The UAE Stands on Firm Foundation of National Progress
At the beginning of the month, opportunists sought to mislead the UK media and public opinion by making ridiculous claims that Emiratis have been smothered in a climate of oppression and injustice. In an article in The Guardian, a leader of Al Islah, an Islamist organisation tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, claimed that an environment of fear has overtaken Emiratis in the UAE, alleging that some 60 members of the group arrested this summer have been tortured, and positing that Al Islah is a reformer in the UAE. But the claims are unconvincing, if not preposterous.
It does not need to be said that the people of the UAE are overwhelmingly satisfied with their lives and with their leaders. Indeed, the country stands today as a model of development and leadership that Arabs across the region want to emulate and learn from. Emiratis, living in a difficult neighbourhood, have enjoyed a level of stability and rising standards of living that are the envy of many. Indeed, we truly count our blessings.
An international survey released this year shows that more than 91 per cent of UAE citizens are, in fact, satisfied with the direction of our young nation; that is higher than in European nations such as Germany (88 per cent), the United Kingdom (87 per cent), France (76 per cent) and Italy (64 per cent).
People in the UAE know that while other governments in the region such as Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Libya under Muammar Qaddafi and Syria under the Assads squandered their wealth on military hardware, ill-advised foreign adventures and destabilising other countries, UAE leaders were investing in the modernisation of the state and in the welfare of their people.
By many accounts, the UAE offers a quality of life that is among the best in the Middle East and North Africa region. We have security, a rapidly growing economy; the electricity never goes out and we have rapidly rising life expectancy.
Even with the onslaught of the global financial crisis, prudent policies have allowed the United Arab Emirates to withstand the challenges of crisis and enabled the country to progress, with determination, self confidence and a unity of purpose.
That is why groups such as Al Islah have simply not managed to build a real following in the decades they have been around.
The Arab Spring has presented an altogether new challenge, as political players across the Gulf have become more active. The exploitation of western sympathy for Arab Spring revolutions has been tempting for marginal elements in the Emirates, including members of Al Islah.
Where once they presented themselves as a purely religious organisation, suddenly they have become political. Where once they proudly discussed their connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, today they claim no such tie exists.
Everyone knows, of course, that the narrative employed by such fringe elements does not correspond to the reality in the country. They have a pernicious agenda that has nothing to do with the advocacy of democracy and human rights, their claimed objectives. Rather, their intentions appear to be guided by allegiance to a foreign organisation in Egypt, and ultimately the destruction of rule here in the UAE.
But there is a clear reason that they have not succeeded: the people are not listening to them. They know that the economic factors that brought about the North African uprisings are not present in the UAE. There is no "religious problem" in the country either: the UAE is a deeply Arab and Muslim nation. The country's leaders and citizens do not need anyone to teach them lessons about piety and faith.
And yet, we celebrate the diversity in our midst: even as Al Islah members decried the existence of churches on our soil, this month the nation celebrated the appointment of the first woman Anglican pastor in the Middle East. There are numerous churches and temples in the country, and no one has any problems with their existence, except for members of Al Islah.
Indeed, the UAE has been a factor of peace, stability and progress in the region and in the world. It has been a steady partner with the West and the whole international community in safeguarding global security. The country's relationship with the United Kingdom, and the West in general, has always been based on mutual respect and common interests.
Yet the complacency, not to say the complicity, of some in the West regarding groups such as Al Islah has been disturbing to Emiratis. At the end of day, who really benefits from exporting subversive activities to the Gulf region?
Are western economic or strategic interests served by foreign-inspired plots that aim to disrupt the stability and security of the UAE and the Gulf region as a whole? Is the region, which holds up the UAE as a model, served by them? Are women, who have gained markedly, or our next generation of children served by them?
The recent arrests have raised many questions, all of which will be answered when the men appear in court in the coming months. At the end of the day, the peoples of the UAE and the Gulf region cannot be expected to stand still when their national security is at stake. They have the right and obligation to uphold the rule of law and heed their national security imperatives.
There is no reason today why certain quarters in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the West would give support to the dubious designs of opportunists from any camp. Moral principles and common wisdom should dictate supporting the true forces of progress, stability and freedom. Dr Salem Humaid is an Emirati writer