Oct 15th 2020
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.
The Abraham Accords, bringing peace 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 told The Jerusalem Post. He said 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.
“We need to pool all resources to work together, to counter terrorism. They [terrorists] are across borders, they are everywhere,” Dr. Ali al Nuaimi told the Post. “It’s our responsibility as Muslims to get back our religion and to show it to our kids as a religion of peace.”
After decades of the UAE waging a war against extremism both on its shores and abroad through the likes of soft power such as foreign aid and education, Nuaimi said that such an approach was an essential path to preventing radicalization and combating extremism.
Co-existence is a key facet of a more stable future, he added. “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,” he said. “Those who help Christians or Jews move out of [countries such as] Iraq, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, are doing something that’s a threat to all of us. 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 (Islamist group in UAE) found to be preaching hate from the likes of schools, mosques and the country’s Islamic Affairs Ministry. Extremist preachers, Nuaimi said, “hijacked” true Islam for the sake of their agenda, and had reached the highest echelons of society, including even teachers of the royals, such as the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, an experience which has led him to a zero tolerance stance against extremist groups.
The accords were approved by the Israeli cabinet this week, after the signing ceremony last month at the White House. It was the right time, says Nuaimi.
“We want to promote the message that this region has suffered enough and we had to break the boundaries, break the ice. We explored what we’ve been doing for 70 years and it didn’t get us anywhere, so let’s choose something different,” he explained.
Times have changed, he said, 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. He claimed that those which have taken place, were sponsored.
“If we did this treaty 20 years ago, you would see hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in many Arab cities. You didn’t see any of that, instead you saw paid demonstrations funded by Qataris, the Muslim Brotherhood, [PA leader 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, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry estimated that around 90% of Arabic social media posts regarding the recent agreements reacted “negatively” to the development. It too suggested the posts were part of an organized campaign to undermine the deal, the majority of the accounts associated in some way with Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.Dr. Mohammed Abdullah al-Ali, director-general of TRENDS Research & Advisory think tank in the UAE, agrees. “The Abraham Accords are about building bridges of peace, and it will help douse the flames of extremism,” he said. Political and religious leaders in the likes of Iran and Turkey have made no secret of their disapproval of the accords, and he warned that there will be consequences. “Countries and organizations fueling such [extremist] rhetoric must realize that it is in everyone’s interest to promote peace and security. That is the only way to ensure progress and prosperity in the region.” Saudi academic, Dr. Najah Alosaimi, a specialist on Islamic extremism, says the accords in fact 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 towards 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 region and the work of some of the region’s governments to counter such views, attitudes are changing, she said, for the better. 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. To those who see the move as a betrayal to the Palestinian cause, Ali said there was no alternative than the path of peace. “In many cases, we consider their cause a priority, not our security or national interest. 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,” he said. He asserted that the accords are not “for Israel” but for what the UAE believes is right for the region, suggesting the accords are just the start of more to come. “There is an opportunity we shouldn’t miss. This is why we are encouraging others to do so too,” he said.