The Sawab Center: A Comprehensive Initiative to Counter Terrorism

  • 11 July 2015

The Sawab Center, launched recently by the UAE in collaboration with the United States, is a significant initiative to counter online propaganda by terrorists. It aims to support the anti-Da’esh international coalition, led by the United States in its war against the terrorist group, and to tackle extremist ideologies threatening peace and security in several countries of the region. This is a major development not only because it will counter Da’esh and other extremist group propaganda through social media – which has become an outlet for spreading extremist and destructive ideas – but also because it will be a platform for millions of Muslims and non-Muslims to voice their opinion. Through this platform, they will be able to reject extremism and stand firm against terror.

Undoubtedly one of the major problems facing the Arab and Muslim worlds is the attempts being made by extremist groups to misinterpret Islam, monopolize it and speak in its name to serve their own vested interests. These groups harm the Islamic faith and divide people by using fake slogans and promoting extremist and destructive ideas. The Sawab Center initiative has come at the right time as it addresses the issue of children and youth being influenced via social media and also seeks to empower them against deviant and destructive ideas. The Center will harness online communication and social media to tackle such propaganda and put things in the right perspective. It will provide space for moderate views, which are often lost in the cacophony.

The Sawab Center demonstrates the UAE’s commitment to counter extremist ideologies and is part of its role in spreading the values of moderation and tolerance and rejection of extremism. It also shows the country’s strong will to rally the region and the world around this initiative, which aims at engaging with online communities, which often fall prey to extremism. Such ideas usually originate from Da’esh and other jihadist organizations. The Center will work with governments around the world, including members of the anti-Da’esh coalition, and will also communicate with institutions and youth to debunk its doctrine, which is based on hatred, fanaticism and violence.

In recent years, the UAE has taken up the task to promote values of moderation, peaceful coexistence and tolerance, as the bulwark against extremist groups. It has taken several initiatives, which have been appreciated around the world. Perhaps the most notable of these initiatives is ‘The Muslim Council of Elders’, which was launched in Abu Dhabi in July 2014 as the first independent international body to promote peace in the Muslim world. The Council includes Muslim scholars who are renowned for their wisdom and are willing to work to end conflict within the community by countering extremist ideologies, which have been plaguing the Muslim world for decades.

These ideologies are behind the escalation of sectarian conflict, instigation of violence and increasing polarization in the Muslim world. The other notable initiative is the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism (Hedaya), which started in December 2012. The Center provides a platform for dialog, exchange of views and coordination with local, regional and international institutions to build capacities and offer programs to counter violent extremism.