Despite the UAE being an Islamic nation with strong anti-blasphemy laws, it has always been lauded for its secular credentials. This is noteworthy as the demographics of the region show that only 16 percent of the population are native Emiratis. The remaining majority are expatriates hailing from South Asia. Of the total population, 76 percent are muslims. Despite the strong presence of the Islamic cultural influence, people of other faiths practice their religions in UAE. There are approximately 31 churches throughout the country, one Hindu temple and one Sikh Gurudwara.
It is under the leadership of the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that the nation has supported the concept of moderate Islam, practicing the principles of brotherhood and peaceful co-existence between the different religions. The Coptic Orthodox Church has in this regard, endorsed the UAE commitment to secular governance.
This was noted during the Easter celebrations of the Coptic Church in Abu Dhabi, in the presence of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, Mohammed bin Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Advisor Ali Al Hashimi, Judicial and Religious Affairs Advisor at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Tamer Mansour, Egyptian Ambassador to UAE, and other officials and Islamic Scholars.
A number of members of Christian sects, businesspeople, staff of the Egyptian Embassy, the Egyptian Women’s Association, as well as a number of the Egyptian Muslim and Coptic Community also attended the event.
Ishaq Al Anba Bishoy, pastor of Al Anba Antonio Cathedral Church in Abu Dhabi, in his sermon, extended thanks and gratitude on behalf of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria to President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who assigned the UAE ambassador to Cairo to offer condolences to Pope Tawadros II on the death of victims of violence in the Al Khosos area and at the Cathedral in Cairo.
The Pastor also highlighted on behalf of the Coptic Church, the approach of the UAE under the leadership of President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, their Highnesses the Rulers of the Emirates and His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces to enhance the policy of religious tolerance and moderation of Islam which calls for respect for all religions, and the opening of channels for dialogue between all cultures and civilisations.
He also lauded the naming of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, Dr Ahmed A-Tayyib, as the Cultural Personality of the Year by the organising committee of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, 2013.
For his part, Ambassador Mansour conveyed the greetings of the Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi to Egyptian Copts abroad at Easter.
He also extended thanks and appreciation to President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, their Highnesses the Rulers of the Emirates and His Highness, General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, for their strong policy to consolidate Arab relations.
UAE’s Secular Environment vital for global business Investments:
The UAE has one of the most favourable business environments in the region. Though most countries in the MENA region face an inner conflict with the conservatism vs. moderate Islam, the UAE has always been respected for its secular laws, which gives some level of assurance to the global business community. According to the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the FDI in the country reportedly is as high as $15 billion in 2010. Of the Top 500 companies in the world, 25 have operations in the UAE.
With the rise in conservative elements across the MENA region that has seen winds of political change, and are now reeling under the threat of conservative political blocs, the UAE holds its ground, asserting itself on secular credentials, civil liberties and their commitment to protect the rights of religious minorities.