UAE anti-terror chief: We must pool resources with Israel to fight terror

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Since 9/11, the UAE has developed a comprehensive strategy to target terrorism in the region, symbolized by its sending troops to Afghanistan alongside the US.

A United Arab Emirates (UAE) flag waves alongside an Israeli flag (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRISTOPHER PIKE)

A United Arab Emirates (UAE) flag waves alongside an Israeli flag

(photo credit: REUTERS/CHRISTOPHER PIKE)

DUBAI – The Abraham Accords, bringing normalization between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, are a victory for defeating extremism in the Middle East, a counterterror adviser to the UAE government has told The Jerusalem Post.
A new approach was long overdue, and the time had come to finally acknowledge the central place of Jews and Christians in the region’s history, Dr. Ali al-Nuaimi said.

“We need to pool all resources to work together to counter terrorism,” he said. “They [terrorists] are across borders; they are everywhere. It’s our responsibility as Muslims to get back our religion and to show it to our kids as a religion of peace.”

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the UAE sent troops to Afghanistan alongside the US and since then has developed a comprehensive strategy to target terrorism in the region, Nuaimi said.

“Terrorism does not have a religion,” he said. “Terrorists are a threat to all of us, to the world, and no single nation will by itself be able to counter terrorism.”

The UAE has waged a war against extremism at home and abroad through “soft power” such as foreign aid and education, Nuaimi said, adding that such an approach was essential to prevent radicalization.

Coexistence is a key facet of a more stable future, he said, adding: “The roots of the Jews and Christianity are in this area, not in North America or Europe. They belong here; they are part of us.”

“Those who help Christians or Jews move out of [countries such as] Iraq, Morocco, Syria [and] Egypt are doing something that’s a threat to all of us,” Nuaimi said. “Those who are part of our history should be part of our future.”

Since the 1990s, the UAE has expelled dozens of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Islah (an Islamist group) who were preaching hate from schools, mosques and the Islamic Affairs Ministry.

Extremist preachers “hijacked” true Islam for the sake of their agenda, Nuaimi said. They reached the highest echelons of society, he said, including teachers of the royals, such as the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, an experience that led him to a zero-tolerance stance against extremist groups.

The signing ceremony for the accords took place last month at the White House, and they were approved by the Israeli cabinet this week. It was the right time, Nuaimi said.

“We want to promote the message that this region has suffered enough, and we had to break the boundaries, break the ice,” he said. “We explored what we’ve been doing for 70 years, and it didn’t get us anywhere, so let’s choose something different.”

Times have changed, and a reflection of this new era in the region is the scale of demonstrations witnessed against the accords, much smaller than would have been the case in the past, Nuaimi said. The ones that have taken place were sponsored, he said.

“If we did this treaty 20 years ago, you would see hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in many Arab cities,” Nuaimi said. “You didn’t see any of that. Instead, you saw paid demonstrations funded by Qataris, the Muslim Brotherhood, [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas and Hamas. They don’t represent the Palestinian people or the Arab world. We understand this will happen, and there is a campaign against us.”

In a recent study, the Strategic Affairs Ministry estimated that about 90% of Arabic social-media posts regarding the recent agreements reacted negatively to the development. It indicated the posts were part of an organized campaign to undermine the deal, and the majority of the accounts had connections to Hezbollah, Hamas and the PA.

Political and religious leaders in Iran and Turkey have made no secret of their disapproval of the accords, warning there will be consequences.

According to Dr. Mohammed Abdullah al-Ali, director-general of TRENDS Research & Advisory think tank in the UAE, “The Abraham Accords are about building bridges of peace, and it will help douse the flames of extremism.”

“Countries and organizations fueling such [extremist] rhetoric must realize that it is in everyone’s interest to promote peace and security,” he said. “That is the only way to ensure progress and prosperity in the region.”

Dr. Najah al-Otaibi, a Saudi academic and specialist on Islamic extremism, said the accords help undermine the region’s antisemitic and anti-non-Muslim rhetoric, which has been dominant for decades.

“The hatred of ‘other faith’ is fading as a result of such political moves toward peace,” she said. “If you look back to major Islamic violent attacks, you will find that those involved often cited the Arab-Israeli conflict, or hate of the kuffar [nonbelievers], and even justified their violence to support the Islamic causes against the non-Muslims.”

Due to greater access to education in the Middle East and the work of some of the region’s governments to counter such views, attitudes are changing for the better, Otaibi said, adding that the future is in the hands of the younger generation.

“The idea that Israel or other non-Muslim countries are enemies will fade with this new tolerant generation,” she said.

Even though some Muslims regard the accords as a betrayal to the Palestinian cause, Nuaimi said there was no better alternative than the path of peace.

“In many cases, we consider their cause a priority, not our security or national interest,” he said. “We were very supportive in helping negotiation and supporting the peace path, but we ended up fed up with their agenda and negotiation. Whenever we brought something to them that was good, they refused it. When they came back years later and wanted it, it was no longer on the table.”

The accords are not for Israel but for what the UAE believes is right for the region, Nuaimi said, indicating the accords are the beginning of more to come.

“There is an opportunity we shouldn’t miss,” he said. “This is why we are encouraging others to do so too.”

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