DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates has branded a bridge, a new ministry, a family day at the park and even the entire year of 2019 under the banner theme of “tolerance.”
It’s an elaborate effort that’s in overdrive as the country prepares to host Pope Francis starting Sunday in the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.
The state’s tolerance-themed project, however, has hard limits. While allowing churches and other places of worship to exist, and marking holidays like Christmas, the Hindu Diwali and Chinese New Year with festivals and celebrations, the government has simultaneously stomped out critical political expression in the name of national security.
Human rights activists and Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers have been imprisoned, academic research deemed sensitive has been curtailed and human rights groups have been barred entry. Political parties are banned and local media are censored.