Ever since 9/11, people ask me, ‘Where are the moderate Muslims who oppose terrorism and support peace?’ I’ve met many. Here’s one you should meet – Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi
This senior UAE official not only praises his country’s new peace deal with Israel, he is passionately urging Palestinian leaders to make peace, even as he leads a center in Abu Dhabi with a mission to counter violent extremism throughout the Muslim world.
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by Joel C. Rosenberg | September 3, 2020
Dr. Al Nuaimi meets with Rosenberg and Evangelical leaders in Abu Dhabi in October 2018. (Photo credit: All Arab News)
Ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, I’ve been asked variations of these questions: If “real” Muslims are peaceful, where are they? If there are really courageous, moderate, peace-loving Muslims out there, then why don’t we ever hear about them?
Because they media is not covering them.
Let’s face it, there are some 1.8 billion Muslims in the world. The vast, vast majority are not hijacking planes and flying them into buildings, are they? Or blowing themselves up in malls and schools and restaurants. Or calling for “jihad” — holy war — against Christians and Jews. Right? Of course not.
Yet the radicals are the only ones we seem to hear about on TV and in the newspapers.
Don’t get me wrong — the radicals are a serious, lethal threat. I have no intention of minimizing the threat they pose. Indeed, I’ve spent the last two decades of my career as an author, speaker and Middle East analyst explaining who these radicals are, why they are so dangerous and why world leaders and lay people need to take them more seriously.
That said, why are the moderates — the ones who want to make peace with Jews and Christians, and with Israel — not on the cover of Time and Newsweek and other magazines around the globe? Why aren’t they profiled on TV newsmagazines or featured on major TV and radio interview programs?
Traveling from Morocco to Afghanistan, I’ve worked hard to find the moderate Muslims that I know are out there yet have been quiet, overlooked or outright ignored by the mainstream media even when they have bravely spoken out and taken action against the radicals.
During our launch of ALL ARAB NEWS this week, I wanted to bring attention to some of the truly extraordinary and courageous leaders that I have met along the way.
One of them is Dr. Ali Al Nuaimi.
A proud national of the United Arab Emirates, Dr. Al Nuaimi is a businessman by background, engaged in starting and building media companies.
His extensive experience in media, and particularly digital media, and his deep understanding of how media can advance narratives either positive or negative – either helpful or harmful – made him ideally qualified to help his government counter the messaging of al Qaeda, the Islamic State, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and others.
Dr. Al Nuaimi, therefore, was named chairman of Hedayah, the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism.
He is also the chairman of the Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs Committee at the UAE’s Federal National Council.
And he is trusted by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, (widely known by his initials, MBZ).
As I mentioned in part one and part two of my interview series with him this week, I first met Dr. Al Nuaimi when I brought the first-ever delegation of Evangelical leaders to the UAE in October 2018. We met with the crown prince and other senior officials, as well as Muslim and Christian leaders.
We also spent many hours at Hedayah, being briefed on the Emirati’s state-of-the-art strategy to counter the violent and destructive messaging of radical Islamism – not just to fight it militarily (though UAE’s military has been actively engaged with the U.S. and allies against al Qaeda and ISIS), but also to fight it theologically and ideologically through all forms of media, including social media.
The more time I have spent with him, the more impressed I am that Dr. Al Nuaimi is the real deal – a man of peace who has devoted his life to defeating terrorists and advancing peace. That was why I wanted him to serve on the Advisory Board of ALL ARAB NEWS, and why I was deeply grateful when he joined.
In this third and final part of our exclusive interview, I asked Dr. Al Nuaimi to explain how the new UAE-Israeli peace deal is being received by the public in his nation and throughout the Arab world, and what his country’s message is to the Palestinian leaders and people.
AL NUAIMI: You know, when [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat and [Israeli Prime Minister Menachem] Begin signed the [Camp David] peace treaty [in 1979], there was a movement in Egypt and in the Arab world against normalization. The same thing happened in Jordan [in 1994].
But the good thing, what we see now, is that most of the Arabs are supporting the UAE-Israeli peace treaty.
Except who? Those, you know, who are part of these terrorist organizations – Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian regime – and [Turkish President Recep] Erdogan, who is supporting these terrorist groups.
And, unfortunately, [Palestinian leader Mahmoud] Abbas joined them now. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity, we saw that Abbas moved to the other side.
But you know we have about 400,000 Palestinians living in the UAE for decades. We have talked to them, and you know, they think that we did the right thing. They see hope in what we are doing, and they are very supportive of this initiative.
ROSENBERG: Has there been any polling done publicly yet of how the people of the United Arab Emirates both the citizens and maybe even the foreign workers … are responding?
AL NUAIMI: I am not aware of any poll that has been done. But you see, we are very active on social media and I monitor what is happening on social media. So, what I see in the UAE, I see a huge support for this initiative and blessing for this initiative.
ROSENBERG: Now you mentioned that Palestinian Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is very, very opposed to this. He and his colleagues have used very strong language – it’s a “betrayal,” a “stab in the back,” and these things. What would be your message, Dr. Ali Al Nuaimi to the Palestinian people and to the Palestinian leadership?
AL NUAIMI: My message first is that they have to have one argument. I am talking about the leadership. They are saying, “We are the representative of the Palestinian people, and no one should talk on their behalf.” Okay, this is one [argument]. At the same time, what they are saying is that, “UAE, you should tell the Israelis to do this and this and this.”
Our response is this: “No, we worked very hard to bring this opportunity to the negotiation table. You, [Palestinian leaders], come and sit with the Israelis. You are claiming that you represent the Palestinian people, and you don’t want anyone to talk on your behalf. So, who will sit with the Israelis and engage in the negotiation? It’s you.”
You see how this [Palestinian] leadership actually is not looking for a solution for the problem. They are saying, “You [Emiratis] shouldn’t do a peace treaty with Israel.” Why? They already did it. They signed the treaty [the Oslo Accord with Israel, signed at the White House on Sept. 13, 1993]. And now they are condemning what the UAE has done and they are praising Erdogan?
So, I think, we need to create a narrative to talk directly to the Palestinian people. We need to have a narrative that we gain their minds and their hearts. We need to speak directly to them and don’t let Abbas and the media be in between us.
And I think it’s very important that the Israelis also approach the Palestinian people directly, to show them the added value of having peace in the region.
ROSENBERG: So, the leaders of the United Arab Emirates don’t claim to be speaking for the Palestinians, right? They’re just saying, “Listen, it’s been a long time, you’re not talking to the Israelis, you won’t negotiate, so we’re going to do our own agreement, but we still support the Palestinian cause.” Right? You’re asking Israel not to annex the territories. You’re encouraging the two-state solution. Do I have that correct?
AL NUAIMI: Yes, that’s correct. But you see, in order to find the solution, you have to bring the Palestinian leadership to the negotiation table. This is now the issue, actually.
We are now getting calls from different world leaders saying, “Could you tell us what the Palestinians want? We don’t understand what the Palestinians want. He [Abbas] is saying, ‘We want the two-state solution to be on the table and start from there.’ Now it is there [an offer for a two-state solution, in the Trump peace plan]. Why is he [Abbas] refusing to come and sit on the negotiation table?’”
So this is why I am emphasizing that we need – together – to approach the Palestinian people directly and show them the added value of this peace treaty between UAE and Israel and what the added value is to the Palestinian people.
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