One of the few concrete deliverables being touted as having come out of the President’s Countering Violent Extremism Summit is the creation of a new joint communications hub operated between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, looking to target terrorist propaganda and recruitment. From
“[President] Obama said that all governments have a role to play to curb the propaganda and announced that the government of the United Arab Emirates [UAE] is joining the United States in the effort to connect youth. At minimum as a basic first step, countries have a responsibility to cut off funding that fuels hatred and corrupts young minds and endangers us all. We need to do more to help lift up voices of tolerance. and peace, especially online,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s why the United States is joining, for example, with the UAE to create a new digital communications hub to work with religious and civil society and community leaders to counter terrorist propaganda.”
There is a kind of palpable irony here, considering that the UAE and the Obama administration have been far from the same page regarding what constitutes a terrorist group. The UAE’s recent terror list, for example, names more than a dozen Muslim Brotherhood (MB) organizations worldwide, including those in the United States, namely the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS), as terrorist groups. The UAE defended their more extensive list, which includes both Al Qaeda and other Jihadist organizations as well as Muslim Brotherhood political organizations, by saying:
“[The list is] a clear message to the world about the UAE’s stance against terrorism, extremism and fanaticism, focusing on and putting a cordon around all subversive entities that seek to undermine the security and stability of the state and seeks to protect the community from extremist ideology,” a top UAE official said.
The objective is “to cut off access to all forms of material and moral support for terrorism, to drain its resources, to prevent the incitement of terrorist crimes, to prevent the praising of terrorism and to work to stop the spreading of such crimes or any encouragement of the committing of them.”
By contrast the Muslim American Society has been a featured CVE partner in the United States, and the State Department intervened on behalf of CAIR and MAS opposing the U.A.E decision. The White House also aggressively rejected a petition from over 100,000 calling for the Brotherhood to be declared a terrorist organization, as the UAE has done.
Indeed the president used his bully pulpit at the CVE Summit to obliquely support Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood (although not by name), and blamed their suppression, rather than their proliferation, for the spread of terrorism ( @Davereaboi):
“[T]here’s a strain of thought that doesn’t embrace ISIL’s tactics, doesn’t embrace violence, but does buy into the notion that the Muslim world has suffered historical grievances – sometimes that’s accurate – does buy into the belief that so many of the ills in the Middle East flow from a history of colonialism or conspiracy; does buy into the idea that Islam is incompatible with modernity or tolerance, or that it’s been polluted by Western values.”
So those beliefs exist. In some communities around the world they are widespread.
Ultimately the joint communications hub is likely to be a failure, because there is no shared understanding between the two countries on how individuals are indoctrinated to jihad/terrorism. The UAE recognizes that as the role of the Muslim Brotherhood as the gateway to jihad, while Mr. Obama believes the Muslim Brotherhood as having “legitimate grievances” both at home and abroad.
(Kyle Shideler is director of the Threat Information Office (TIO) at the Center for Security Policy.)