Masjid message: Modi showcases India’s secular culture to Japan’s PM

japan-gujarat-abe-mosqueAHMEFDABAD: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe got a taste of India’s syncretic culture as he visited the 16th century Sidi Saiyyad mosque in Ahmedabad. Cultural diplomacy was in full flow during Mr Abe’s trip to India, which began on September 13 with a visit to the iconic Sabarmati Ashram, home to Mahatma Gandhi for decades.

Mr Modi showed Mr Abe and First Lady Akie Abe around the ashram, and explained to the amused couple the message behind the statue of Gandhi’s famous ‘Three Monkeys’.

Subsequently Mr. Modi accompanied Mr Abe to the mosque. The Sidi Saiyyad mosque is known for its exquisite latticework named the ‘Tree of Life Jali’ done on the semi-circular arch windows. It was commissioned by the last Gujarat Sultanate and was built in the year 1572-73 by an Abyssinian known as Sidi Saeed or Sidi Saiyyad.

This is the first time that PM Modi has accompanied a visiting foreign leader to a mosque. During his visit to UAE in 2015, Mr. Modi had visited the largest mosque in the country, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

With the global spotlight on freedom of expression in India in the wake of the savage killing of a journalist-activist by unknown fanatics, Mr Modi’s decision to take Mr Abe on a guided tour of the mosque was designed to show India’s pluralistic culture.

India is home to the world’s second largest Muslim population, after Indonesia. The visit to the mosque has an added political significance in view of the upcoming elections in Gujarat where Mr Modi’s party, BJP, will try to beat the anti-incumbency factor to lead the most prosperous state in India.


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