Lubna Al Qasimi: Family values and education are vital to spread the message of tolerance

ABU DHABI, 30th November, 2016 (WAM) — Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance, has said that the government of the United Arab Emirates believes that it is time to put together a national programme for tolerance, not just for the UAE, but for the whole community that can send a strong message to the region.

Recognised by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful women in world, Sheikha Lubna spoke to Newsweek Middle East on the sidelines of a November 16th gathering of diplomats and officials from 150 nations in the capital Abu Dhabi on the International Day of Tolerance, saying that all religions ask people to be merciful, to be kind, to be tolerant. “The language of all religions does not advocate wars and hatred, and people who are doing this are the radicals. We need to make sure that our children everywhere in the world are immune.”

In an exclusive interview with Irene Hell of Newsweek Middle East magazine, she said, “Sometimes I think it is mind-boggling when all of a sudden you find a teenager who left home because he wanted to fight in Syria, and you think what have I done to my child? Why would a child become like this?”

According to the Minister, family values and education are vital in facilitating the spread of the message of tolerance anywhere. But what is more important “is the proper understanding of the tone of religion.” Al Qasimi believes that all religions carry in them “value and mercy,” and it is in fact those who misinterpret and politicise religious teachings are the ones who convey the wrong message about its core values.

The UAE, according to the minister, is a sociological phenomenon, with millions of people from as many as 200 nationalities living and working together peacefully, despite the country being situated in a region marred by bloody armed conflicts, instability and misery.

“But unlike in Europe and the US,” she said, “Where fanatic right wing nationalists now threaten to destroy democracies and free societies with xenophobia and hate, the UAE government is making serious attempts to promote hope, peace and tolerance.”

Sheikha Lubna told Newsweek Middle East, “In these days, we see ourselves in an ocean of turmoil around us here in the Middle East, and worldwide where the language of negativity, intolerance and hate is rising. The government of the United Arab Emirates believes that it is time for us to put together a national programme for tolerance – not just for us but for the whole community [that can send] a strong message also for the region,” she adds.

“Nowadays, a lot of values keep eroding over time. And when you have the rhetoric and the negative language after a while, people take [that] for granted as values can disappear and we don’t know. Not just here but in the whole world.”

Perhaps it is the sense of responsibility towards its youth and future generations, and the fact that all human beings “have a moral responsibility” to coexist, that pushes the UAE and the minister to push forward the message of tolerance, explains Minister Al Qasimi.

To set up a programme and an agenda to promote tolerance, Al Qasimi says that her team consulted with everyone, from diplomats to resident communities, the churches, the office of Islamic Affairs, and the minsters, among others.

“I reiterate, this programme is not about me or my ministry – this programme is about what people gave me to manage and to run and to fulfill this wish,” she stresses.

And to those who have hatred, negativity or conflict in their hearts, the minister advises them to practice meditation. “I think people who carry feelings of negativity, they need to meditate. They need to amend their hearts by pushing themselves back to human nature. I don’t think God made us in this universe to hate others. We are here equal in this universe. We are not born to hate,” says Al Qasimi.