AE Commits to Counter Violent E tremism
ABU DHABI. While the United Arab Emirates, together with its allies around the world, continues to engage actively in the global struggle against extremism and terrorism, there is still much to be done to identify the best ways of tackling the problem, according to Maqsoud Kruse, the Executive Director of Hedayah, the Abu Dhabi- based International Centre of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, CVE. “To be realistic and frank,” he says, “we are still in need of systematic approaches to further understand the complexity of the phenomena of violent extremism.” Only then, he says, will it be possible to develop “effective, tested and proven interventions which, once tested and proven, can emerge as a ‘good’ practice’ that is both ‘valid’ and ‘reliable’.”
As part of its work, Hedayah is now into its second year of an expanding Global Programme on the Development of National CVE Strategies. Part of this involves recognition that the drivers that contribute to the spread of extremism can be different in each country.
The National Strategies, Kruse says, must be long term and inclusive. “We have learned that we need to shift our thinking from focusing on the problem towards focusing on solutions by providing the platform for generating ideas that can provide creative, innovative, and authentic interventions.” Kruse adds, “Take the UAE as an example of a “Multi-Axiom” national strategy that takes into consideration the development of the legal infrastructure to counter extremism; the important role of education; the promotion of tolerance, happiness and youth engagement; and the positive role of families, women, culture and religious moderation.”
In pursuit of this objective, Hedayah has built partnerships with governments, existing international and regional training centres and think tanks, relevant academic and research institutions and multilateral organisations, as well as CVE experts and relevant private sector and nongovernmental organisations from around the world.
Officials note that besides Hedayah, the UAE has also been engaged in the launching of two other international initiatives designed to counter violent extremism, with a particular focus on the situation within the region. One is the Sawab Centre, launched jointly with the United States, which is the first-ever multi-national online messaging and engagement programme in support of the Global Coalition Against Daesh. Another is The Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies that had as one of its key deliverables the establishment of the Muslim Council of Elders, an independent international body which brings together leading scholars to promote an accurate understanding of the message of Islam and the real nature of the tolerance that lies at its heart.
One of its significant outcomes is the “Marrakesh Declaration”, which is based on the historic revival of the objectives and aims of the “Charter of Medina”, which was declared by the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and provide insights about the rights of religious minorities in Muslim lands, both in theory and practice.
While the struggle against extremism is one that spans the globe, it is one that is of particular concern to the United Arab Emirates.
As the UAE Ambassador to the United States, Yousuf Al Otaiba, noted in an article a few days ago to mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, “In the Middle East, in the heart of the Arab world, we face an existential threat from extremism. Our communities, our families, our livelihoods, our entire way of life are exposed and under constant attack.”
“In the UAE,” Al Otaiba noted, “we are advancing moderation in both our schools and places of worship. Our education system is built to reinforce Islam’s true values based on dialogue, tolerance, moderation, and peace. And in our mosques, we are modernising the way Islam is taught, developing new training programmes for imams and updating Quranic commentaries.”
Another aspect of this policy is the determination of the UAE Government to promote and sustain the climate of religious tolerance and co-existence to be found in the Emirates. While the UAE is a Muslim country, the freedom to worship is guaranteed by the UAE Constitution and there are currently over 40 churches serving Christian expatriates, as well as temples for the Hindu and Sikh communities.
The commitment to religious tolerance and dialogue, as well as the underlying nature of the true values of Islam, is frequently emphasised by leading government officials. For example, the UAE has enacted the AntiDiscriminatory Law, issued following a decree by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that criminalises any acts that stoke religious hatred or which insult religion through any form of expression.
Maqsoud Kruse, Executive Director of Hedayah