[Editorial Analysis] Towards tolerance

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Israel and Gulf countries relations
Mains level: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora


• As the world’s Jewish communities celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the traditional New Year, over the weekend, greetings came from an unexpected quarter — the Arab Gulf.

• The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — which recently normalised ties with Israel under the so-called Abraham Accords — tweeted their best wishes in Hebrew and English.

• This simple gesture marks an important moment in the Middle East.

Definitive change:

• The region’s tolerance of non-Islamic faiths has seen a sharp decline in recent decades amidst the rise of radical political Islam that threatened the Arab Gulf kingdoms.

• Many Gulf rulers appeased the Islamists by adopting part of their agenda at home, letting them export extremist ideology to the rest of the world.

• It adopted an uncompromising attitude towards Israel and lending a religious dimension to conflicts around the world involving Muslims.

• The Arab Gulf, however, has begun to send a very different message.

• Since the signing of the Abraham Accords last week in Washington, official Gulf media has been recalling the history of peaceful coexistence through the millennia between the Arabs and Jews.

• One of the most significant recent statements on religious tolerance came from the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

• Earlier this month, Imam Abdul Rahman al-Sudais offered a discourse on the Islamic teachings that emphasized respect towards non-Muslims and dwelt on Prophet Mohammed’s positive engagement with the Jews.

• Many have read this sermon as signalling Saudi rethink on ties with Israel. Restrictions on religious freedom are the strongest in Saudi Arabia.

• A definitive change in Saudi Arabia may be some distance away, but the signs are more hopeful than at any time in recent memory.

• The slow but certain shift towards religious tolerance had indeed preceded the Abraham Accords.

State policy:

• Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, for example, has taken small steps at home to reduce the hold of religious orthodoxy.

• The most visible expression of the new thinking was in the UAE, where promoting religious tolerance has become an active state policy.

• It has allowed the construction of a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, hosted the Pope, and is now letting the Jews practise their culture and faith.

• The UAE is constructing a complex in Abu Dhabi called the House of Abraham that will host a synagogue along with a church and a mosque.

• In recent decades, few regions have been as damaged by the extremist ideologies emanating out of Arabia as the Subcontinent.

• Once the exemplar of peaceful religious coexistence, the Subcontinent is now itself torn by religious and sectarian intolerance.

• Supporting the Arab turn to tolerance will hopefully help South Asia to reclaim its own tradition of religious coexistence and harmony.


• There is a slow but certain shift in the Arab Gulf. South Asia must recognise and support it.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Prem Bhatia award for outstanding journalism, consider the following statements:

1. The trust had instituted the awards in 1995 in the memory of journalist Prem Bhatia.

2. Dipankar Ghose and the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), a non-profit journalism website dedicated to reporting on rural India, has won this year’s Prem Bhatia award for outstanding journalism.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both 1 and 2
D. None

Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) How the recent UAE-Israel peace deal will impact the region and India? Analyse it.

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