Abu Dhabi: Poverty, unfair treatment and corruption are responsible for the spread of terrorism across the world, according to a leading authority on the issue.

In an interview with Gulf News, Dr Salwa Ghaddar Younes, Ambassador of the International Organisation for the Interfaith Speech and Civilisations of the World (IOISCW) and head of the House of Wisdom, said that terrorist groups in the Middle East region exploit these social divisions and disconnections to promote their agendas.

The 70-year-old, who has dedicated most of her life to philanthropic work in many countries and war-torn states, said: “Despite our differences in race, creed and beliefs, we are all but part of the same humanity. If more and more start seeing the world not as between ‘us and them’ but as one human community with a shared future with a common desire for peace, then there is hope that the gap shall be bridged sooner than we all think.”

She added that people lose nothing when they begin to talk to one another because dialogue will lead to friendship and to greater understanding and empathy.

Commenting on the Arab Spring, Dr Younes said: “When there are fair leaders who care about their people’s needs, there will be a very balanced society. But once there is imbalance, the result will be extremism in all its forms, whether physically, ethnic, nationalist or religious.

“Without doubt, we can say that the followers of religions are eligible more than others to study the real reasons that foment violence, and then we can develop proposals and recommendations to address and eliminate it and spread peace, coexistence and a culture of cooperation in their communities and with the other communities.”

Dr Younes said that while the Middle East has always been richly diverse, the region’s cultural fabric has been under threat of unraveling at the seams as a result of conflicts and terrorism.

“Terrorism may be the single most serious challenge facing us all today,” she said. “The scope of terrorism is global or transnational and the victims are across nationalities, cultures, classes, ages and gender.”

To solve this issue, she said, there has to a high level of cooperation and coordination among the countries to halt all forms of baseless religious fanaticism as terrorists target the poor and uneducated.

Dr Younes underlined the importance of promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people regardless of religion, belief, culture and language and pointed to the example of Al Qaida, who had, over time, spread their influence by setting up local cells, providing money and training local terrorist groups. Therefore, Dr Younes said, once there is a fair leader in the country who cares about the interests of his people, such fanatic groups and extremists will have no foundation.

“To solve such issues we also need a concerted effort from clerics of all religions to mobilise people of different religious faiths to carry out peace efforts,” she said. “Also, education is very important as it promotes the principles of interfaith dialogue and arms the learner with tactics and knowledge to handle and judge before he leaps.”