Al Jazeera, the state-run network of Qatar, has been publicizing criticism accusing its Gulf rival, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), of returning the Muslim nation to idolatry. The network has run stories about an art installation that includes a giant sculpture of a Buddha on one of its major highways, part of the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Highway Gallery series.
This is the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s second time showing a highway art project in the Gulf nation. The Buddhist sculpture is part of what is known as the Year of Tolerance. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE, declared an official holiday on Dec. 15, 2018 to promote greater cultural awareness and understanding.
A tweet from Al Jazeera’s Arabic language account on April 2, featuring a piece published on the Arabic-language site, suggested that Abu Dhabi residents and “commentators [are] saying there is a return of idol worship to the Arabian Peninsula” because of the presence of the giant Buddhist sculpture. (RELATED: CNN Plays Cover-Up On Analyst’s Ties To Qatar Regime)
— قناة الجزيرة (@AJArabic) April 2, 2019
The Qatar-backed news site appeared to curate certain tweets to strengthen its attack on the rival Gulf nation. These tweets were from observant Muslims who were critical of the Buddha, which is a non-Islamic symbol.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt began a bitter feud with Qatar in 2017, distancing themselves from the Gulf nation and imposing sanctions on it following revelations that Qatar has been supporting terrorism.
One tweet Al Jazeera used came from Khalil Muqdad, who calls himself a writer and Syrian researcher in his Twitter bio. (RELATED: Author Of New York Times Anti-Israel Piece Works For Group Funded By Qatar)
In his tweet, Muqdad writes, “The history will record (or remember) the son of Zayed was the first one who got the idols back into the Arab Peninsula.” He was referring to Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) the crown price of Abu Dhabi whose father was the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan.
Another tweet Al Jazeera chose to feature is from a man named Saeed Nasser, who said the Buddhist statue was made for worshipping and quoted directly from the Hadith 2119. The tweet reads, “the day of resurrection won’t come unless some of the tribes from my Ummah (from the Muslim nation) unite with the idolaters, and until they worship idols.” Although he doesn’t include the rest of the verse in his tweet, the remainder of this particular Hadith reads, “And indeed there shall be thirty imposters in my Ummah, each of them claiming that he is a Prophet. And I am the last of the Prophets, there is no Prophet after me.”
“This idiot, Saeed who says the statue of Buddha is made for worshipping when everyone else knows it’s on the highway of the UAE in support for the Year of Tolerance,” Amjad Taha said. Taha, who authored the book “The Deception of the Arab Spring,” is one of several Arab journalists who were targeted and hacked as part of an extensive hacking operation allegedly carried out by Qatar.
The sculpture is located on E11 Sheikh Zayed Road. The Louvre Abu Dhabi describes the Highway Gallery as “an innovative project developed by Louvre Abu Dhabi in celebration of the UAE Innovation month. It has been created to reinforce art’s role in elevating everyday life into something beautiful and memorable.”
While the Qatar-backed news network Al Jazeera was quick to insinuate that the Buddhist sculpture was against Islamic teachings, it failed to explain the story behind the sculpture and how it arrived there in the first place.
According to the UAE-based National, the gallery is composed of 10 artwork replicas which have been reproduced as giant 3D sculptures and 10-meter-high billboards.
The wooden Buddha is a reproduction of the wooden Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion from China and is dated to between 1050 and 1150. The original ancient Chinese sculpture is currently sitting in the Louvre in France.
“I was in Abu Dhabi a few days ago and I saw this statue on the highway,” Taha said. “It’s not the only one you see. There are not just statues, there are pictures related to the Babylonian civilization in Iraq and the pharaohs in Egypt,” he said.
“What’s shocking is how clear it is that, journalistically speaking, when Al Jazeera posts news, they should be showing the whole scope of the story,” he said. “Instead, they focused merely on the Buddhist statue and they didn’t talk about the museum or what the purpose of this installation is.”
“It’s informing us about a little bit of history and I think they’re trying to get the people in the Middle East to learn about other people and cultures,” Taha said. “When you go to Dubai, building-wise it’s very much like New York City. So why not have a culture of tolerance and understanding like New York, too?” Taha offered.
“But the Al Jazeera platform spreads intolerance and is trying to ruin the meaning behind this and the other masterpieces. And one thing Abu Dhabi is doing is shining a fresh light on the shared stories of humanity. That’s another way of attempting to fight extremism: by giving people more knowledge about other people and cultures in the world.”
“Now the question is: One, why didn’t Qatari media focus on why the gallery is there and on the highway? Two, they used a media platform to divert the actual humanitarian and human values promotion in the installation. And three, Qatar is supposed to be hosting the 2022 World Cup. Are they still going to have it with this mentality? That Buddhists are idol worshippers and, if we are quoting form Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s book, that they should be killed?”
Asked why Al Jazeera’s English-language publication didn’t run the same story, Taha said Qatar had a “double agenda,” showing a progressive face to the West while sowing great discord and anger among Muslim youth.
“They always do that because in Al Jazeera Arabic they focus on the Arabs and Muslims who know Arabic and they try to radicalize the youth of the nation through using short messages and making people even more angry,” Taha said. “It’s not talking out of logic. It’s talking out of their emotions. Al Jazeera Arabic does that masterfully. And that’s why they don’t publish it in English.”
“Al Jazeera is not an independent agency,” he said.
As of Sunday, anyone who drives down Sheikh Zayed Road will be able to hear a 30-second story about each art installation by tuning into Radio 1FM (100.5 FM), Classic FM (91.6 FM) or Emarat FM (95.8 FM). The 30-second informative tidbits are available in both Arabic and English. For passers-by who wish to park their cars and take extra time to view the massive works of cultural art, the 30-second prompts keep repeating.