UAE- A vision for a moderate modern Muslim world: Yousef Al Otaiba
(MENAFN- Emirates News Agency (WAM))
ABU DHABI 5th December 2015 (WAM) -- In an article published by Foreign Policy magazine in its on-line edition on Wednesday coinciding with the 44th UAE National Day Yousef Al Otaiba UAE Ambassador to the United States said that creating an ideology of openness optimism and opportunity in the Gulf is a key component to defeating extremism. He reiterated that Daesh must not only be defeated on the field of battle but also in the war of conflicting ideologies. "As Muslims we have the most at stake and must be leaders on both fronts."
Al Otaiba said that with incidents in St. Petersburg and Sinai Bamako and Beirut Mosul and Paris the world had been shocked by a murderous month of Islamic extremist violence. He explained that with a more sophisticated enemy and the return of radicalised fighters the Middle East's terrorism challenge has become a global challenge in a way not seen since the 9/11 attacks.
"In the United Arab Emirates we are joined with the international community to bring new energy to the fight against the most destabilising and dangerous force since fascism. For more than 12 years from the air and on the ground the UAE has been combating extremists in Afghanistan Somalia Syria and Yemen. We continue to aggressively attack extremist support networks blocking the flow of funds and foreign fighters contesting extremists online and devising new counter-radicalisation strategies.
"But success on the battlefield may be the easy part. We know that to win we must not only defeat what we are against but we must also define what we as Muslims and Arabs are for. True victory can only come when the more powerful forces of tolerance and progress prevail over the twisted ideology of the Islamic State and its kind.
"Is this even possible in the Middle East? One hundred years after the Sykes-Picot agreement [also known as the Asia Minor Agreement] can the region overcome its history of sectarian and ethnic division? Is there a new model of and for the Middle East built on hope rather than hate? "In the UAE we are trying to find out. We are testing a new vision for the region an alternative future-oriented ideology. It is a path guided by the true tenets of Islam: respect inclusion and peace. It empowers women embraces diversity encourages innovation and welcomes global engagement."
Al Otaiba went on "With the world's attention focused on the aftermath of the Paris attacks it went largely unnoticed that Amal Al Qubaisi was appointed as president of the UAE's Federal National Council making her the first woman in the region to lead a national assembly. An architect by profession she was also the first woman to be a member of the council.
"Just weeks earlier a group of Emirati and expatriate religious political and diplomatic leaders celebrated the reopening of the restored St. Andrew's Church in Abu Dhabi. The Anglican church's chaplain the Rev. Canon Andrew Thompson has said that in many ways it's easier being a Christian here than it is in the United Kingdom.
"Father Bishoy Salib of Abu Dhabi's Coptic Orthodox Church recently expressed a similar sentiment saying that the UAE is an exemplary worldwide model of multi-religion gathering and cooperation. This is the peaceful environment where all regions can grow and meet each other."
"In the same spirit of openness the Emirati government announced this summer that it is donating the land for the country's third Hindu temple. These churches and temples along with many other centres of worship serve the nearly 8 million expatriates of virtually all faiths and nationalities who live and work together peacefully in the UAE."
Al Otaiba also highlighted the fact that the media sometimes miss out on important stories from the region saying "Little noticed was the November 21st meeting in Cairo of the Muslim Council of Elders which strongly condemned the Paris and Mali massacres. The council is an international body of forward-thinking scholars and experts that is giving greater voice to moderate Islam. Established and supported by Emirati leaders the council is modernising the way Islam is taught in schools developing new training programmes for imams and updating Quranic commentaries.
"Beyond encouraging religious diversity and tolerance we are also seeding an ideology of optimism and opportunity. In Washington this week the UAE will join with NASA in recognising the UAE Space Agency and its ambitious plans to put a probe on Mars in 2021 our country's 50th anniversary. For the UAE this is the Arab world's version of President John F. Kennedy's moon shot; a galvanizing vision for the future that can engage and excite a new generation of Emirati and Arab youth.
"Putting a probe on Mars is a vision for the future but putting people to work is the challenge of today. In the UAE we are building an economic engine for the entire region a place where the free flow of goods services people investment and ideas lifts the entire Middle East and links it to Africa Asia Europe and the Americas. It is a sustainable post-hydrocarbon economy driven by innovation human capital rule of law and open trade."
The ambassador concluded by saying that the UAE believes it is possible to be Muslim moderate and modern at the same time. "We are committed to promoting this ideology of openness optimism and opportunity across the region. Arab parents can and should believe that their children's future can be better than their own. We know it is a vision but also a realistic and attainable one no less difficult or less inspiring than launching a man to the moon or a mission to Mars."