The intolerant movements that arose during the so-called “Arab Spring”, and the extremist ideologies which are considered a threat to the UAE’s tolerant society, have been reinforced by the emergence of the so-called “political Islam” movements.
The UAE has identified these as intolerant movements that work against Islamic teachings. So, the UAE government took a brave step to contain all means that might threaten the country’s tolerant culture through establishing both Sawab and Hedayah centres.
Hedayah was created in response to the growing desire from the wider international community for the establishment of an independent, multilateral centre devoted to capacity-building programs, dialogue and communications, in addition to research and analysis to counter violent extremism in all of its forms and manifestations
Sawab seeks to give a voice to millions of Muslims and others around the world who stand united against the terrorism and propaganda by the extremists. Terrorist organisations and their vicious ideologies have increased the hostility of the West against Islam.
For that reason, in July 2015, the UAE and US co-founded Sawab (The Arabic word ‘Sawab’ signifies ‘doing the right thing’ or ‘being on the right path’), which provides an online platform to spread messages of tolerance. It promotes positive information to counter extremism and social media agenda of terror outfits like Daesh.
Sawab uses online communication and social media tools to put things in the right perspective and to strengthen those many moderate voices that too often get drowned out by the noise of the extremists. News published in its website reminds Muslims of the real Islamic teachings. It makes the young aware of extremist actions, and alerts them against radical propaganda.
Sawab posts several examples of Islamic teaching; for example Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Allah has revealed to me that you should humble to one another. One should neither hold himself above another nor transgress against another.” Sawab digital platform also includes other useful information to all Muslims youth.
Some anecdotes include: “You are responsible for what you publish online. If your discourse is hateful, it will encourage others to promote hate. Be sure your opinions reflect tolerance and respect”. Another post goes like: “we can unite against every extremist to create a better future, free from hatred and discrimination”. All these critical messages are aimed at directing people to the right path.
In December 2012, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation launched Hedayah (Arabic for ‘guidance’), the new name of the International Centre for Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism, in Abu Dhabi.
Hedayah solidified its independence through UAE Federal Law No. 7 of October 2013. It serves as the premier international hub for policymakers, practitioners and researchers in countering violent extremism, to enhance understanding and share good practices across the globe to promote tolerance, stability and security.
Hedayah was created in response to the growing desire from the wider international community for the establishment of an independent, multilateral centre devoted to capacity-building programs, dialogue and communications, in addition to research and analysis to counter violent extremism in all of its forms and manifestations.
Maqsoud Krus, the Executive Director of the Hedayah Centre, outlines crucial information that has been disclosed by the UAE government; 150,000 terrorist websites were identified in 2015, and 80% of Deash members were recruited via the internet.
The above examples demonstrate that the UAE government has taken to protect cross-border thoughts that spread out through digital platforms which could easily threaten the peacefulness and integration of our societies.
Dr Noura S. Al Mazrouei is a writer, international tolerance expert, and artist