Revolutionary ideas in the Middle East

  • 3 May 2016

n 2013, the Alan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center at William and Mary's School of Business initiated the Revolutionary Thinkers Award to recognize social, economic and business innovation. This year Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, the Director General of the United Arab Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research was the recipient of the distinguished prize.

Presenting the award, Ken White, associate dean of MBA Executive Programs said, "A few hundred years ago, a William & Mary alumnus, named Thomas Jefferson suggested that 'every generation needs a new revolution.' He was not suggesting war, but rather a literal revolution, a turning around. And specifically, he was speaking of a turning of thoughts to adapt to the changes of a world in motion."

He continued, "We are proud to present this award to Dr. Jamal Sanad Al- Suwaidi, who has taken this command to heart and has demonstrated time and again the bravery and discipline of a modern day revolutionary thinker."

Al-Suvaidi is an academic and a prolific writer, known as one of the top strategic thinkers in the Arab world.
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What distinguishes Al-Suvaidi from many other thinkers is his role as head of what is perhaps the foremost think tank in the Middle East. He has direct access to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan, President of the UAE, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the U.A.E Armed forces and many other Emirate leaders.

I asked Dr. Al- Suvaidi what his observations were concerning the leadership of the UAE.

"Real progress requires an ambitious leadership that is capable of managing available resources efficiently and proficiently," he said. "The UAE. is an inspiring example in this regard. It demonstrates an ambitious and comprehensive vision aimed at achieving development."

He pointed out that according to the World Happiness Report 2015, , the UAE was ranked first among Gulf and Arab countries and the 20th overall. "It comes as a result of great efforts that have been based on a national approach that prioritizes citizens when it comes to current and future plans for development. Our goal is becoming one of the best countries in the world by our 50th National Day, as envisaged by the AUE Vision 2021," he said.

I also asked Dr. Al-Suwaidi, what advice would he give to Western leaders, particularly in the United States.

"It must be pointed out, that extremism is an old phenomenon that evolved over time. It has multiple forms that have morphed into militancy, narrow-mindedness, terrorism and so forth," he said.

He noted that extremist groups are not limited to the region in which they originated; rather they are a cross-border threat. "In the face of this widening and ever-expanding global threat, Western leaders must address the reasons for which a Western citizen joins terrorist organizations. Additionally, blocking the flow of funds to terrorists around the world must be a priority." .

Reflecting on the instability in the Arab world, Al-Suwaidi said, "I would like to point out that the leaders in the Western world, especially those in United States, must consider the reality of the Arab region and not to formulate their national interest away from such facts."

In conclusion, he said, "What has happened and is happening in the Arab world is close to what happened in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries: the conflict between church and the government, and the conflict between religion and modernity. While the Western world was able to overcome this conflict, the Arab and Islamic worlds are still not able to find harmony between religion and modernity."