. His actions are also punishable by the country's cybercrime laws," the post read.

It also asked the public to be very cautious when preparing, producing, publishing, or sending any messages, indications, sketches, pictures, or recordings whether they are visible, audible, or readable, and to ensure that they do not harm the society and public order.

2. It is the world's first-ever nation to appoint a minister of tolerance

In 2016, Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi was appointed as the UAE's Minister of State for Tolerance, hailed as a world first.

"Tolerance is acceptance – accepting and rejoicing differences. We have to be interactive with the community. It is a challenging job, but an exciting ministry. Hopefully we will see great results," Shaikha Lubna said after her appointment.

Following the cabinet reshuffle in 2017, the country appointed Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan as the Minister of Tolerance.

3. The country also launched the world's first-ever Tolerance Charter

In October 2016, the country's minister of state for tolerance Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi announced the UAE's plans to launch the world's first-ever Tolerance Charter.

The charter boosts the government's role as an "incubator" for tolerance, promotes tolerance among youth, bolsters science and culture, integrates international frameworks to spread tolerance among other efforts.

Dubbed the UAE Charter of Tolerance, Coexistence and Peace, the initiative serves as the launchpad for coordinating and energizing efforts to accomplish the nation's vision of idealistic vision.

4. There is an entire day dedicated to tolerance

Source: Pixabay

In 2016, Shaikha Lubna called on the nation to celebrate an International Day for Tolerance on Nov. 16. 

This emphasizes the nation's goal of working to ensure that the entire nation recognizes the values of peace and coexistence.

5. Abu Dhabi's crown prince visited the Vatican in 2016

In September, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, visited Pope Francis at the Vatican. 

This followed an invitation Sheikh Mohammed extended to the pope earlier in the year to visit the UAE. Such a high profile visit between an influential Muslim leader and the global leader of the Catholic Church sends a strong message of tolerance and coexistence, particularly at a time when Islamophobia has risen significantly in the west.

"We are working together on promoting and enabling, for peace and stability to prevail throughout the world," Sheikh Mohamed said following the meeting.

6. UAE has dubbed 2019 as "The Year of Tolerance"

In December 2018, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed declared 2019 as the Year of Tolerance.

The Year of Tolerance focuses on five main pillars:

  • To deepen the values of tolerance and co-existence among cultures by teaching the youth the values of tolerance.
  • To solidify the UAE as the global capital for tolerance through a series of initiatives, projects, and dialogues between various cultures and civilizations.
  • To implement multiple cultural programs and make contributions to build tolerant communities.
  • To focus on legislative and policy-oriented objectives that contribute to mandating cultural and religious tolerance via dialogue.
  • To promote tolerance through targeted media initiatives and projects.

7. Pope Francis visited the UAE, marking a historic moment for the nation

On Feb. 3, Pope Francis landed in the UAE for the first time ever, marking a historic moment for interfaith relations in the Gulf state. The Vatican first announced the 48-hour trip in December. Prior to arriving to the capital city of Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis said he will be visiting the country "as a brother."

The day marked the first time a pope visits the Arabian Peninsula.

8. The UAE's tolerance is materialized by its 40 churches, two Hindu temples, and Sikh temple

According to Pew, a U.S.-based fact-tank, the UAE's Christian population currently stands at 13 percent, and the number is steadily increasing with more immigrants coming in. The majority are foreigners working in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

There are 40 churches in the country - up from 25 churches in 2005. There are two Hindu temples in Dubai - to accommodate the roughly 3.3 million Indians in the country - and one Sikh temple.

Construction of Abu Dhabi's first Hindu temple is currently underway, and is expected to open its doors in 2020.

Rulers in the UAE "donate free land to most churches and waive the costs of water and electricity." 

"Sheikh Zayed bin Mubarak Al Nahyan very generously granted land for Christians to build churches and we continue to enjoy the same hospitality through his sons. As a Christian, I feel privileged and appreciate the freedom I have in practicing my faith," said Reverend Andrew from St Andrew's Church in Abu Dhabi.