Open, tolerant and an example to all

Hamid Karzai, former president of Afghanistan, spoke about the war on terror, terrorism and the impact on Muslim countries at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.

Hamid Karzai tells an audience at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research that the UAE is a country that has blended modernity and traditional values. Vidhyaa for The National
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ABU DHABI // The former president of Afghanistan praised the UAE’s openness, tolerance and innovation, which he said serves as an example to the Muslim world.

During a speech on the war on terror, terrorism and the impact on Muslim countries, Hamid Karzai said the media and public opinion makers, especially in the West, must educate and build bridges between various cultures rather than equate differences.

“The world must recognise that extremists and terrorists have carried out immense atrocities against Muslims around the world,” he said at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research on Monday. “They are instruments of distorting a peaceful religion and tainting the image of Islam and Muslims around the world.”

He said the infiltration of radical ideologies has deeply bruised Muslim countries, with violence contrasting to Islam’s “glorious” past, its tolerance and its contributions to human progress.

“The unfortunate experience of Afghanistan offers an example of how foreign intervention, alien ideologies and the promotion of extremism have damaged peace and harmony and hampered our development,” he said.

He said terrorism today was state-sponsored and the outcome of poor policies, devoid of ethics. “The terrorism we know today has nothing to do with religion,” he said. “It is not a state of mind nor is it a societal reaction to a so-called clash of civilisations. It is a phenomenon that is more political than social or ideological, and the recent history of Afghanistan in that of the region is a testimony of these observations.”

With a changing geopolitical landscape in today’s world, he said countries were continuing to apply the same set of old rules. “In order to confront the menace of terrorism, we must first address the fault lines that can be used to address divisions and violence in the Muslim world,” Mr Karzai said. “We must better education and achieve higher and more equitable living standards. We need to keep pace with the trend of advancements in the world and live in better harmony with other religions and cultures.”

He called the UAE a model which fosters inclusive societies. “I hope we all will take this as an example and share with all others wherever we are,” he added. “What the UAE has done so far is great and it is an example of great masterly work.”

The UAE has helped Afghanistan in many ways, including building homes for the needy, roads, schools, hospitals and mosques. It also built a university in the province of Khost, which was named after the late Sheikh Zayed, Founding Father of the UAE.

“I was impressed by the Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “The marble mosaic originating from many countries and the artful blend of historical and cultural elements from different civilisations make it a stunning landmark of the Muslim world. But it is not just about the architecture, it is about celebrating cooperation and cultural, peaceful coexistence promoting tolerance, mutual understanding and dialogue among religions and culture.”

“The UAE is the country that has blended modernity and traditional values and has created an open society that is an example to all around the world,” he said. “Muslims are the first and foremost sufferers at the hands of extremists and terrorists.

“What we need is a multi-lateral world order where big powers together with significant countries in the Muslim world can together play a role, as we see terrorism is starting to move beyond the Muslim world. I hope there will be a larger international sincerity about this.”

The world must build a “global consensus” on an inclusive security paradigm to address international security challenges, confront acts of terrorism and “eradicate its roots in sanctuaries”, he said. “The challenge for all of us today is to move beyond zero sum games.”