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Overview of tolerance in the UAE

In the UAE, tolerance is a way of life and a key pillar of the government through its policies to protect religious freedoms, promote interfaith dialogue and build an inclusive culture that values difference.

With over 200 nationalities living together, the UAE is one of the most diverse countries in the world, where practitioners of numerous faiths live and worship side-by-side.

Since before the country’s founding in 1971, UAE society has encouraged tolerance, inclusivity and equality – and it is for this reason that different religions have built over 50 churches, two Hindu temples, a Sikh temple and a Buddhist temple, which welcome multi-national congregations. 

Each year, the UAE welcomes visitors and residents from across the world who come from different cultures and have varying interests and lifestyles. These millions of people coexist in harmony in the UAE, as a result of the country’s continued efforts to enhance its laws and regulations to ensure its diverse and dynamic society can thrive.

The UAE’s commitment to religious tolerance is anchored in the vision of the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was dedicated to building a society “based on justice and brotherliness among all those living in the UAE”.

Importantly, tolerance is not just a value underpinning UAE society, but a keystone human right, which is protected as a necessary component of a just and egalitarian society, where all citizens and residents can live meaningful and happy lives.

What is religious tolerance?

The UAE’s commitment to promoting religious tolerance is grounded in the UN Charter (1945), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the Vienna Declaration (1993) – which enshrines freedom of religion as an inalienable, universal human right.

According to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, meaning both alone and publicly, everyone has the right to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

This freedom is essential to living in an open, tolerant and diverse society – where people can think, believe and subscribe to a variety of religious beliefs and teachings, free from ideological dogmatism. 

The UAE understands that the right to religious tolerance, as set out by international human rights frameworks, is not just a value to uphold, but a legal requirement for governments to protect religious freedoms and prevent discrimination, racism and xenophobia.

Key achievements

The UAE leads the region by example in creating a tolerant society that respects all faiths and beliefs – and grants them the space and freedom to practice.

• The UAE was the first country to launch a Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence, which aims to uphold the values of tolerance and coexistence, while raising awareness of religious extremism. The Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence is also responsible for ensuring the effective implementation of the UAE’s Combating Discrimination, Hatred and Extremism law, which protects against discriminatory and hate speech.

• Building upon the UAE’s position as a leading advocate for religious freedom, the country launched its National Programme for Tolerance in 2016. The Programme seeks to bolster the government’s role in promoting tolerance by amending legislation to further protect religious freedoms, setting national targets and goals and consolidating the UAE’s position in global competitiveness indexes.

• Looking beyond its own borders, the UAE works with partners across the globe to advance tolerance on the world stage, acting as a key partner in several international agreements and treaties for preventing violence and combatting terrorism and crime, such as the Hedayah Center for Combating Violent Extremism and the Sawab Center.