A set of images routinely circulates on social media with the claim that “ever since PM Modi visited the United Arab Emirates”, sheikhs have started going to temples, eating food on banana leaves and offering Hindu prayers.
जब से मोदी जी ने अरब की यात्रा की है पता नहीं शेखों को क्या हो गया है
शेखो ने मंदिर जाना शुरू कर दिया है, अब केले के पत्ते पर हिन्दू रीति रिवाज से खाना खाने लगे हैं
पुजा शुरू कर दिया है शेखों ने जय श्रीराम🚩 pic.twitter.com/2iVYO1uqzH
— Ravikant Mishra《REWA》🇮🇳 (@ravikan0325126) July 6, 2021
जब से मोदी जी ने अरब की यात्रा की है पता नहीं शेखों को क्या हो गया है।
— 🕉जीतेन भारद्वाज #TTG🇮🇳🕉 (@jiten384444) July 7, 2021
जब से #मोदी जी ने अरब की यात्रा की है पता नहीं शेखों को क्या हो गया है। #शेखो ने मंदिर जाना शुरू कर दिया है, अब केले के पत्ते पर हिन्दू रीति -रिवाज से खाना खाने लगे हैं। पुजा भी शुरू कर दिया है शेखों ने।
और मजे की बात ये है कि #इस्लाम खतरे में नहीं आया !😏🤔 pic.twitter.com/6im8LKEL32
— Kala Chaturvedi (@kala_chaturvedi) August 31, 2019
These photos have been viral at least since 2015 with the claim that they were taken during the inauguration of a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi attended by local “Arab leaders” where they had lunch on banana leaves.
A Hindu Temple Inauguration in Abu Dhabi. Arabs attended the opening ceremony n had lunch on banana leaves. pic.twitter.com/qdouySXotx
— Aviator Anil Chopra (@Chopsyturvey) December 23, 2015
An Hindu Temple Inauguration Ceremony in Abu Dhabi attended by local Arab leaders.
They had lunch on banana leafs. pic.twitter.com/x5zXANKyQy
— Mahesh Vikram Hegde 🇮🇳 (@mvmeet) December 21, 2015
For the first image, we performed a reverse image search and found that it is from 2018 when the PM was on a four-day visit to Palestine, the UAE, and Oman. The photo was taken when PM Modi had visited Abu Dhabi on the second leg of his three-nation tour. A delegation of BAPS Sadhus and Temple Committee had visited the Crown Prince to express their gratitude to him for his gift of land for the BAPS Hindu Temple in Abu Dhabi.
For the second image, we again performed a reverse image search and found the photos to be from 2013 when the BAPS was on a Satsang Tour of UAE, Oman and Bahrain.
The words that are written in Arabic on the building behind read ‘مجلس النواب’ (Majlis Al-Nuwab) i.e., Council of Representatives. It is the parliament building in Bahrain.
Below, we have juxtaposed the photos of the BAPS delegation on tour with a publicly available image of the parliament in Bahrain to show the similarities between the two.
The BAPS Cultural Center in Dubai was inaugurated during the tour but there’s no mention of an inauguration of a temple. Moreover, the viral image was shot before Narendra Modi assumed the office of the prime minister and it is from Bahrain, not the UAE.
The description on the image claims, “Emarati locals are having onam sadhya in Dubai.”
There are few points to observe here:
1. Most viral posts claim that the photo is from a “temple inauguration in Abu Dhabi”. But the construction of the first temple in Abu Dhabi was only announced in August 2015 during PM Modi’s first visit to UAE.
2. The foundation stone of the temple was laid this year and the temple is expected to be completed by 2023. So the sheikhs could not possibly have had a meal inside a temple still under construction.
3. That the sheikhs have had a ‘change of heart’ since PM Modi’s 2015 visit isn’t a claim that can be verified. But the assertion that they have started visiting temples cannot be true because there is no Hindu temple in UAE. The one under construction is the first of its kind.
4. The oldest reference of the image of sheikhs eating a meal on banana leaves says that they were consuming the “Onam sadhya” which is the traditional multi-course vegetarian meal served on the festive occasion of Onam celebrated by Malayali in and outside Kerala. UAE has a substantial Keralite population and the practice of eating sadya predates PM Modi’s visit in 2015. The image below is from 2014.
A set of photographs of unrelated events was shared to build a fictitious narrative that the Arabs have started embracing the Hindu culture after PM Modi’s visit to the UAE.