Ministry of Foreign Affairs cites UAE as leader against terror threats

At a conference in Abu Dhabi, experts discussed ways of combating terrorism on social media and the internet.

A Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet taxiing down the runway after flying from Australia, at Al Minhad Air Base in Dubai.  EPA
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ABU DHABI // The UAE is at the forefront of battling the rising threat of terrorism and violent extremism, a senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs official says.

But Maj Gen Fares Al Mazrouei, assistant foreign minister for security and military affairs, said websites and social media should be used to draw people away from radicalisation and counter the way extremists use the web to recruit.

Gen Al Mazrouei was speaking at the opening of the Global Countering Violent Extremism Expo in Abu Dhabi yesterday, where experts discussed how the internet and social media have enabled the global spread of radicalisation.

“If communication in its many forms can be used to draw individuals to violence then it can also be used to draw them away from it,” he said. “Our culture helps us to understand some of the most sensitive issues that can drive violent extremism and we are open to new approaches.”

Gen Al Mazrouei said the evolving challenge of terrorism was a problem that required a global solution to ensure the security and stability of all countries.

He said messages from terrorist groups were coordinated and technologically advanced.

“It shows strong awareness of the vulnerabilities of its target audience,” Gen Al Mazrouei said. “It appears to be effective and able to draw large numbers into violence.

“The challenges for all of us here today are to work together to enhance government response and to make it more cohesive.

“We have to show greater understanding of the target audience, to allocate time and resources to this challenge and move people away from violence.”

He said the UAE’s guiding principles and innovations could help to counter extremism.

“There has never been a more important time to face this challenge,” Gen Al Mazrouei said. “It is clear to all of us in the UAE that we face an evolving challenge and we must work together to face this common menace.

“That is why the UAE is part of an international coalition against ISIL, that is why we stand against terrorism in all forms and it is also why we are proud to host the International Centre for Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism – Hedayah.”

He said learning from one another, establishing good practice, promoting innovations and encouraging evidence-based solutions were crucial.

“This is at the heart of the work of Hedayah and all our efforts to counter violent extremism,” Gen Al Mazrouei said.

“We’re engaged in a constant battle so the challenge is to take it further, to build cohesions that increase the effectiveness of our communications, that reduce the threat of violent extremism.”

Maqsoud Kruse, chief executive of Hedayah, said conclusions and guidance were worthless if not turned into action.

“It can be a challenge to build consensus from what we should be doing, but it is a more difficult challenge to put into practice,” Mr Kruse said. “All this activity needs to be evidence-based. We need a thorough understanding of the nature of the threat and a true appreciation of what the most effective response to this threat might be.”

He said modern terror groups were technologically advanced.

“They’re able to manipulate the fear of troubled people all over the world,” Mr Kruse said. “Unfortunately, thus far, their recognising narrative of destruction has been effective.

“We know large numbers are being drawn from across the world and many governments fear that this ideology of destruction may fuel terrorism and violent extremism in their own countries.”