A popular and respected Islamic scholar in the United Arab Emirates, who gave sermons at the famous Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi, has landed in trouble after he tweeted against the allotment of land for a temple in the emirate last month when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came visiting.
In what is being viewed as an action for his “unwarranted statements”, the UAE authorities have not only reprimanded him, but his talk-show on a local television channel has also gone off air.
Sheikh Waseem Yousef, a young cleric who specialised in Quranic readings and interpretation, tweeted on August 18 that “all Muslim Sheikhs agreed that building temples for infidels is forbidden”. His tweet, in Arabic, went viral with more than 1,800 retweets and 500 favourites.
But this tweet, which was seen as questioning the UAE government’s decision to allot land for a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, did not go down well with the authorities there.
He was condemned by some senior officials and intellectuals in Emirates society, according to sources who cited local media reports to back their claim.
Dr Farouq Hamada, religious adviser at the Crown Prince Court in Abu Dhabi, told The National newspaper that scholars were 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, adding, “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.
This was a public reprimand from a top official, who is close to UAE’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Departing from protocol, the UAE Crown Prince had received Modi at the airport and was accompanied by his five brothers.
Modi had also reciprocated the gesture when he had asked the Indian community at the Dubai cricket stadium to give a standing ovation to the Crown Prince for the temple allotment.
While public condemnation of Yousef was carried out, his TV show, which he hosted a few times a week on the local Noor Dubai channel, went off air after the incident.
The Emirates government has not made any statement on whether this was an action against Yousef, but the Indian government views this as a direct consequence of his remarks against the temple allotment.
Sources said his programme on Noor Dubai TV channel, in which people would call or email during the hour-long religious show, Ru’ya, or Vision, was quite popular and was a primetime programme, beginning at 9 pm. In that programme, viewers would tell him about their dreams and he would interpret them.