Symposium Sheds Light on Rejection of Political Islam in Arab Countries

  • 3 November 2014

The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), in cooperation with Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, organized the 4th International Annual Symposium – Security in the Arabian Gulf – from 31 October to 2 November 2014, in Ditchley, Oxfordshire, UK.

Prominent participants during the three-day symposium included His Excellency Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the ECSSR, Abdul Rahman Ghanem Al Mutaiwei, UAE’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s former minister for foreign affairs and member of the high leveladvisory board to the UN General Assembly,Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Abdullatif Al-Zayani, Farhan Nizami, Director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and Gen. David Petraeus, Head of the Board of Directors of the KKR Institute and former director of the CIA, USA.

The symposium was also attended by a group of senior officials, academics and researchers, and Arab and foreign writers, including Dr. Ali Rashed Al-Nuaimi, Vice Chancellorof the UAE University, Dr. Abdel Redha Al-Assiri (Dean, College of Social Sciences, Kuwait University), Dr. Ibtisam Al-Ketbi, Chairwoman of the Emirates Policy Center, Dr. Richard Norton,Professor of anthropology and international relations at Boston University, Major General Masud Faraj Al-Muhairbi, Professor Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Alistair Burt, Member of the British Parliament.

The symposium assumed great significance because it comes at a critical moment for decision makers in the GCC countries who are keen to state their position on political Islam to the whole world. They also want to warn supporters of radical groups, which are undermining peace and overthrowing stable regimes across the region. Various panels during the symposium – Security in the Arabian Gulf – addressed a set of important subjects related to the security of Arab countries, specifically the GCC, and the challenges facing their security, stability and development.

H.E. Dr. Jamal Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the ECSSR, who attentively followed the discussions, expressed surprise at some positions taken in the West, which support political and religious groups in the Middle East and Arab Gulf regions. This has happened despite the rejection by Arab and Gulf streets of the idea of ‘political Islam’ as avariable in the political landscape of these countries. He emphasized that the Egyptian experience tells us that Arabs have refused to give in to the so-called ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ organization.

The Director General of the ECSSR highlighted this as a point of real disagreement between Arab position and that of some Western powers at a time when Arab countries are trying to buildpeace and mobilize resources in their fight against terrorism. Arabs are of a firm view that terrorism must not be exported in the name ofIslamas misplaced ideologiesof these groups distort the image of this great religion.He said that absence of moderationis the common link between all hard-line Islamist movements including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Al-Nusra Front, Huthis and the Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis in Sinai.

“I am deeply astonished at the position of some Western countries that sympathize with these movements and groups acting under the banner of political Islam. Every day the Western press warns about the focus of terrorists shifting to Western interests. In my view, this is a clear contradiction in positions. How can they support those groups in the Middle East while warning against them as a terrorist threat?” H.E. Dr. Jamal Al-Suwaidi said that we are today in the process of developing new and vital strategies that deal with terrorism, which has become trans-continental. “At the same time we are striving to keep channels of communication and dialogopento curb its intellectual expansion to other communities,” His Excellency said.

The symposium concluded with a set of conclusions and recommendations mainly reaffirming the position of GCC countries vis-à-vis the so-called political Islam and terrorism. They highlighted ways to develop security and political tools to counter terrorism and emphasized the concept of development as an integral part of the strategy to fight this menace.