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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Landmark Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi is an emblem of tolerance

The UAE stands out in an age of fractious divides as a shimmering model of acceptance

The Abu Dhabi temple will be modelled on the Akshardham temple in New Delhi. EPA
The Abu Dhabi temple will be modelled on the Akshardham temple in New Delhi. EPA

In these times of rising intolerance and religious divides, the UAE stands out as a source of hope: a shimmering model of unity and acceptance of diversity in a world increasingly fractured by sectarianism. Virtually every nationality on earth is represented among this country’s vibrant workforce and the government has progressively catered to their differing religious and cultural needs with generous grants of lands and funds.

Very soon there will be a grand new addition to the UAE’s liturgical landscape, which already features more places of non-Muslim worship than all of the GCC countries combined, in the form of a monumental house of worship. Foundations for Abu Dhabi’s first Hindu stone temple – a traditional structure to be built with stones carved by artisans in India – were laid by Hindu priests on Sunday in a ceremony that was live-streamed to Dubai Opera, where Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was addressing an audience of his compatriots. Mr Modi, evidently overcome with emotion at this display of the UAE’s deep respect for all religions, expressed his gratitude to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, for allocating the land for the temple in Abu Mureikha, off the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway, in 2015, and urged Indian expatriates to play their part in realising the UAE’s vision of an inclusive society.

The first Hindu temple in Dubai, inaugurated as early as 1958, served the religious needs of the Hindu and Sikh communities for decades, until the latter were granted land to build the UAE’s first gurdwara by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which opened its doors to congregants in 2012. When it is completed in 2020, the new temple, the first in the UAE’s capital, will be the third Hindu place of worship in this country. It will be another beautiful monument to the lasting message of co-existence and tolerance advanced by the founding father of this country, where grand mosques and churches have long sat side-by-side in perfect harmony. It is fitting that the foundations for the Middle East’s largest Hindu temple were laid in the Year of Zayed.

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