Oman has been a pivot point of civilization throughout its long unbroken history, a magnet for passing cultures drawn to its strategic location and welcoming traditions. The armies, fleets and scholars of Sumeria, of Pharaonic Egypt and Rome, interacted with Omanis at home and abroad, while its fabled navigators and sea merchants assembled exotic ideas and commodities from their adventures on the high seas, to be nurtured and blended in the tolerant climate of home. An influential naval power, Omani ships plied the Indian Ocean, crossing the Arabian Gulf to the ports of southern Persia, or sailed north to Iraq, or west to the maritime trading posts of East Africa, then down the coast from Somalia as far as Mozambique.
To the Sumerians, Oman was ‘Magan’, or Copper Mountain. Magan was referenced in hundreds of Sumerian and Akkadian records, rendered in cuneiform script and indicating its importance in terms of strategic location and natural resources, in particular copper and precious stones.
Oman was one of the first countries to embrace Islam, and did so voluntarily in the lifetime of the Prophet. During the early years of the da’wa, or call to Islam, Oman was prominent in the apostasy wars that emerged after the death of the Prophet, and participated in the great Islamic land and sea conquests in Iraq, Persia and Sindh, and subsequently much further afield.
The Sultanate of Oman occupies a uniquely important location strategically and this fact has been reflected time and again in the choices it has made, along with its policies and style of execution, dictating how it interacts with issues and developments affecting it. Oman shares borders with the Republic of Yemen to the south-west, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the west, and the United Arab Emirates to the north. It has sovereignty over a number of small islands in the Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz, including Salamah and Her Daughters, as well as Masirah and the Hallaniyat Islands, and some other small islands in the Arabian Sea.
Oman has been recognised from time immemorial as a haven of civilized communication, of harmonious interchange with the peoples and cultures that crossed its shores. Tolerance lies at the very heart of the Omani character, a core, unassailable feature of their national identity and culture. The Sultanate’s relationship with other nations is based on a set of principles, foremost among which is a good neighbourliness that extends beyond the countries in its immediate neighbourhood. Oman has always taken pride in the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of others. It maintains diligent respect for international laws, charters and norms, as well as for freedom of religion and creed. Tolerance, so deeply rooted in its culture, has underpinned the Sultanate’s approach to diplomacy across the many chapters of its history, notwithstanding changes in the nature of its governance. It stems from an enlightened perspective on human nature, from a sincere respect for the cultures and beliefs embraced by the many diverse peoples of our planet. It is an approach that eschews bias, cherishes positive neutrality. The foreign policy of the Sultanate of Oman is based on a deeply held view of itself as a country with goodwill for all, a view that sees dialogue and tolerance as the appropriate response to conflict, as fundamental guidelines in dealing with global issues and addressing international challenges.
Religious tolerance was from the outset a cornerstone principle of the modern Omani renaissance, and today the Basic Law of the State guarantees personal freedoms and their practice within the limits of the law. Article 34 of the Law stipulates that “freedom of worship as conforms with established custom is protected, provided that this shall not violate public order or contradict the moral code.” The Omani Personal Status Law also guarantees to non-Muslims residing in the Sultanate the right to exercise their respective rituals of worship, albeit in a manner that does not contradict Omani tradition. This is in accordance with Article 282 of the Law, and it is an undisputed fact that other religious communities maintain houses of worship freely in Oman, where non-Muslims may perform their religious rituals freely and openly under the protection of the law.
(Reference: Oman Annual Book 2021, Ministry of Information, Sultanate of Oman)