ABU DHABI // Residents and officials have denounced anti-Hindu statements made by an Abu Dhabi imam – stating they do not represent the UAE’s stance on religious tolerance.
Dr Hanif Al Qassim, chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue said such statements belonged to a politicised Islam.
“Those people appoint themselves as heirs and religious scholars of Sharia. They’re instigators and belong to a politicised version of Islam,” Dr Al Qassim said.
“The UAE has provided the world with a rare example in balanced governance and religious tolerance that is open to all cultures.
“This allowed for an exchange in worldly experience and relationships that helped the country flourish, and has attracted more than 200 nationalities that live together in peaceful existence,” he said.
Last week, controversial tweets by imam Sheikh Wassim Youssef, a lecturer at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, caused an uproar among Emirati intellectuals and Twitter users.
The lecturer expressed his disapproval of the decision to build a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi.
Dr Al Qassim highlighted the UAE’s reputation, stating that international organisations such as the United Nations have vouched for the country’s accomplishments in tolerance.
“The Hindu temple in Dubai has been around for a long time and is one of many houses of worship where people in the UAE practice their faith and rituals freely,” he said.
Dr Farouq Hamada, religious adviser at the Crown Prince Court in Abu Dhabi, reiterated Dr Al Qassim’s sentiments.
“Scholars are using divisive methods and showing an alarming lack of Islamic competence.
“The UAE has established policies in religious tolerance. People need to practice their faith freely for marriages and religious practices, and the government recognises that,” Dr Hamada said.
“Such divisive and radical ideas do not belong in the modern world. The UAE’s leadership has well established visionary ideas that those extremists have no business in intervening with.”
“Leaders have a role to play and ensure the welfare of all of the country’s people, and the UAE is mindful of that,” he said.
The UAE government announced plans during Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit last week to allocate land for the building of the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi.
Following Sheikh Wassim Youssef’s comments, social media users started a hashtag calling for the imam’s dismissal.
Abu Dhabi resident, Ahmed Saeed, 43, said he was unhappy with the anti-Hindu sentiments he saw online but welcomed people being vocal about it.
“Those sentiments do not represent the opinions and welcoming attitude of the people of the UAE,” Mr Saeed said.
“I’m proud that Emiratis are using social media to show a true image of our real values, and tolerance is a big part of it. There’s a growing awareness by the people of what religious extremism is.
“People are more attuned to it nowadays. Unfortunately, religion is constantly being used as a divisive tool, and it’s our duty to not allow that to happen,” he said.