DUBAI // Thousands of people gathered last night as the UAE became an oasis of peace in a region that has been racked by turbulence.
Notable speakers from around the world arrived at the second Dubai International Peace Convention to stress the importance of harmony, and its intrinsic role in the Islamic faith.
"Every human being wants peace. They want what goes with real peace. Islam is all about peace," said the US preacher Yusuf Estes. "Purity is another important part of peace.
"We intend to present through this conference a lot of amazing things."
Renowned scholars will deliver speeches and answer questions in the three-day conference at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
They include Abdur Raheem Green, an imam at the London Central Mosque, and Zakir Naik, the president and founder of the Islamic Research Foundation in India.
This event is being held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and the Ruler of Dubai.
Sheikh Abdur Rahman Al Sudais, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, will lead Friday prayers in Dubai today, with thousands of worshippers expected.
Organisers said the sermon would focus on peace within the individual, and how global unity can be achieved through it.
Dr Hamad Al Shaibani, the chairman of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum World Peace Award, said Dubai was playing a pivotal role in spreading the concept of global peace, starting with its own residents - Emiratis and expatriates.
"This has enabled the emirate to overcome the rhetoric of discrimination and instead take positive action," Dr Al Shaibani said.
"Although it has a small surface area, the open-mindedness of its diverse nationalities has brought generous riches on its soil, all amid atmosphere of peace."
He said this had been shown by peace march held in the city on Friday last week.
"The peace march was a clear indication that when people of all walks of life unite, justice and equality will prevail," Dr Al Shaibani said.
"These values are thankfully prevalent in this majestic land, yielding local, regional and global respect and appreciation."
The convention is an initiative of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum World Peace Award, the objective of which is to honour people who have contributed to world peace, promote inter-faith dialogue and develop global peace and stability.
It also aims to enhance religious understanding within an environment of mutual respect.
Those who attended last night said it provided a chance to learn more about Islam and the importance of peace.
"We will have a better perspective on Islam," said Mohammed Javed, a Dubai resident. "There is a lot to learn about Islam. It has been misunderstood."
There will be lectures on a number of topics during the convention,
They include: brotherhood in Islam; the status of women in Islam; peace and the Prophet Mohammed; an action plan to achieve world peace; how to build a peaceful family; and peace in the light of holy Quran.