In a bid to promote coexistence and send a clear message against intolerance, a mosque in Abu Dhabi has been renamed in honor of the Virgin Mary.
The Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Mosque in Al Mushrif district has been renamed 'Mariam, Umm Eisa', which is Arabic for 'Mary, the mother of Jesus'.
The change was requested by Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who hopes that the move would "consolidate bonds of humanity between followers of different religions," according to Gulf News.
Al-Bayan reported that Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance, hailed the move as a statement of "tolerance, coexistence, and respect for religions," noting that it coincides with the Zayed Humanitarian Day that was celebrated on June 14.
Chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, Mohammed Al Kaabi, praised the UAE's efforts to promote tolerance and coexistence, saying "There are people from over 200 nationalities currently living in the UAE, who enjoy security, peace, and co-existence, as our holy religion urges us to follow justice, respect others and co-operate in giving with other people."
Christian figures also welcomed the news and expressed their appreciation for the UAE's efforts to strengthen ties between communities of different faiths.
“We are delighted that we are celebrating something that we have in common between both our faiths. Mary, as the mother of Jesus, is, of course, a holy special figure in our communities," an Anglican Christian reverend told Gulf News.
Virgin Mary is actually one of the most esteemed women in Islam, as she is among only eight people to have a Qur'anic chapter named after them.
Abu Dhabi has been all about encouraging coexistence this Ramadan. Last week, St. George Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Simhasana Cathedral in Al Ain welcomed Muslim worshipers for Islamic Friday prayers and an iftar, becoming one of the first churches in the UAE to host Islamic Friday prayers.
These initiatives come in line with the country's plans to boost its national values of religious tolerance.
Last February, the government founded the Ministry of Tolerance and appointed Shaikha Lubna as its head. Since then, the ministry has been launching and partaking in regional and international initiatives to promote tolerance and coexistence.
The cabinet approved a national tolerance program in June 2016, reaffirming respect for others as a key value of the nation.
According to the UAE's Minister of State Tolerance, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the program "aims to fight ignorance and extremism based on the teachings of Islam, the constitution, the legacy of the UAE's founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, international conventions and the nation's ethics."
At the time of the launch, Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai spoke of the importance of tolerance in the nation, saying that it's a key value of its ancestors and founding fathers.