Thursday 03 October 2019
The UAE is leading efforts to confront extremist ideology at the regional and global level, seeking to dismantle the logic and pretexts with which it tries to influence young minds by manipulating them into adopting ideas and practices that threaten communities, countries and global security.
In its approach to dismantling extremist ideology, the UAE relies on a set of fundamental premises. The most important of these are:
1. Extremist ideology represents a gateway to terrorism and is one of its main causes. Those who embrace extremist or radical ideology are prepared to resort to violence to defend their beliefs. This is especially the case when individuals already predisposed to join terrorist organizations are targeted by recruitment campaigns that focus on extremist ideologies. Therefore, confronting extremist ideology is at the heart of a comprehensive response to terrorism and represents a proactive approach to addressing its dangers.
2. Extremist ideology is the main source of religious, doctrinal and sectarian conflict in societies. It is based on the rejection of others, at times labeling them infidels to justify bloodshed and as a pretext for inflicting harm, which results in dismantling societies and driving them toward civil war. Extremist ideology triggers, and nurtures, tendencies toward the clash of civilizations, cultures and religions, which in turn threatens coexistence at the international level, adding more causes of tension worldwide.
3. Extremist ideology, as it leads to conflict, tension and deadlock in society, is one of the greatest impediments to development and progress. It hinders the process of mobilizing resources of societies that should otherwise serve development and progress aspirations. It also prevents national consensus on higher interests and goals, and creates loopholes that enemies exploit to undermine security, development and the stability of societies.
4. Extremist ideology represents an affront to religions as extremists hijack religion, distort interpretations of it, and commit crimes in its name. This is far worse than the most dangerous of crimes, due to the influence that religion, any religion, has on people anywhere and at any time. Currently, the focus is on the extremist religious ideology of powers and groups affiliated to Islam, yet this type of extremist ideology is not limited to a specific religion, race or geographical region, rather it was, and still is, present in all societies and religions to varying degrees. I have explored in detail the issue of the extremist ideology, the groups that embrace it and the danger it poses, in my book, The Mirage.
A Comprehensive Approach
In its quest to dismantle extremist ideology, the UAE has adopted a comprehensive approach, based on two levels; the intellectual-value level, and at the practical-institutional level.
1. At the intellectual-value level, the UAE works to consolidate anti-extremism values. While fanaticism, radicalization, isolation and rejection of the other dominate the extremist ideology, regardless of its types and sources, the UAE disseminates, entrenches and consolidates a system of counter-extremist values based on tolerance, moderation, coexistence, and acceptance of and openness to the other. The UAE sees religious, doctrinal, sectarian and ethnic diversity as a source of integration, cooperation and connection between people, and not as a cause of confrontation and conflict. This was expressed by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces (may God protect him), in his statement to the whole world when His Holiness Pope Francis, and His Eminence Dr. Ahmad Al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif, visited the UAE in February 2019. His Highness said: “The universe accommodates all of us, diversity is a source of wealth and not a cause of conflict or strife. God has created us different so that we can complement and know each other, and work together for the sake of peace and prosperity for all of us.”
In addition to being a role model for the world in bringing together over 200 nationalities living in tolerance, love and harmony, the UAE strives to promote and bolster these principles in the global arena. This was reflected in the signing of a historic and exceptional document, during the visit of His Holiness the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar to the UAE. The Human Fraternity Document spreads a message of coexistence, peace and love from the UAE to the entire world, and affirms the UAE’s status as a global capital for tolerance. I stressed in the article, UAE: a Global Capital of Tolerance, published by Al-Ittihad Newspaper on March 5, 2019, that following the visit of the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar to the UAE, and its substantial outcomes for global peace, security and coexistence, the UAE leadership, and both the Pope and Grand Imam of Al Azhar, deserve the Noble Peace Prize.
2. At the practical-institutional level, the UAE fights extremist ideology by launching initiatives and institutions designed to dismantle it. This includes, but is not limited to, the Dubai International Peace Convention in 2010, and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for World Peace launched in 2011, which totals $1.5 million. The International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism (Hedayah), established in 2012, aims to become the first international institute for training, dialogue, collaboration and research combating all forms of violent extremism. The Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies was established in 2014, while the Muslim Council of Elders intends to spread peace and coexistence in the Islamic world, as well as to counter sectarianism. The UAE also enacted a law to combat discrimination and hatred in 2015, which criminalizes and severely punishes any act of religious vilification, fights speech that triggers hatred and labels other as infidels, and prevents all forms of discrimination based on religion, doctrine, belief, creed, caste, race, color or ethnic origin. In 2015, Sawab Center was launched, in partnership with the U.S., as an interactive digital communication initiative to enhance the efforts of the global alliance in fighting extremism and terrorism. In 2016, the UAE cabinet approved the National Tolerance Program to foster the true image of moderation and respect for other beliefs, and to promote principles of tolerance and coexistence. The UAE also created the first Ministry of Tolerance in 2016, as well as the International Institute for Tolerance in 2017. His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE (may God protect him), also declared 2019 the Year of Tolerance, underlining the UAE leadership’s sincere belief in the significance of tolerance in combating extremism and terrorism, and its ills that go beyond state borders, targeting all, without exception.
These initiatives reflect some of the UAE’s efforts in fighting extremist ideology, yet it is not the end of the journey. What is remarkable about the UAE’s approach is that it is continuous and ever-evolving as a result of the profound attention it gives to the severe threat of extremist ideology and the importance of a ceaseless movement to counter it.