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People start lining up around 4pm at the mosque, more than two hours before iftar, for the meal distribution Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Right after the Asr prayer, around 4pm these days, hundreds of residents living start lining up at the only Chinese mosque in Dubai. Volunteers at the Chinese Islamic Cultural Centre then start handing out food parcels and iftar packs to those who queue up, regardless of religion and ethnic background.

Chinese imam Isaac Khan said around 2,000 food packs are prepared daily. The initiative is in collaboration with Dubai Charity Association, Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department and Dubai Police. Contributions also come from individual donors and various Chinese organisations, while young volunteers help in repacking the parcels daily.

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Isaac Khan Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

After receiving the food packs, the residents go back home to prepare their meals, while others stay at the mosque and some wait at the nearby greenery, next to the basketball court, for the sun to go down, before preparing for the Maghrib prayer.

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Volunteers help distribute the iftar packs Image Credit: Supplied

Everyone is welcome

Alhafiz AlKhoory, 30, a staff at Chinese Islamic Cultural Centre and originally from Mauritania, told Gulf News that everyone was welcome at the centre. The mosque, located in International City’s China Cluster (near Dragon Mart), was constructed in 2015. It opened the same year and was the first-of-its-kind project in the region, aimed mainly for the benefit of overseas Chinese Muslims. Construction of the 26,000-square foot Islamic centre was supported by Dubai-based charitable organisation Dar Al Ber Society.

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The mosque is about seven years old Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

Khan said the mosque symbolises tolerance and solidarity. Staff and volunteers at the Chinese mosque come from different nationalities — Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Bangladeshis and some from Central Asia, including Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The long-serving Chinese imam also reiterated “the indispensable role of overseas Chinese Muslims from different ethnic backgrounds”.

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Alhafiz AlKhoory Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

Growing Chinese Muslim community

According to the Chinese Consulate in Dubai, there are more than 300,000 Chinese expats living in the UAE, with around 95 per cent of them based in Dubai. The number of Chinese Muslims in Dubai is less as compared to other major expat communities, but it is on the rise and there is also a sizeable segment who have embraced Islam in recent years.

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Chinese Islamic Cultural Centre in Dubai Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

One Chinese Muslim told Gulf News that he is happy to experience Islamic culture. “Dubai is the best choice for my family to do business and living here is really very convenient, especially when it comes to fasting and observing religious activities. There are also many mosques, so it’s easier for us to go for prayers every day.”

“Chinese Muslims like to visit and find a job here,” he noted, adding: “Dubai is truly an international city and its openness to other cultures is its main attraction.”

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Distribution of iftar meals

Meanwhile, the Chinese Consulate and Chinese expat community will distribute iftar meals on Friday at a workers’ accommodation in Muhaisnah, Dubai. Li Xuhang, the Chinese Consul General in Dubai, will be present at the event, which is also in response to the UAE’s ‘1 Billion Meals’ campaign this Ramadan.