Opinion: The UAE is showing the utmost respect to the celebration of Christmas
For anyone googling: "Can you celebrate Christmas in Dubai?"
While Donald Trump unashamedly wages war against all Muslims and calls to ban them from entering the Land of The Free, the UAE continues to set an extraordinary example of tolerance and acceptance of all religions and backgrounds.
Being a Muslim country, one might think that celebrating Christmas in the UAE is a big no no, or a frowned upon practice, but this cannot be further from the truth. The 35 churches built across the UAE serve as a great reminder of the level of respect the country has towards its Christian residents who make up 9% of the total population. During my 10 years of living in Dubai, I have seen and experienced firsthand all kinds of Christmas festivities in this city, from lighting up massive and beautifully decorated Christmas trees to sitting at a Christmas dinner table with people from different ethnicities and religions.
The level of tolerance the UAE offers its expat community is admirable and remarkable. Playing host to 200 nationalities is not an easy task, yet the UAE does it with astonishing success. The expats who make up 89% of the total population enjoy the freedom of worship and the opportunity to celebrate their religious occasions, and what’s more heartwarming is that we can all take part in them. While living in Dubai, I enjoyed throwing colored powder at my colleagues during Holi, I accompanied my Spanish friend to St. Mary’s church to light up a candle for her brother who recently passed away. I took part in preparing Thanksgiving dinner with my Canadian friends and took a picture with a Sri Lankan Santa. And in Ramadan, my Iftar table at home was more like a mini United Nations’ roundtable with friends from Iraq, Lebanon, UK, UAE and Australia.
Living in UAE for so long, we might take these things for granted, but the atmosphere of tolerance and coexistence here is something to be cherished. It also sets a great example for all other nations, especially in these difficult times where people are being harassed, discriminated against, or even killed for their religious beliefs.
Some might argue that the UAE allows Christmas celebration for commercial reasons only; to sell more products, holiday packages and rooms in hotels, but it can also achieve that during Eid al Adha and Eid al Fitr. So would the country be celebrating these two occasions just for the sake of commercial gains? Others might say that the UAE should not permit Christmas festivities because it is a Muslim country, but doesn’t Islam encourage tolerance and kindness towards others regardless of their race, class or colour?
Nobody is forcing the UAE to light up an impressive Christmas tree in the heart of the Emirates Palace, or allow Michael Bublé’s Christmas Special to fill the airwaves, or have Santa visiting schools and shopping malls. The UAE does that simply because it respects the beliefs of its residents and appreciates the diversity of its expat community.
So for all the people googling: “does the UAE celebrate Christmas” I say: come see for yourself, and leave with a valuable lesson on tolerance, respect and acceptance.
Season’s Greetings everyone.