Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi meets with a UAE media delegation at the Sharjah Book Authority’s pavilionon the sidelines of the London Book Fair Image Credit: WAM

London: Rational counter-terrorism policies in Arab and Muslim countries must start at home where families have the ultimate responsibility to raise their children in an environment of tolerance and true Islamic and universal values, His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, said.

“We must distinguish between the true Islamic faith and the terrorist groups that claim to be fighting under the banner of Islam. Loyalty to values and ethics is a practical and realistic solution in dealing with extremist and radical groups. A military approach or the use of sanctions may fuel terrorism and feed extremism, leading to the creation of new factions, adopting the same approach,” Shaikh Sultan said.

“We must start at home, where parents should raise their children in an environment that leads to nurturing a well-educated generation. They will be able to think with reason and adapt to changes around them,” Shaikh Sultan said in a wide-ranging interview with UAE media at the Sharjah Book Authority’s (SBA) pavilion on the sidelines of the London Book Fair (LBF 2017).

He said ties between Arab nations currently “are among the worst in the world. Military conflicts, wars and struggles are everywhere in the Arab region — whether it is Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Libya, we see turmoil and violence all around us. We see for ourselves the killing and suffering through television, newspapers and other media.”

A key reason behind these conflicts is the increasing deterioration of values and tolerance in Arab communities, Shaikh Sultan noted. “The magnitude of destruction and loss of life experienced in the Arab world is reprehensible. This is due to a lack of ethics and I truly hope that Arabs in general will embrace and promote the Islamic moral system in their communities to end these horrors.”

Shaikh Sultan compared the current situation in the Arab world to the state of Jahiliya, the pre-Islamic era of ignorance and infighting. “The call to Islam came during difficult and deteriorating conditions experienced by the Arabs in Makkah. Today, we are experiencing a new form of Jahiliya that needs to return to the transcendent values of Islam. As Islam gave Arabs dignity and glory after they were divided into warring tribes, we can rise again through our faith.

“The most important thing we can do is preserve our religion. I put forward my ideas in a play entitled Daesh Wa Al Ghabra. As the Arab nations built their civilisations on Islam, we too can reignite our civilisations today.”

In the play, which focuses on war and its elements of revenge, vengeance and hate, Shaikh Sultan appeals to those who instigate such conflicts to stop killing and inflicting cruelty, and calls on them to practice tolerance, reconciliation and compassion. He also called for a culture of forgiveness, unity and solidarity under the generosity of Islam and its humanitarian teachings.

Shaikh Sultan also highlighted the historical role of Islam in unifying cultures. “The achievements made by the Islamic world throughout history show that there was no discrimination against Muslims in many essential fields such as science, discovery and education on the grounds of their ethnic backgrounds. For centuries, Islam has brought together many nations under one identity based on morals and noble values.

“We must stick to what unites us and reject anything that divides us. What drives us apart today are unfounded accusations, blame, humiliation and injustice, all of which are basically forbidden by our religion.”

Shaikh Sultan said that the Islamic moral system is all that is needed to strengthen communities in the face of the devastation, strife and conflict engulfing the region.

In the interview, Shaikh Sultan highlight the UAE’s emphasis on reading to strengthen knowledge and culture. “It is not necessary for every member of society to be highly educated, what is more important is to be brought up with sound values, and this is the duty of mothers and fathers.

“This role is not confined to religious clerics. Each of us has a duty to represent our religion through its commitment, knowledge and science, and all Muslims should know more about their religion and its foundations and fundamentals.”

Shaikh Sultan called for tolerance in the Arab world and said isolationism cannot work. “National foundations do exist and cannot be denied, but all those who called for pan-nationalism have failed. If we examine the theories and ideologies behind pan-nationalism, whether by the Baath Party, the Arab Nationalist Movement, or the work of the late Egyptian president Jamal Abdul Nasser, we find that they all have failed because their approaches were not based on inclusive principles and values.”

Upcoming books

Shaikh Sultan, a celebrated author and historian, revealed in the interview that he is working on a substantial historical work involving three volumes. The first is a historical manuscript that went missing 200 years ago, in which a foreign explorer gave a detailed description of the Arabian Gulf coasts.

“I found the manuscript at a time when the entire world, in particular the Portuguese, were looking for it. I will publish it in its full in order to benefit education centres and researchers who are studying the region’s history,” Shaikh Sultan told UAE media.

The second book, he added, is entitled ‘I Condemn’. “It involves manuscripts depicting abusive treatment against Muslims in Andalusia. It is a document written by a lawyer who was then defending Muslims. My role is to present this to the Spanish people, literally saying ‘I Condemn’. This work is among the most important that I write in serving Islam. I am looking forward immensely to praying in Cordoba Mosque and hope dearly that, in the future, a day will be dedicated to Muslims just as it is to their Christian brothers.”

Shaikh Sultan’s third project is another history book titled ‘Sharjah between Protection and Colonialism’, which complements the historical events in his previous work, ‘Under the Flag of Occupation’, in which he chronicled Sharjah’s history under British rule.

Sharjah between Protection and Colonialism shows how the emirate was transformed into a complete military base that brought together a huge number of troops after the colonial military forces were shifted from Aden to Sharjah.

On his writing style, Shaikh Sultan said he was basically “a storyteller, reading books for students in the neighbourhood. I used my own technique and this is why a narrative style has suited me so well ever since I was a child. I am also completely dedicated to the quality of my work. I read and re-read every chapter at least ten times to ensure the accuracy and credibility of the information and I do not hesitate to delete as much as I need until I am entirely satisfied.”

Role of media

Emphasising the role of the media in spreading the noble values of Islam, Shaikh Sultan said in the interview that he wants to send a message to the local and wider Arab media.

“You can all be partners in this by carrying good, accurate and reliable information and refraining from reporting whatever ignites division, racism and all forms of corruption,” he told the editors.

“At this critical time in our history, we are in dire need of rational voices that call for understanding and reconciliation for the benefit of Arab countries. I hope that the media will play its part in spreading this message,” he stressed.

He also noted that some of those “who write in newspapers are not professionals, this why we see so many errors — some articles written today are based on information dating back to the 1950s”. He underlined the need for the establishment of research centres to boost media content.