It’s time for moderates to reclaim Islam, UAE envoy says

Arab-Israeli deals and papal visits to Middle East are way forward, says Yousef Al Otaiba

UAE ambassador to the US and Minister of State Yousef Al Otaiba spoke at an online event for Jewish and Muslim officials.  Screenshot 
UAE ambassador to the US and Minister of State Yousef Al Otaiba spoke at an online event for Jewish and Muslim officials.  Screenshot 

UAE ambassador to the US and Minister of State Yousef Al Otaiba on Thursday said the Middle East had been destabilised by Islamic extremists for too long and now was the time for moderates to reclaim the religion.

Mr Al Otaiba told an interfaith event that Al Qaeda and ISIS had hijacked the faith of more than two billion adherents and twisted it for their own interests.

“We've lived through a period where there was Al Qaeda and ISIS and other extremist and terrorist groups that have taken these values and the religion that we grew up with, and really perverted it and put it into a very dangerous territory,” he said.

“In the UAE, we feel obligated to reclaim our religion back from people who basically claim it for either terrorism and extremism on the one hand, or politics on the other.”

Mr Al Otaiba was speaking at an online event hosted by the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities, which combined a Ramadan iftar with Lag B’Omer, a Jewish holiday.

It was the latest in a series of events that brought together Jewish and Muslim officials after agreements to normalise ties between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

Mr Al Otaiba said the Abraham Accords and the visit by Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi in 2019 showed how Emiratis had become “much more vocal about being moderate”.

“It should not be a taboo to have a pope visit an Arab country and it should not be a taboo to make peace with Israel,” he said.

“These two things are very important to reclaim that narrative and show people that while we may have some challenges on politics or with countries, that is not a religious issue, it is not an ideological issue.”

It is important to “reclaim that mantle back and show the entire world that Islam is not inherently violent or it's not inherently extreme", Mr Al Otaiba said.

"It is a very small group of radicals who take it and pervert it."

The event also featured Bahrain’s ambassador to the US, Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashed Al Khalifa; his predecessor, Houda Nonoo; Marc Sievers, former US ambassador to Oman; Rabbi David Rosen from the American Jewish Committee; and others.

Updated: April 29, 2021 11:21 PM

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