Sheikh Zayed: Man of Tolerance
Since his childhood, Sheikh Zayed had a natural disposition for tolerance, genuineness and concern for others.
The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding Father of the UAE, had once said: "A good leader never loses sight of what the people need from a leader. Peace, prosperity and the chance to live in decency."
Since his childhood, Sheikh Zayed had a natural disposition for tolerance, genuineness and concern for others. As he grew older, his goodness became one of his defining traits and his values were reflected in his own personal behaviour, especially during his rule of Al Ain. He would himself visit tribes in the outlying areas, sometimes living among them for days at a time, convening meetings, talking with them to make peace among them, staying steady on the path of tolerance and carrying with him the spirit of brotherliness, spreading security and safety for all.
He also greatly promoted the UAE's reputation as a place where people of all nationalities could peacefully work together and co-exist. It was this very virtue that the country and its people imbibed from their leader.
The foundation of love, unity and brotherhood laid by him brought together previously feuding tribes to live peacefully under its umbrella and become mutually supportive of each other, thanks to his love, selflessness and wisdom.
His generosity and charitable work not only positively impacted the lives of his people but of people across the globe. The Palestinian crisis in the 1970s was something that would worry him all the time and showed that he was essentially a man of peace. An oil-rich UAE was a constant source of financial and material support for Palestine.
Even when he went to another country and saw young patients being treated in hospitals, he would take up the costs of the treatment. When a foreign observer asked him why he aided them, Sheikh Zayed said: "If you had children, you would not spare any expense to help them." Those he saw were as dear to him as his own children, he said.
In terms of diplomatic ties, Sheikh Zayed was also a friend to many countries, such as Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Somalia, Angola Bosnia, Iran and Iraq, in time of crisis and natural disasters. He even counselled them to maintain peace.
Sheikh Zayed was a capable mediator and supported every effort to bring the Gulf leaders around the table in a coherent forum. He realised that a responsive, local grouping was required and as early as 1975 Sheikh Zayed had begun to discuss with his neighbours the prospect of a pan-Gulf grouping. His idea gradually won acceptance and Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the UAE came together as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). AT the first meeting of the GCC, Sheikh Zayed said: "Let us never forget that we are confronted by a common destiny. We should stand together, not be separated and support the Arab nation as a whole."
His fame spread far and wide as a loving person desirous of tranquility and harmony. "Tolerance is a duty," the founder of the UAE would say.
Sheikh Zayed's influence in the world events has been far greater than commonly thought. He used his close relationship with all sides of the Middle Eastern political spectrum to promote unity and achieve comprehensive peace.
He was keen to make the UAE a nation of giving, love, tolerance and compassion and managed to make the UAE an international model to follow in giving and humanitarian and development work.
Former minister of tolerance of the UAE, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi had said in one of her talks that the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan's words and actions had proven that interactions with others should be based on humanitarian values, equality, justice, citizenship, solidarity and cooperation, which contributed to strengthening the values of tolerance, respect for pluralism and accepting others intellectually, culturally and religiously, as well as rejecting all forms of violence, extremism, discrimination and racism.
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