UAE best place for religious tourism: Sikh leader

“To add to the joy and sense of wellbeing, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE, bestowed a piece of land free of charge for the Sikhs to build their temple,” says Surender Singh Kandhari. (Photo courtesy: Gurudwara​)
Updated 24 December 2018
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UAE best place for religious tourism: Sikh leader

  • The UAE has declared 2019 the Year of Tolerance

DUBAI: The UAE is the best place for religious tourism given the diversity and beauty of its places of worship, said the chairman of the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar in Dubai, the largest Sikh temple in the Gulf.

Be it mosques, churches, or Sikh or Hindu temples, “all these places of worship showcase the beauty of peace and tolerance in the UAE,” Surender Singh Kandhari, who has been living in the country since 1975, told Arab News. (Photo courtesy: Gurudwara GuruNanak Darbar, Dubai)

The UAE has declared 2019 the Year of Tolerance. Kandhari said the country is a living example of tolerance and being a bridge between peoples of different cultures in a respectful environment that rejects extremism and emphasizes acceptance of the other.

“It’s the only country where more than 180 different nationalities live together in harmony. You can’t find such an example anywhere in the world,” he added.

“This is perhaps the only country where followers of every faith will find their places of worship. These places aren’t meant for worship only. They’re gorgeous pieces of art and architecture,” he said.

“Every building has its own story to share, and everyone is welcome to find solace in any place of worship. Everyone is allowed to go to any place of worship. This kind of peace and tolerance one can’t find in any other part of the world.”

Visionary leadership

The multi-story gurdwara was opened in January 2012 at a cost of more than $20 million.

Praising the UAE’s construction of a Sikh temple “in the heart of an Islamic state,” Kandhari said: “To add to the joy and sense of wellbeing, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE, bestowed a piece of land free of charge for the Sikhs to build their temple.”

Kandhari added: “This could only happen in a country such as the UAE, which has such a visionary and big-hearted leadership.”


Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 56 min 45 sec ago
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Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • UN official stresses ‘urgent need to ensure’ their ‘safe, voluntary and dignified return’
  • Some 215,000 Syrian students are currently enrolled in Lebanon's schools 

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”