Islamic Relief is one of the few humanitarian organisations working cross-border to deliver aid in response to the deepening crisis in Syria (Photo: Islamic Relief)
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been widely condemned for attempting to disparage a whole raft of diverse Muslim organisations and charities around the world with the same brush as terrorist groups like Al Qa’ida, Boko Haram and ISIL.
The designation of no less than 82 Muslim institutions and entities by the UAE Government on November 15 has also brought the Persian Gulf state into conflict with some of its closest Western allies including the US for proscribing peaceful civil and law-abiding groups in its blacklist to combat terrorism.
The US said it was seeking clarification on why two top American Muslim Organisations, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Muslim American Society (MAS) were included in the approved list under a new UAE law issued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Neither is classified as such by Washington.
Norway’s foreign ministry also publicly requested an explanation as to why one of the country’s largest Islamic groups, the Islamic Organization, was designated.
In Britain, the Government responded by asking for clarification to the highly controversial inclusion of Islamic Relief UK/Worldwide (IR), the Cordoba Foundation (CF) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB).
The Foreign Office told The Muslim News that it is was “seeking further clarity for their rationale for some of these designations, and any practical implications.” Another Government spokesman, responding to Islamic Relief being proscribed by the UAE, said, “All of our funding to UK charities is subject to strict controls to ensure it is used only as intended.”
IR, an international humanitarian aid and development agency, which subscribes to Red Cross and Red Crescent Codes of Conduct and has UN consultative status and membership of the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee, said it was “very surprised” to be identified as a terrorist organisation.
“We abhor terrorism in all its forms, and we categorically refute any allegation of links to terrorism and any such accusations that have been made by the UAE,” it said in a statement to The Muslim News.
“We are dedicated to the alleviation of poverty and suffering in over 30 countries, operating regardless of race, colour, political affiliation, gender or belief and without expecting anything in return. Our humanitarian and development model is globally recognised in the NGO sector – in particular our emergency response to disasters, where we take risks to save lives.
“We assume that our inclusion on the UAE list can only be attributable to a mistake. We do not have a presence or any programmes in the UAE. Islamic Relief Worldwide will be seeking clarification from the UAE Embassy on this matter, with a view to having this wrongful listing removed.”
CF, a prominent UK based Think Tank with an established record in conflict resolutions, hostage negotiation, and the promotion of dialogue, described its inclusion as “unprecedented and irresponsible” and said it “condemns the motives behind such a draconian measure.”
“CF rejects wholeheartedly any such libellous accusations, and expresses its profound shock that there are those that would seek to designate it as such. To list CF along the likes of Al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and ISIL, is not only a cause for libel but a dangerous precedent given that groups which espouse extreme violence as a means to realise political goals are listed alongside those who reject such methods as a point of principle in their unshakable values.”
It believed that it was “no coincidence that groups that have legitimate, acceptable aims, have been placed on to the ‘terrorist’ list, given that all of these groups have criticised the UAE for its lack of observation of human rights, and the violent oppression of its own citizens. It is evident that the UAE has become agitated given the barrage of international opposition to oppression, anti-reform, and anti-democratic policies within its own borders and beyond, namely Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.”
The UK Government was called upon to “shoulder its responsibility and stand side-by-side with the legitimate and reputable British organisations” against the what CF said were the “libellous actions of an autocratic regime that has a clear agenda to oppress, violate human rights, and stifle democracy and fundamental freedoms.”
MAB held a major news conference outlining its position and condemned the “outrageous and unjust” allegations and at its inclusion in the “so-called terrorist list.”
Its President, Omer El-Hamdoon, said it “cannot be taken seriously particularly as it is issued from a government that operates a totalitarian regime denying its citizens and migrant workers democratic rights” while comparing his organisation’s democratic credentials to the UAE’s.
“It goes without saying that our organisation, which has a democratically elected leadership and constituted to serve the Muslim and the British society, and is registered under all the rules and regulation of this country, has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism or any other form of extreme ideology. On the contrary, the UAE authorities operate a dictatorship which denies democratic rights and oppresses its own citizens; and has a poor human rights record.”
In a report accusing the UAE of the “ugly reality” of repression behind the “glitz and glamour” of hosting a Formula One race last weekend, Amnesty International said there was “no freedom” in the littoral state but a “climate of fear” caused by the “extreme lengths” the authorities go to in order to stamp out opposition or calls for reform.
“Beneath the facade of glitz and glamour, a far more sinister side to the UAE has emerged showing the UAE as a deeply repressive state where activists critical of the government can be tossed in jail merely for posting a tweet,” said Amnesty.
The report pointed out that the UAE was the third Arab state, after Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to label the Muslim Brotherhood, who were ousted by the military in Egypt last year, as a terrorist organization.
“Dozens of Emirati and Egyptian Islamists have been jailed after being convicted of forming cells of the Muslim Brotherhood and accused of seeking to overthrow the Gulf monarchies.” In the UAE more than 100 activists and Government critics have been charged or jailed for politically motivated national security or cybercrimes offences since 2011, and that more than 60 remain behind bars.”