Inauguration of Indian Islamic Centre, Abu Dhabi
23 Nov, 2010
I am happy to inaugurate the Indian Islamic Centre Abu Dhabi. The Center has an illustrious history. Its foundation stone was laid in 1982 by the then Prime Minister of India Smt. Indira Gandhi, who strengthened the secular fabric of India, that we are privileged to witness today.
Historically, India has been the meeting place of diverse races and cultures. Indian civilization shared its richness with other cultures and was itself enriched by this interaction. The coming of Islam to India in the 8th century A.D., and its sustained interface with a vibrant civilization with deep cultural roots, had a profound impact in all spheres of life in India. The Islamic heritage of India is an integral part of Indian culture.
The immense contribution of the Arab world to our heritage is visible in our monuments, literature, language, administration, arts and culture. The translation of many Sanskrit works into the Arabic language during the second Abbasid period of the 8th century A.D., brought to the Arab world, the ancient wisdom of India. The Arabs evinced great interest in Hindu sciences, especially in medicine and astronomy. There was a process of cultural osmosis.
The founding fathers of modern India, recognizing the long-standing tradition of tolerance and respect for diversity so ingrained in our society, chose to enshrine these principles in the Constitution of free India. These have provided the underpinnings for our secular and democratic credentials and have served India well. Given the attempts that we see in the contemporary world to divide and discriminate against people on the basis of their religion, the foresight of our founding fathers more than 60 years ago is, indeed, remarkable. It is part of our core belief that religions are meant to bring peace and harmony amongst humanity, and should not be a source of strife and violence. Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Indian Nation said “I believe in absolute oneness of God and therefore also of humanity ...for me the different religions are beautiful flowers from the same garden or they are branches of the same majestic tree”.
The Indian presence and influence has been a regular feature of the Arab landscape. Whether it was trade in pearls, which were the major produce of this region before the discovery of oil, or the export of Indian timber from which Arab dhows were constructed, the destinies of our two cultures have been closely intertwined. It is not an exaggeration to say that there is part of both the cultures in all of us, whether Arab or Indian. It is, indeed, very satisfying to see two old cultures forging new links while preserving old ones.
India and the UAE have much in common in their promotion of religious harmony and tolerance towards different shades of thoughts and beliefs. The rulers of this country have adopted benevolent policies, and provided generous support to Indian Community organizations belonging to all religions. I am happy that the Indian community has through its hard work and dedication over the decades contributed very positively to the development of the UAE. I understand that the UAE is home to many nationalities that are living in perfect harmony with each other. This “unity in diversity” is also a hallmark of our society.
The Indian Islamic Centre is a tribute to the collective efforts of community leaders. It is, indeed, a reflection of the strength of character of the Indian Diaspora, in nurturing its links with the mother country, while successfully adapting to the local conditions in the host countries. The Centre will no doubt, prove to be a valuable cultural bridge between the UAE and India, and stand as a symbol of our celebrated links. While inculcating pride among the community members about their Indian heritage, I hope the Centre will also serve to highlight among the Emirati community, the close and friendly ties between our two countries. I would like to commend the leaders of the community, whose hard work and dedication has made the Centre a reality.
Finally, warm words of thanks to our gracious hosts - the Government of the UAE. Their generous assistance has contributed to the realization of this project. I bring with me the greetings of the Government of India to the Government of the UAE and the greetings of the people of India to the people of the UAE.
I wish you well. Thank you.