Modi to use 'mosque diplomacy' in UAE

Last Updated 14 August 2015, 03:19 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pay his first visit to a mosque during his  two-day tour of the United Arab Emirates from Sunday.

Modi will travel to Abu Dhabi on Sunday and meet Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces. He will visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on Monday before travelling to Dubai, where he will address a congregation of expatriates from India, official sources said in New Delhi.

This will be his first visit to a mosque, at least after taking over as the Prime Minister in May 2014. He has visited and offered prayers at Hindu and Buddhist shrines during his earlier tours to Nepal, Japan and China. He also visited Dhakeshwari Jatiya Mandir, a Hindu temple in Dhaka, during his tour to Bangladesh in early June.

Modi’s visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi appears to be politically significant, as it comes just ahead of the assembly elections in Bihar, where secular parties – Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress – have forged a joint front against the Bharatiya Janata Party.

During his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat, his refusal to wear a skull cap offered by a Muslim cleric during a “Sadbhavna fast” in Ahmedabad in September 2011 triggered a controversy. Modi, however, tried to reach out to the Muslim community after taking over as Prime Minister. He not only disapproved “hate-speeches” by some leaders of ruling BJP, but also had meetings with Muslim clerics in April and June this year and reassured them of his government’s commitment to religious freedom.

He sent Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to offer a ‘chaadar’ at the Dargah of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer in Rajasthan.

During his visit to Kazakhstan in July, the Prime Minister lauded the Islamic heritage of both India and Central Asia for upholding highest ideals of tolerance and rejecting “forces of extremism”.

Modi’s plan to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is also being seen as an attempt to reach out to Muslims, both in the country and beyond.

The first President of UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, started building the grand mosque in 1996 and it was completed in 2007 – three years after his death.
(Published 13 August 2015, 19:21 IST)

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