On 2 December, the United Arab Emirates will mark 49 years since its establishment, with local authorities giving three days off to both private and public sector employees.
In the 49 years since it became an internationally recognised state, the UAE has made a number of important achievements. It’s blossomed into a desert oasis, opened its own nuclear plant, the first of its kind in the Arab world, and launched a national space project, sending its first mission to Mars earlier this year.
But the UAE’s list of achievements doesn’t stop there. In October of this year, the country was named the tenth safest in the world, according to Gallup’s Global Law and Order Report.
Acts of terrorism have taken place in the UAE, but this phenomenon was mainly witnessed in the 1970s and 1980s. The last such incident happened in 2014, with the murder of a Hungarian-American kindergarten teacher by a Muslim extremist.
Holistic Approach to Eradicate Terror
Over the years, Abu Dhabi has taken multiple measures to eradicate this phenomenon, and Dirar Belhoul Al Felasi, the UAE’s minister of state and the head of the Asian committee within the country’s parliament, says the success of the nation in combating terrorism can be attributed to a number of factors.
“The United Arab Emirates has strong security and police apparatus. It possesses the latest scientific methods and technologies and that helps us to confront terror and various crimes inside the country”.
In 2014, it was reported that Abu Dhabi planned to double its investment in security pouring in more than $10 billion by 2024, as opposed to the $5.5 billion it had earlier invested.
The country has also adopted a series of laws criminalising terror, including 2014 legislation banning any “direct or indirect involvement” in such activity and introducing heavy penalties and even the death sentence for those who breach the order.
Similar punishments have been introduced for those who fun terrorism. In 2018, the Gulf nation passed an anti-money laundering and terror financing law and has worked with the United States to impose sanctions on Islamist extremists.
Legislation Not Enough to Deter Terror?
Even though those efforts did manage to deter some radicals, a report by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, a watchdog that monitors illicit funds, found that the UAE was doing too little to stem money laundering and the finance of terror.
According to the French watchdog, between 2013 and 2019, the UAE prosecuted 92 individuals and convicted 75 others for financing terror. But the organisation warned that local authorities should step up the measures needed to stop the spread of the terrorist threat.
While Al Felasi says his government is taking active steps in that direction, he also points out that the threat of terror cannot be stopped through security measures and legislation alone. And he believes the only way to eradicate the problem is by adopting a holistic approach and that means investing in the country’s education system.
“When your education system is based on teaching love, tolerance, and peace, while rejecting violence and extremism, it ends up protecting society because you uproot the disease from its inception instead of waiting for its exacerbation”.