Social media posts represent the good, the bad and the ugly. But every now and then, a post will represent the truly absurd. Al Jazeera Arabic pushed out a tweet saying that a photograph of a Buddhist sculpture in Abu Dhabi has led to "commentators saying there is a return of idol worship to the Arabian Peninsula". The Qatar-owned news organisation was insinuating that the sculpture was against the teachings of Islam, and invited comments about the statue. It did not, however, bother to explain what is behind it.
As The National reported, the statue, which sits on the side of the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway is not a religious monument. It is, in fact, a reproduction of a 1,000-year-old artefact currently on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi. It is part of an initiative by the museum to bring the best of the world's cultures to the UAE and to raise awareness of historic artefacts. It also seeks to liven up people's commute, and is joined by nine others along the E11 route. Starting on Sunday, drivers will be able to hear a 30-second story on the radio about each artefact as they cruise along the road.
Some on Twitter sought to dispel these ridiculous rumours and bring much needed clarity. However, even in the face of the facts, some remain unconvinced. Misinformation must not be allowed to turn a cultural initiative into a tool for baseless fear-mongering. From Iraq and Lebanon, to Egypt and the Gulf, a wide array of communities have traditionally coexisted peacefully. The UAE is home to Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist residents, among others, and has actively promoted inclusivity with initiatives such as the 2019 Year of Tolerance. It was also the first Gulf nation to welcome the head of the Catholic Church, when Pope Francis visited Abu Dhabi in February. Such divisive rhetoric is an unwarranted threat at a time when the world is tackling extremism and xenophobia. We all have a responsibility to call it out both online and in our daily lives.