Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 1 April 2020

'It is the mosque nestled next to a church': 16 people describe what tolerance means to them

As the Year of Tolerance comes to an end in the UAE, The National staff share what the word means to them

The Year of Tolerance logo. 
The Year of Tolerance logo. 

This was the Year of Tolerance, as declared by Sheikh Khalifa, ­President of the UAE. The ultimate aim of this initiative, he said, was to highlight the UAE as a global capital for tolerance, emphasised through legislation and policies that would entrench within the fabric of society the values of dialogue and openness to different cultures. It was a reaffirmation of the rejection of extremism.

Throughout 2019, momentous events underscored this – from the arrival of the sitting Pope for the first time in the Arabian Gulf to the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi. A focus was put on different religions, people of determination and coexistence.

But what does the word “tolerance” actually mean? Here, we ask various members of staff in The National’s newsroom, who hail from different cultures, ­countries and continents, to share with us their definition of the word...

Mina Al-Oraibi, editor-in-chief

"Tolerance is about inclusivity, ensuring your mind and heart are open to all people and experiences. It is about dropping judgement and making sure you get to know the other person."

Nivriti Butalia, assistant comment editor

“Not being rude requires tolerance. Dealing with people requires tolerance. Accepting that restaurant staff aren’t deliberately delaying bringing you your meal requires tolerance. Every day, to qualify as a decent person, you need to be tolerant. It’s a wonder that more people just by virtue of practice aren’t better at it.”

Samia Badih, arts editor

“Tolerance is acceptance. It’s the acceptance of everyone different from us – different in the way they talk, the way they dress, the way they eat, the way they pray, who they love and how they decide to lead their lives. Tolerance is seeing all of those differences, acknowledging them and accepting them to exist as part of our world, too. If there’s anything this world needs more of this New Year, it’s exactly that.”

Arthur Eddyson, podcast producer

“Tolerance, basically, to me, is agreeing to disagree. People (you might dislike) have opinions and observations they think are right. Tolerating them will allow that idea to exist in a conversation that will put it up for debate and hopefully we all walk away from that conversation wiser.”

Sarah Maisey, deputy luxury editor

“Tolerance for me is about just trying to be nice to people every single day. It’s about taking a deep breath when the delivery guy calls for the seventh time, lost. It’s about not getting riled when someone in an SUV drives up to my back bumper. It’s smiling nicely when I am asked – yet again – why I am vegan. For me tolerance is not about grand gestures, it is about small, everyday acts that make the world a nicer place. Such as picking up someone else’s rubbish left behind on a beach, or sitting patiently with a child who is scared but desperate to play with my dog. Small things go a very long way.”

Selina Denman, Luxury and travel editor

“My mother is a Muslim Kenyan of Indian descent, my father is a British expatriate who left the UK over 40 years ago, my brother was born in Oman, I was brought up in Cyprus and my sister-in-law is German, making my niece and nephew half German, quarter English and quarter Kenyan-Indian. It is very difficult to harbour prejudice when your immediate family consists of varying religious beliefs, cultural references and even skin tones. For me, tolerance is about embracing our differences, rather than being threatened or wary of ‘the other’, trying to identify shared values, and respecting that even the people you disagree with have a right to their opinions (which can be the hardest thing of all).”

For me, tolerance is about embracing our differences, rather than being threatened or wary of ‘the other’, trying to identify shared values, and respecting that even the people you disagree with have a right to their opinions.

Selina Denman

Chris Maxwell, assistant national editor

“Tolerance is like the air we breathe, an essential part of life we may not see or even think about, but is always there. It is the mosque nestled next to a church or the work colleagues of different colours and creeds brought together by shared love of a football team or a Netflix show. It is acceptance, it is understanding, it should be the norm.”

Nyree McFarlane, head of features

“To me, tolerance should rise above merely tolerating something or someone. You need to be able to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes. Or, better yet, strap their shoes on, and take a few strides (metaphorically, of course). You can’t have tolerance where you lack empathy.”

Alkesh Sharma, business reporter

“Tolerance can be perfectly described in an old Sanskrit phrase: ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam’. The saying literally translates to ‘the world is one family’. This is what tolerance means to me. The value of tolerance is what binds us and defines an ideal world with mutual respect and trust as founding pillars.”

Aarti Jhurani, sub-editor

“Tolerance, to me, is the ability to peacefully co-exist and mingle with people from different regions, religions and backgrounds, and growing up in India, with such a varied population, taught me that. With all the news coming out of my home country, I think it may be time for everyone to revisit those values and understand its importance.”

Farah Andrews, assistant features editor

“I hadn’t spent much time pondering tolerance, and its specific definition, until this year – it was a word that I associated with patient parents and primary school teachers. But in the last 12 months, it has come to represent everything I love about the UAE. Much more than the dictionary definition of accepting opinions or behaviour that you ‘dislike’, it’s demonstrating an active desire to learn about other people, cultures and belief systems, thus building on your own.”

Janice Rodrigues, lifestyle writer

“Tolerance, for me, is the ability to listen to a person with a completely different opinion, to try to see their side of the story and, if not, to be able to respectfully disagree, without trying to convince them that your opinion is the only right opinion. Live and let live, as they say.”

Tolerance is for people to stop judging each other and let each person be who they want to be.

Haneen Dajani

Louise Burke, home page editor

“I believe tolerance is something that must be constantly maintained and expanded on. We must think hard about people, groups and communities who could be drawn closer into the circle of love and acceptance. In this sense, tolerance can be a form of positive activism.”

Haneen Dajani, senior reporter

“Tolerance is for people to stop judging each other and let each person be who they want to be.”

Simon Wilgress-Pipe, home page editor

“Tolerance is having the grace not to discriminate or persecute those whose lives and desires are different to our own. It’s not always easy to be broad-minded, but we should all make the effort to accept people who come from other walks of life.”

Melanie Smith, chief sub-editor – features

“More than accepting difference, tolerance is about welcoming it with open arms, embracing it and doing what you can to learn and understand where another person is coming from. It may be a simple difference in opinion or a difference in race, background or gender. It’s about empathy and understanding. We have an incredible capacity to care for and love our fellow human beings. It’s in our nature. It’s about tapping into that natural emotion and extending it unconditionally to all, no matter who they are, where they are, what they believe in or where they are from.”

Updated: December 26, 2019 05:43 PM

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