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Abu Dhabi’s 7th GCC Heritage and Oral History Conference 2019 Continues

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The 7th GCC Heritage and Oral History Conference 2019, organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi, continued for the second day under the theme ‘Zayed and Tolerance: A Community’s Culture & Leadership Approach’, celebrating 2019’s designation as the Year of Tolerance.

His Excellency Mohammad Haji Al Khoury, Director General of the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, said in a working paper entitled “Zayed and Tolerance: Concept and Practice”: “Usually one cannot mention the UAE without mentioning the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a tolerant leader who was able to assemble and build the state and promote it in only a few years. I affirm our endeavour to be an extension of Zayed and to preserve the legacy that he left us, to follow his path and follow his footsteps in goodness, tolerance and humanitarian giving, which has become a feature of the citizens of the UAE.”

The second day included three sessions in addition to specialised art workshops for students on the value of tolerance, organised by the Intangible Heritage Department and Education Department at DCT Abu Dhabi.

The first session was led by Dr. Yagoub Al Kandari, with the first paper being presented by Prof. Dr. Ayed Al Zahrani, Vice President of the Arab Academics and Scientists Union, titled “Cultural Features of Tolerance in the UAE”, in which he stated: “In this paper, we explore the origins of religious tolerance and cultural coexistence in the UAE. We will look into the aspects that became a global source of inspiration with the initiatives and values and the efforts of the UAE’s leadership to spread the rhetoric of wisdom and moderation in a country where the laws of tolerance, justice and cultural coexistence are enshrined.”

He added: “As a strategic direction, the UAE aimed to solidify the culture of coexistence and values of tolerance as a way of life. To that end, it launched several initiatives that acted as a bridge of communication and mutual understanding among the people and cultures of the world in an open environment built on respect, acceptance and an abhorrence for extremism. These events are the culmination of five key principles; deepening the values of tolerance and openness to cultures and people within the community by focusing on the values of tolerance in future generations, solidifying the UAE’s standing as a global capital of tolerance through a number of initiatives and major projects in this area. Among these projects and initiatives are the research contributions and specialised social and cultural studies in the area of tolerance, dialogue among cultures and civilisations, cultural tolerance through a number of different social and cultural initiatives, the introduction of laws and policies aiming to incorporate the values of cultural, religious and social tolerance and the reinforcement of the rhetoric of tolerance and acceptance through targeted media initiatives.”

In the second paper titled “Features of Tolerance in the Foreign Policy of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan”, Dr. Nasser bin Saeed Al Atiki, Head of Post and Documents Department at the Directorate General of Education, Ash-Sharqiyah South Governorate, stated that “the principles of tolerance in the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s policy are reflected in the UAE’s foreign policy principles, which are well known both locally and internationally for tolerance. Among the most important of these principles were the call to unity, cooperation and coordination among all nations; promoting peace, rejecting war, rejecting interference in the internal affairs of countries, building good relations with neighbours and friends on the basis of mutual interest and humanitarian responsibility towards poor nations”.

In her paper titled “Values of tolerance in Sheikh Zayed’s thought (a reading from British explorers’ texts and documents)”, Dr. Alia Khamis Al Badwawi, Assistant Professor at Zayed University said: “The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was a pillar of tolerance in all statements and actions. This was abundantly clear in his personality and it had a profound impact on his surroundings. These attributes have become features for which his children and people are known. They have become part of the very fabric of Emirati society. This was why I wanted to expand my study and delve into another aspect, which is the impact of these values and attributes on others from outside our local community. Specifically, I looked at explorers, emissaries and politicians as well as in British documents for such impacts, which was so profound, to the point that many of them sought to confirm and document these values whether in their writings, correspondences or reports.”

The second session was chaired by Dr. Abdullah Abdul Rahman Yateem, with participation from Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed Al Dabal, Director of Khalifa Empowerment Program for Students- AQDAR. He presented a paper titled “The Culture of Tolerance between Individual and Social Responsibility” discussing the importance of finding common ground for a relationship between the individual and society, examples of the detailed roles played by the individual to realise tolerance towards the society and examples of the detailed roles played by various social entities to realise tolerance towards the society. He also touched on the local, regional and global experiments in tolerance between the individual and society and future aspirations towards higher levels of tolerance between the individual and society.

In his paper titled “Sheikh Zayed and the Culture of Tolerance”, Dr. Hamdan Rashed Ali Al Darai, Head of Research and Studies Department at the Zayed Centre for Studies and Research said: “The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan laid the foundations of a far-reaching culture of tolerance to include openness to other religions.”

Dr. Moza Issa Aldwi, Assistant Professor at the University of Bahrain, presented a paper on pioneering experiences of tolerance in Bahrain and the UAE and said: “Through this paper, I aim to shed light on the leading experiences of tolerance in the Kingdom of Bahrain and the UAE. Both countries succeeded in achieving unprecedented global rates of social justice and tolerance among their citizens and residents of various nationalities and beliefs.”

Prof. Yousif Mohamed Ismail, Director, Directorate of Media Administration, Bahrain, also presented a paper titled “Towards a Common Culture of Tolerance in the GCC” in which he discussed the “importance and role of the GCC’s mutual culture in enhancing tolerance by explaining the initiatives of Bahrain and the UAE as models of tolerance and dialogue in the GCC. This was enhanced by the peaceful coexistence of their people and acceptance of the different customs, traditions, religions and ethnicities as well as the strengthening of the policies and laws of both countries in order to create a space of justice, respect, equality and criminalise hate and racism, which is how the Bahraini and Emirati societies became a model for tolerance and peaceful coexistence among residents and visitors”.

The third and final session of the conference was chaired by Dr. Musa Al Hawari. In this session, Aisha Al Muhairi, Head of the Evaluation & Experimentation Department, Ministry of Education, discussed the role of the Emirati school in instilling the value of tolerance in the UAE by presenting several elements, namely “highlighting the role of educational institutes regionally and internationally in combating extremism and fostering tolerance and moderation; basis of tolerance in the UAE; education as a force for peace and tolerance; introduction of the role of the Emirati school in instilling the value of tolerance in the UAE through curricula and student activities; dissemination of the ideals of the Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and the UAE’s wise leadership in cementing the concepts and values of tolerance through educational programmes and promoting the UAE’s efforts to spread the national tolerance programme among members of the society through educational institutes”.

Meanwhile, Fatima Mohamed Al Abdouli, Islamic Education Mentor in the Fujairah Educational Zone, discussed “the role of the Islamic education curriculum in enhancing the values of tolerance in the UAE” in her paper, which included several elements such as school books designed to play a significant role in providing teachers with a set of values that capture the student’s emotions and moral reactions. “Therefore, it is important to focus on several areas when creating a curriculum based on strengthening the values of tolerance, namely standards that enhance the value of tolerance, determining themes, knowledge, concepts and skills, teaching strategies that bolster student learning, focus on allowing dialogue while building activities and linking dialogue to thinking skills, balancing between the knowledge content and educational activities and integrating thinking skills into content teaching”.

Finally, in her paper titled “Tolerance in Emirati schools according to the Moral Education curriculum”, Ms. Anoud Ahmed Al Obaidly, Head of Islamic Education and Curricula Specialist at the Ministry of Education, discussed several points, namely “the Moral Education curriculum is the culmination of the unique ideals of HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. It provides a knowledge framework and basic values within the national education system that was created to promote the principles of tolerance, respect and acceptance that societies rely upon in keeping with global civilisation. Furthermore, the inclusion of moral education in national curricula falls in line with a global culture and responds to the negative phenomena being faced by the entire world that is in no way representative of the UAE’s culture”.

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