Ten Years On: A World United Against Terrorism

09/08/2011 11:02 am ET | Updated Nov 08, 2011

Ten years ago the world united in horror at the attacks perpetrated in the United States on September 11th, 2001. In that moment, geographical distance vanished and differences in culture or political systems faded away in our common grief. The images the world witnessed on that day instantly impressed on us all that this was not just an act of terrorism against a sovereign nation: it was an attack on the universal values upheld by the global community.

In the decade since 2001 we have seen nationals from dozens of countries drawn toward violent extremism -- including our own. What this has made clear is that religion, race, political system or economic background neither predisposes individuals to carrying out acts of terror nor precludes them from doing so. Today, all countries share the concern that their citizens could become either the victims or the perpetrators of acts of terror.

In the aftermath of 9/11 the international community came together under the principle that terrorism strikes at the heart of everything that we stand for. Countries of this region joined those of Asia, Africa, Europe, Australasia and the Americas in the recognition that a truly concerted international effort was required to combat terrorism in all its manifestations.

In 2001 the UAE joined this global effort by being 1 of some 60 countries involved in the international operation in Afghanistan. The UAE's contribution was multifaceted: providing military assets on the ground to promote peace and security, but also extensive aid and educational projects to assist the emergence of the Afghan people from decades of war and insecurity.

In this effort, the UAE stood alongside a number of Arab and Muslim nations -- demonstrating to the world that this was not a conflict between religions or civilizations, but an international effort united behind a humanitarian and political cause: to defeat violent extremism in all forms and under any ideological banner.

A decade into the 21st century, it is imperative that we continue our comprehensive global mission to eradicate terrorism and violent extremism in the world. These effective counter-terrorism strategies must begin with robust security measures, effective information sharing to break up terrorist groups and prevent their operations, and the full use of relevant international legal conventions and instruments. But as members of the international community, a global response to counter the conditions conducive to terrorism will require even more.

First, the alleviation of global poverty must remain a priority. Individuals deprived of livelihoods and hope cannot become stakeholders in their societies. For its part, the UAE has delivered a vast program of international aid assistance to improve economic conditions for populations in need -- contributing more than AED 34 billion (U.S.$9.3 billion) in development projects to a range of countries worldwide in the decade since 2001. This year alone the UAE has made significant contributions to emergency relief programmes targeting affected populations in vulnerable areas such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and in sub-Saharan Africa.

But economic development alone will not secure the world from the threat of terrorism. The second core area must be our international political effort to further the principles of justice and international law, and enshrine respect for human rights. In doing so, we will remove grievances that are skillfully exploited by terrorists, further demonstrating the emptiness of their violent ideologies.

The UAE has therefore been consistent in its call for an equitable and comprehensive peace for the Palestinian people, in the belief that a lasting solution would be game-changing in undermining the rhetoric of global terrorism, particularly in our region where the issue is used as a rallying cry for terrorist recruitment.

Similarly, the UAE has consistently opposed efforts to divide people on the basis of religion or sect. We have actively supported national unity and sovereignty from Iraq to Yemen. During the events of the 'Arab Spring' the UAE has been consistent in its support of peaceful engagement and constructive dialogue as the means toward progressive change. And in Libya the UAE supported international efforts against the Gaddafi regime on the humanitarian premise that governments must protect and serve their citizens in order to legitimately govern.

At the centre of the international community's counter-terrorism strategy we must present an alternate vision for the future: one that supports a culture of peace and tolerance. The UAE works in support of these values at home. We abide by a framework that is Islamic and open to and respectful of other religions. We believe that it is right that we as Muslims are the first and most vociferous in condemning the violent acts and extremist ideology of terrorists who try to misuse our faith for their horrific and irreligious ends.

Education is at the heart of this vision, and the active advance of inter-cultural understanding will be required by all sides. In the UAE, for example, by 2014, we will have opened the doors to local branches of the Louvre, the Guggenheim, New York University and the Sorbonne. Such increases in exchanges between cultures could be the UAE's most enduring response to the vision propagated by extremists and their followers.

Nevertheless, even as we look ahead today at how to meet the challenges of the future, our thoughts must remain with the victims of the attacks one decade ago, and with their families. This time for solemn reflection presents an opportunity for states to renew their mission to eradicate terrorism in all its forms. Each of us must bravely and resolutely, in our own corners of the world, face our demons as nations, peoples, and individuals in order to overcome the challenges that still lie ahead.

There is no better way to honor the victims of 9/11 than by spreading this message of hope. As the world is once more united today in remembrance, we should remain confident that our shared vision of a peaceful future will prevail.