Washington’s surrender to the Taliban has become rallying cry for radical Islamists, argues senior UAE official – he says now more than ever Western leaders need to work with Muslim moderates to defeat terrorism
This former member of the Muslim Brotherhood – now a leading counter-terrorism expert and ALL ARAB NEWS advisory board member – is a voice worth listening to
Twenty years after the terror attacks of 9/11, many Western leaders still struggle to understand, much less effectively counter, the forces of radical Islamism.
The recent brutal murder of Sir David Amess – a British Member of Parliament stabbed to death by a 25-year-old Muslim living in London – is just the latest proof.
This sickening terrorist attack has understandably outraged the British people and triggered widespread demands to critical questions.
- How could this have happened?
- What motivated the killer?
- What more can governments and societies do to prevent such attacks in the future?
A senior counter-terrorism official in the United Arab Emirates is offering answers.
Back in the 1970s, Dr. Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the radical Islamist terror organization founded in Egypt in 1928 that quickly attracted members all over the Muslim world, eventually including Osama bin Laden.
But Nuaimi, still a devout Muslim, eventually realized what a dangerous path he was on, abandoned the Brotherhood and chose a path of moderation and tolerance.
Today, Nuaimi is the chairman of the Defense Affairs, Interior and Foreign Relations Committee of the UAE’s Federal National Council, a representative legislature whose 40 members serve in an advisory role to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) and the rest of the Emirates’ senior leaders.
He is chairman of The Hedayah Center, a UAE-based think tank that describes itself as “the premier international organization dedicated to using its expertise and experiences to countering violent extremism.”
Nuaimi is also a founding member of the ALL ARAB NEWS advisory board.
I first met him when I led an Evangelical delegation to the UAE in October 2018 and he gave us a detailed and fascinating briefing at The Hedayah Center.
He also participated in the two-hour meeting we had with Crown Prince MBZ at the palace in Abu Dhabi.
Since then, our friendship has grown and he has become enormously helpful in counseling me as I have sought to build a news agency that could cover the Arab and Muslim world in a fair, accurate and balanced fashion.
Dr. Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi meeting with Joel C. Rosenberg in Dubai, UAE, in December 2020 (Photo: All Arab News Staff)
This week, Nuaimi authored an important column for Newsweek that I highly commend to your attention.
The “tragic murder” of the British lawmaker “is not only an example of a rising tide of terrorism,” he writes. “It is an important reminder of what we’re really fighting when we’re fighting terrorism. Contrary to what many in the West continue to believe, terrorism is not about a knife or bomb in the hands of a Muslim. It’s about a specific ideology that’s infected the minds of those vulnerable to it.”
The British prosecutor in the Amess case declared, “We will submit to the court that this murder has a terrorist connection, namely that it had both religious and ideological motivations.”
Exactly, Nuaimi argues.
“Terrorism today is a perversion of religion into an ideology, and as such, it’s one that we can only truly fight at the level of ideas.”
Military strikes and covert intelligence operations are absolutely critical to stopping terrorist groups.
So are pro-active and highly-focused law enforcement agencies.
But much more is needed.
At its core, radical Islamism is an extremist ideology – woven together with a perverse and dangerous theology – that motivates its adherents to take violent action.
Thus, Western leaders need to work closely with moderate Muslim leaders to directly, aggressively, and consistently deconstruct and delegitimize both this warped ideology and theology.
“As a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was groomed from a young age, I speak firsthand of the dangers posed by this ideology; after all, the ability to systematically infiltrate a person’s mind is far more powerful than any physical act,” he wrote.
Ironically, Nuaimi notes that he was actually drawn into the Brotherhood while studying at a university in the United States in 1979.
“I have to be honest: It was thrilling,” he writes. “I believed that the Brotherhood was the true voice of Islam, and I can hardly describe how powerful it felt to be connected to that center, to be invited into its innermost circles.”
“But as I matured, I discovered the fragmentation and divisiveness among Muslims. I realized that besides the Muslim Brotherhood, there were other groups—the Salafi and Tablighi, for example—all claiming to be ‘the true voice of Islam.’ It made me question the Brotherhood’s claims to superiority, and I resolved to put some distance between myself and all people who see or sell themselves as guardians or speakers on behalf of Islam. I made up my mind to be independent in my thinking and rejected any kind of guardianship or custody over my mind or my will in the name of Islam.”
Nuaimi specifically warns that the American surrender to the Taliban in Afghanistan has been a terrible mistake, and a rallying cry to the jihadist cause.
“As the U.S. retreated from Afghanistan, Islamists in the Middle East and African continent are hailing the victory of radicalism,” he observes. “The Taliban‘s rapid takeover of Afghanistan has been greeted by a tidal wave of celebration across the region and the world from East to West. To many, it’s a sign: If the minority Taliban can take over the country in the face of Allied troops and the armies of the most powerful countries on earth, there is hope for these militant radical groups to defeat small and weak states in Asia and Africa. One by one, these groups are again gaining power, claiming that the future is bright for those on the Jihadist path; it is only a matter of time before smaller, more militarily weak states fall victim to our worst fears.”
Even radicals, however, can be converted into moderates.
Nuaimi is living proof.
That’s why he is a vital voice worth listening to.
[To read the full Newsweek column, please click here.]