Embracing Diversity: India and the UAE stand out as exemplars of multiculturalism

Both India and the UAE have shown the world what it means to truly celebrate diversity

By Zahaan Anand

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Published: Mon 22 Apr 2024, 9:29 PM

Last updated: Mon 22 Apr 2024, 9:36 PM

In today’s globalized world, a multicultural society is not just an aspiration, but a valuable advantage to the larger community. Being inclusive of different cultures, behaviours and practices comes with collective awareness and a learned tolerance. Despite a distinct historical, cultural, and geopolitical backdrop, if a nation can successfully embrace diversity, it can only lead to fostering social cohesion, economic growth, and progress.

India, with its millennia-old storied past, is a testament to the possibility of diversity. Home to over 1.3 billion people of varying ethnicities, religions, and traditions, India exemplifies the concept of unity in diversity. Apart from this, Indians commonly speak more than one language. A popular aphorism aptly depicts India’s linguistic diversity: Kos-kospar badle paani, chaar kos par baani (The language spoken in India changes every few kilometres, just like the taste of the water). Religious plurality too, has coexisted with Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism, among others, shaping the country’s cultural landscape.

India’s strength lies in its ability to accommodate and celebrate differences. From the vibrant festivals of Diwali, Eid, and Christmas to the diverse cuisines that tantalize the taste buds, India epitomizes the spirit of unity in diversity.

A key contributing factor is the nation’s historical legacy of inclusivity. Despite periodic episodes of conflict, Indian society has largely thrived on the principles of tolerance and coexistence. The philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which translates to “the world is one family,” encourages citizens to embrace all humanity as one. This inclusive mindset is reflected in India’s democratic principles, where every citizen is guaranteed equal rights and opportunities, regardless of their background.

Narrowing in further, it is the city of Mumbai that stands out as a role model of India’s multiculturalism. Often referred to as the ‘City of Dreams’. Mumbai is a melting pot of cultures, where people from diverse backgrounds live and work together harmoniously. From the iconic Ganesh Chaturthi festive celebrations, to the thriving culinary influences from across the country, Mumbai truly encapsulates the spirit of India’s multicultural landscape.

Zahaan Anand
Zahaan Anand

Across the ocean, the United Arab Emirates reflects a similar ideology. With more than 80% expat population from over 200 countries, diversity is in the country’s DNA.

Dubai - the Emirates’ most populous city, with its skyline dotted with shimmering towers, architectural marvels and bustling streets, is a global symbol of cosmopolitanism. Here, the Holy Month of Ramadan is observed not just by Muslims. Even though the rules for public consumption of food and drink in public have eased, residents respectfully do not eat in public during the fasting hours, while the evening meals (Iftar, followed by Suhoor) are celebrated with much excitement through the emirate.

The visionary government has implemented policies to promote tolerance and social cohesion, with the establishment of the Ministry of Tolerance which underscores the government’s commitment to fostering mutual respect and understanding among its diverse population. Initiatives like the “Year of Tolerance” and the hosting of interfaith events, such as the visit of revered persons such as Pope Francis in 2019, Sadhguru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and the building of the Hindu Temple in Abu Dhabi highlight the UAE’s efforts to promote dialogue and coexistence.

Both India and the UAE have shown the world what it means to truly celebrate diversity as a driver of progress and prosperity. As the world continues to grapple with issues of identity, migration, and cultural pluralism, the experiences of India and the UAE offer valuable lessons in building harmonious and prosperous societies for generations to come.

Zahaan Anand is a freelance writer at The Daily Milap

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