As a casual observer, one might wonder why is there so much brouhaha over a Hindu temple coming up in Abu Dhabi. Some of the liberals might even question its validity and point to the other travails that the Indian community especially the labourers face. But as a kid who spent 10 years of his childhood in Abu Dhabi, this issue was one of prime importance
Today in the news, all you might hear is of how tolerant and generous UAE is. But UAE wasn’t always like that. It had its moments of flirting with terrorism especially under the previous ruler. UAE was one of three nations that recognised the Taliban in Afghanistan. The other two being Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. As a practising Hindu going to a temple meant a visit to Bur Dubai.
And for all those who point towards the greatness of Dubai because of its temple, one visit to the Bur Dubai temple will break that misconception. The temple is in a location that is hidden from general public view and has narrow alleys leading to the temple building. Nothing of the exterior structure would suggest that its a temple. Rumour has it that the then Dubai ruler agreed for a temple to be built as a return favour to a rich Gujarati businessman who provided a loan to Dubai during their early days of the oil boom. Anyway, as a proud Hindu the sight of the Bur Dubai temple is more of embarrassment and humiliation than salvation
But don’t get me wrong, as a kid with practising Hindu parents we were never unduly tortured because of our faith. The general discrimination was present though. Pakistani taxi drivers always looked down upon us with contempt, stories of relatives being targeted at the workplace was common and explicit display of our faith in public was frowned upon. My father who worked in a local Emirati company always assured me that the local Emirati community was different. And whatever little interaction we had with them it seemed that way as well. Especially since the transfer of power from the previous ruler to the current one in Abu Dhabi, things have been different.
Abu Dhabi began seeking global recognition. With Dubai needing Abu Dhabi’s assistance during the economic crisis the capital of the UAE became the focus of the world. And Abu Dhabi stepped its game up. It invested heavily in renewable energy. It began showcasing itself as a model to the world and only one issue remained: the question of secularism. It permitted the Indian Social Center to hold ‘poojas’. The Ministry of Tolerance was set up and in 2015, during the historic trip of our Prime Minister, the land for the temple was allocated
This temple is going to be different. It is going to showcase Hinduism proudly. The followers of the faith in the UAE won’t have to lose themselves in a maze of alleys to get there. This bold decision was not without controversy in the UAE but Abu Dhabi had truly shown the path this time
That is why this temple is so important for all Hindus in UAE and all over. In addition, it is also an indication of the soft power of India in the region now. Hope that is not lost to anyone.