First of 200 imams from Indonesia arrive to serve in UAE mosques

Programme aims to promote a moderate understanding of Islam

More than a dozen imams from Indonesia have arrived in the UAE to serve in mosques across the country.

The 15 religious leaders are the first of 28 selected in March by the UAE General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf) to travel to the Emirates. Eight more are expected to arrive in mid-November.

The co-operation in sending imams is another proof of the close relationship of the two countries
Husin Bagis, the Indonesian Ambassador to the UAE

The imams will serve in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Al Dhafra, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, among other locations.

The 'Imams from Indonesia' programme was agreed by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Joko Widodo, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, when he visited Abu Dhabi in January last year.

In total, the scheme will send more than 200 religious leaders to serve in the UAE by the end of next year.

Husin Bagis, the Indonesian Ambassador to the UAE, said he was pleased the first imams had arrived in Abu Dhabi.

"The co-operation in sending Imams is another proof of the close relationship of the two countries, which is not only focused on economic co-operation," said Mr Bagis.

Understanding moderate Islam

Organisers hope the programme will encourage mutual learning for both countries, and promote a moderate understanding of Islam.

“The imams from Indonesia can learn how Islam is carried out in the UAE with full tolerance and [how to] contribute to the creation of peace in society, without causing any friction," said Mr Bagis.

"When they return to Indonesia, they can implement and promote the same thing."

Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Indonesian President Joko Widodo walk during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Bogor, Indonesia, July 24, 2019. Dita Alangkara/Pool via Reuters

Another set of interviews for new imams took place in October in Jakarta, with representatives from Awqaf collaborating with the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs to handpick candidates.

Of 89 possible imams, 23 were selected, and are currently being processed by UAE authorities before arriving. They are expected to fly to the UAE in December this year.

The UAE and Indonesia have forged strong religious partnerships in recent years.

A $20 million replica of Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is currently under construction in the President Widodo's home town of Surakarta.

Sheikh Mohamed offered the building as a gift during his trip to the country in July 2019.

The leaders are expected to meet again on November 3 in Abu Dhabi, and President Widodo is also due to take part in the celebrations for Indonesia's National Day at Expo 2020 Dubai on November 4.

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Updated: November 2nd 2021, 7:11 AM