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Ministers say UAE is following Sheikh Zayed’s principles of tolerance and heritage

- Saeed Saeed

Two of the greatest legacies of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, are the UAE’s embrace of tolerance and culture. That was the message from a session at Expo 2020 Dubai with Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, and Zaki Nusseibeh, cultural adviser to the President of the UAE.

At the National Pavilion UAE last Saturday, they discussed ways in which these intertwini­ng principles have contribute­d towards the country’s rapid evolution in the past 50 years.

Nusseibeh recalls attending a majlis in 2008 where Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, underlined that nuanced view of tolerance. “He told the open majlis that he didn’t like word ‘tolerance’ because it meant accepting somebody who is perhaps inferior to you or something that is not good. Unfortunat­ely, this is the same definition in most languages today,” Nusseibeh said.

“Except, in the Arabic language we express it differentl­y. One word that is closer to my understand­ing of tolerance is ‘samaha’, which is the ability to empathise. It’s this meaning of tolerance that was practised by our Founding Father and UAE society at large.”

Nusseibeh said Sheikh Zayed had displayed that quality before the country’s formation.

“In one of the first interviews I had with him in 1968, Sheikh Zayed basically said ‘we need to open our country to the world and bring in modernisat­ion’,” he said.

“But, at the same time, he also said we need to keep an equilibriu­m between that rate of modernisat­ion and developmen­t, opening ourselves to other cultures while retaining our heritage and identity.”

For Al Kaabi, maintainin­g that balance is a pillar of the UAE’s cultural policies. She points to the success of both the multicultu­ral nature of Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE’s National Pavilion, which celebrates the heritage and achievemen­ts of the country’s citizens and residents.

Abrahamic Family House, the interfaith complex being built in Abu Dhabi, also stems from Sheikh Zayed’s vision. Al Kaabi says: “Why are we celebratin­g the 50th anniversar­y of the UAE? Because of a man of the desert who, in his twenties, opened his arms to a British explorer in 1948.

“In the 1950s he went to the Vatican and in the 1960s he opened the first church in Abu Dhabi. And in the future, we will have the Abrahamic Family House. So what is happening here? This is not a coincidenc­e. We are following a timeline.”

Nusseibeh attributes the Founding Father’s enduring appeal to that sense of continuity. “When we talk about Sheikh Zayed, we are talking about a school of governance and a culture,” he said. “This is what the present leadership was taught, and therefore we are still living his legend.”

Minister of Culture and Youth and adviser to the President were speaking at the Expo 2020 Dubai

 ?? Al Itihad ?? Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, called for the UAE to be modernised without sacrificin­g its heritage and culture
Al Itihad Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, called for the UAE to be modernised without sacrificin­g its heritage and culture

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