The United Arab Emirates’s engagement with its youth has helped it navigate the world shaped in the two decades since the September 11 attacks, a government minister has said.
Omar Saif Ghobash told a panel by the Emirates Society that his country felt privileged to have a government that engages with its people, particularly the youth, and that this had helped it combat the surge in extremism since the turn of the century.
He told a panel discussion on the subject: “I think we in the Emirates are in an incredibly lucky place because we have an understanding of grievance, of justified grievance, and we have an understanding that government and society can actually do something to change that situation.”
Ghobash added that his country’s engagement with young people was a significant part of that process, by establishing a ministry for youth.
“It is led by a very young minister,” he said, “who is now I think 26 or 27 years old.”
He was joined on the panel by the former Labour MP John Woodcock, now Lord Walney.
His fellow panellist Sir John Jenkins, a veteran British diplomat, warned that the coronavirus pandemic risked distracting governments from their objective of combating extremism.
“A lot of discourse in the extremism space is about the balance between what people have regarded as the traditional threat from Islamist extremism versus so-called far-right white supremacist extremism,” he said.
“A lot of people will say the real growing threat is from right-wing white supremacist extremism. I’m highly sceptical of that.
“If you look at the figures, it still represents a very small proportion of the total number of cases being dealt with by police and security authorities, certainly in this country [and] in Europe.”
Mansoor Abulhoul, the UAE’s ambassador to the UK, said the discussion had been a “very salutary warning against the risks of complacency. For the past year we may have been distracted by R rates, vaccines and lockdowns, but extremism is also a type of infection that ruins lives wherever it goes.
“It’s not just the victims of extremist violence that we should remember, it’s also the young minds that are poisoned by very dangerous ideologies.”
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