UAE Yesterday Appointed A Minister Of Happiness And A Minister Of Tolerance

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai Photo: Getty
The oil-rich home of glitz, the United Arab Emirates, has appointed new ministers of "tolerance" and "happiness" as part of a cabinet reshuffle, as it attempts to cement its position as the Arab world’s most eye-catching nation.

The announcement on Monday [Feb 8] night followed weeks of speculation over the nature of the well-signalled government shake-up. The prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also the ruler of Dubai, had said he wanted a “council of youth” with its own minister who would him – or her – self be no older than 25.

That position was confirmed, with an as yet unnamed woman of 22 said to be appointed to the job. Sheikh Mohammed – on Twitter, his preferred medium of communication with his people, when he is not writing books and poetry – also announcing a series of ministry mergers and a decision to “outsource” large areas of government to semi-autonomous quangos and the private sector.

He also said there would be two new positions altogether. “A new post, minister of state for happiness, will align and drive government policy to create social good and satisfaction,” he said. “The post of minister of state for tolerance has been created to promote tolerance as a fundamental value in UAE society.”

He gave few details of what the daily duties of either minister would be, except, in the first case, to promote a virtuous and family-focused society.

However, the ministry of tolerance at least is symbolically important – the vast majority of UAE residents are expatriates, many of them Christian, Shia Muslim and from other religions besides the Sunni Islam that is the state's official creed.

Tolerance is not likely to be extended to political opposition – scores of activists and Islamists have been jailed in the UAE since the start of the Arab Spring to prevent "contagion" spreading to the Gulf state.

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