ABU DHABI, 13th December, 2016 (WAM) – Inter-faith dialogue is now emerging as the international language and we all need to drive this dialogue forward, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance, has said.

Participating today in the sixth session of the Global Summit of Women Speakers of Parliament 2016, titled ‘Governing Tolerance’, she said that Tolerance is a value, and therefore with change, it is not always seen first-hand, and it can actually impact without knowing it until over time we begin noticing its impact in our society.

“So for us the programme assumes importance due to its scope to reach out to other countries to establish inter-faith dialogue – this is now emerging as the international language. We all need to drive this dialogue forward,” Sheikha Lubna said.

She said that Internet can be a driver for change but it can also be misused as a lethal weapon, used to reach out to individuals and influence radicalisation.

The session addressed the underlying questions of whether tolerance can be governed and if so, how parliaments can contribute to eradicating the root cause of intolerance that leads to violence, discrimination and terrorism.

The session explored a variety of methods in fostering value-based behaviour and attitudes of acceptance within communities.

During the discussion, facilitated by Mohammad Baharoon, Director- General of the Dubai Public Policy Research Centre, panellists shared their insights on the role of governmental entities in eradicating attitudes of intolerance throughout society.

Speakers headlining the session included Sharon Wilson, President of the Bahamas Senate, Halimah Yacob, Speaker of the Singapore Parliament, Bridgid Annisette-George, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Trinidad and Tobago, and The Right Honorable Lady Justice Anne Rafferty, Chairman of the UK Judicial College and Chancellor of Sheffield University.

Sheikha Lubna opened the session and explained the rationale behind the establishment of the Ministry of State of Tolerance, and the importance of tolerance in the UAE’s multicultural society that consists of over 200 nationalities.

She said, “We believe that Islam is a religion of peace and a driver for co-existence and tolerance – it advocates peace and tolerance like all religions globally.

“We look at the constitution of the UAE within the laws itself, it advocates respect for others and co-existence, and the protection of not only national citizens but also all those who live in the UAE under the framework of the sharia law.”

“As we look at the legacy and the establishment in the foundation of the UAE, the founders of this country, including the founding father late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and its rulers have always strived to turn this country into a haven of prosperity and tolerance. We also look at the international laws when it comes to ratifying equality and tolerance that stems from the United Nations and the international community,” Sheikha Lubna said.

She added: “It is crucial that we stay united. One aspect of this is to protect our youth, it is not only about the UAE but all of us. Parliaments drive the interest of the people; it is the support of the government that actually drives laws and regulations. Internally for all of us, we want to immunise our youth against the influence of extremism and radicalisation.

“We need to get rid of the negativity we hear today through creating a culture that propagates education and knowledge. We need to champion social media influencers and bloggers to talk about the importance of values in any society. We also need to look at families and the cohesion between them in establishing and instilling the community values we were raised with.”

She concluded by saying, “The UAE has decided that this is a crucial programme for our country that can drive, maintain, and sustain what we have as a legacy of tolerance and co-existence.”

Sharon Wilson said, “Policy makers need to target various sectors and demographics within society to bring about change, paying attention to educational institutions in focusing on breaking the cycle of discrimination. Misinformation and ignorance are the main ingredients of stereotyping, which often results in prejudice. Therefore, policies promoting tolerance must be aimed at eradicating ignorance.

“Parliaments need to collaborate strategically in non-traditional ways with partners in the non-governmental sector, the private sector and the media to find viable solutions for intolerance,” Wilson added.

Halimah Yacob spoke about the actions Singapore took to spread tolerance among ethnic groups and minorities on both a political and social platform. She began by addressing the UAE delegation.

She said, “I wish to commend the UAE on promoting tolerance, and congratulate Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi on her role in the Ministry of Tolerance and the country for establishing a national tolerance programme. This is a reflection of the values that the founding fathers of the nation embedded in their society. Singapore will work together with the UAE to promote tolerance in our societies.”

Bridgid Annisette-George discussed tolerance in Trinidad and Tobago. She said, “Our constitution guarantees all citizens equal rights under the law. We have taken measures to ensure all cultures and religions feel a sense of belonging in our society. We celebrate a number of religious festivals, including Eid, Diwali, Christmas and Easter, as national holidays.

Right Honorable Lady Justice Anne Rafferty provided a valuable insight into the roles of the judiciary and education in addressing intolerance.