Against the Tide // What Indians & Pakistanis in UAE must send home apart from petro dollarsSun 11 Oct 2020
There is something much more precious than petro dollars that Indians and Pakistanis living in UAE can send back home. It’s tolerance.
The two nationalities form the biggest chunk of population in the Emirates. They enjoy the fruit of multi-culturalism and pluralism, but sadly their countries have moved far from these ideals.
UAE has eternalized the culture of tolerance, of investing in the human capital. The government policies are designed to support and promote the ideals of tolerance and co-existence rather than pandering to the majoritarian, reactive and extremist sections of the population as is the order of day in India and Pakistan.
Some clear steps exemplify the unflinching faith of Emirates in the culture of peaceful co-existence and respect for all faiths and culture.
UAE is probably the only country in the world to have a Ministry of Tolerance. It celebrated 2019 as the Year of Tolerance that began with the historic visit of the Pope to the Emirates. Can we imagine a situation in today’s India or Pakistan where the head of the state would welcome the Pope? That a grand mass would be organized at a main stadium? No. Why? Indians and Pakistanis are ruled by religious zealots, who scoff at the idea of amity between religions and cultures.
UAE, on the other hand, celebrates pluralism and diversity.
Mandir-Masjid still cut a wedge among Indians and Pakistanis back home. In India, destruction of a mosque is celebrated and in Pakistan, Hindus still struggle to build a temple for themselves to pray in peace, UAE authorities are giving out vast chunks of lands for Hindus, Sikhs, Christians to build their religious places and worship in peace. Not just that, while Indian and Pakistani rulers side openly with the majority beliefs, the UAE rulers regularly visit places of worships of other faiths to send out a message of amity and equality of faiths. Not just that, as a practical application of the principle of tolerance, the UAE renamed the grand Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi as to ‘Mariam, Umm Eisa’ — Arabic for ‘Mary, the mother of Jesus’. Can we find such an example from India and Pakistan?
The UAE government allotted 26 acres of land, along the main Abu Dhabi-Dubai road, for building a magnificent Hindu temple. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off the construction during his visit in 2018.
A gurudwara opened in 2012 was visited by the UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development to send a message of mutual respect and tolerance in society.
The UAE also has a law against discrimination aimed to fight discrimination against individuals or groups based on religion, caste, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin. Indian and Pakistani governments thrive on discrimination as state policy. While India has taken an open majoritarian turn in the last few years, Pakistan is yet to give basic rights to its minorities and even certain sects of Muslims.
UAE is a model of how societies are built. With mutual respect and firm belief in co-existence. And this flows from the top. From the rulers’ belief in these fine principles.
The clear message here is that the state belongs to all who live within its boundaries. That everyone is free to live their lives as per their beliefs. While many will be tempted to call the UAE a melting pot with close to 200 different cultures converging here, the correct analogy will be that of a salad bowl. All the ingredients are clearly identifiable, retain their own taste and flavor while they lend the salad its unique taste collectively.
The Indians and Pakistanis living in UAE must send back some of these values back home. Their various associations and religious organizations, that frequently organize grand events for the political leaderships, must work as pressure groups insisting on their governments learning from the best practices of the UAE authorities and putting them to good use. The expat population with its lived experience of religious, cultural and racial harmony can be real change makers.
Even individuals have a responsibility to propagate the principles of tolerance to their families and peers back in India and Pakistan. To enjoy the fruits of multiculturalism and liberalism in another land and keep promoting bigotry and majoritarianism back home is simply dishonest.
It’s time the Indians and Pakistanis in UAE became a force of real change in their countries which desperately need to go back to seeing tolerance and co-existence as virtues.
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