With a new temple, the UAE’s Hindu community is flourishing

A major temple has just opened in Dubai, a milestone in the religion's long relationship with the Gulf

The newly inaugurated Hindu temple in Dubai's Jebel Ali. AFP
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Around the world, Hindus are celebrating a festive season that encompasses some of the most ancient religious events in the history of religion. Navratri has just passed, a time to give thanks to Hindu goddesses. Today, Dussehra begins, a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, based on the story of the defeat of the demonic 10-headed king Ravana.

Hindus in the UAE will also be celebrating a more contemporary story. Today, a new temple in Dubai's Jebel Ali opens its doors for the first time. Now, the UAE's Hindus have an extra place of worship, in a country that already has a number of them, and which is set to get more.

In 2024, a particularly significant and traditional temple will open in Abu Dhabi. The National has followed its construction closely, an elaborate, time-consuming process that will use millions of handmade clay bricks, 30,000 pieces of stone, hand-carved archways, sculptures and seven spires to represent each of the UAE's emirates.

Today's opening in Dubai might be on a slightly more modest scale, but it is still a significant addition to the country's Hindu community. It blends Indian and Arabic architecture and has prayer halls, a banquet hall, a meditation studio, teaching areas and an industrial kitchen.

All this makes the temple a cultural landmark, too, and a place for Hindus and non-Hindus alike to explore the ancient faith and the culture that surrounds it.

It also reminds all of the old ties that Hindus and wider India have to the GCC region, ones that stretch back long before the UAE was established in 1971. Bahrain is home to the Shrinathji Temple that was established in 1817 and Hindu traders have been part of the regional economy for centuries.

Today, these economic ties endure. Last May, the UAE and India signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. It is expected to boost non-oil trade between the two countries to $100 billion in five years.

Finally, a new temple adds to the UAE's efforts to boost religious tolerance in the region. The same can be said for Bahrain, a neighbour. Last week, it was announced that Pope Francis will visit the country, which echoes his trip to the UAE in 2019, the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula in history. And this week, it was announced that Bahrain would be holding a major interfaith dialogue in November under the theme "The East and The West for Human Co-existence". Pope Francis and Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar and chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, will be among prominent leaders in attendance.

Today's new temple is not just for Hindus in the region to welcome. In a world where division appears to be growing in so many quarters, it is important that countries are seen to be not just tolerating different faiths, but actively encouraging their integration.

Published: October 05, 2022, 3:00 AM