UAE vice president: You must change or you will be changed

UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum addressing participants at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Sunday.
Updated 13 February 2017

UAE vice president: You must change or you will be changed

DUBAI: In order for the Arab civilization to regain its past glories, the Arab world should begin by comprehending the indicators for the future, said Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.
Sheikh Mohammed made the remarks today while addressing a panel of the World Government Summit, which was attended by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
Sheikh Mohammed referred to a “clear message” he made to the Arab governments 12 years ago that “you must change, or you will be changed.”
“As we talk about resuming civilization, we need hope. I am optimistic because it is the man who makes civilization, economy and prosperity. If the Arab and Muslim man succeeded in building a civilization in the past, they are capable of resuming it,” he added.
Sheikh Mohammed said the Arab world possesses all potentials, including human resources, education, fertile lands and will power.
“The only thing missing is the management. The management of governments, economy, resources, infrastructure and even management of sports. We are 300 million, almost equal to the population of the United States, but look how many medals they win in the Olympic Games. We have failures in certain areas that need to be addressed.”
Asked about his greatest personal achievement, Sheikh Mohammed said: “The UAE has many achievements that my brother Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, my other brothers, and I, are very proud of. I believe the biggest achievement is the building of the UAE citizens, the citizens who are capable of everything, including running the economy.”
He recalled that when the federation was founded by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, “we were just 40 university graduates. Now, we have 77 universities, teeming with thousands of students. We have a program to reach Mars, fully run by young Emiratis.”
Answering a question how the UAE managed to balance economic and tourism openness with security, Sheikh Mohammed said: “The world’s problems are open-ended and we have to grow for the interest of our people and our country. If we said 40 years ago let us stop until it is safe, we would’nt achieve anything. We have people who carry out their duty of keeping us secure, while we are engaged in developing our country.”
Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE has no recipe for success, but to endeavor, learn, gain expertise and importantly, appreciate the value of time.
“We do not boast perfection. We still learn every day and we waste no time because for us, time is like a running river. The experiment of the UAE speaks for itself for whoever wants to emulate it. All I can say is that we have advanced qualities in leadership and management,” he said.
Sheikh Mohammed praised UAE’s special relations with Egypt, describing the latter as “the heart and soul of the Arab world.”
On how to develop civilization through separating religion and politics, he said: During the pre-Islam era, tribes fought and invaded each others and when Islam came, the civilization started. Today, there are people with half or no knowledge at all, who blow themselves up in Europe and America in the name of faith. Their interpretation of Islam is completely wrong. It is a tolerant faith that calls for peace for all people of the world, not only Muslims. They just want to kill men, enslave women and refer that to religion. They simply know nothing.”


Hagia Sophia verdict seen as Erdogan’s attempt to ‘mask economic failure’

Updated 11 July 2020

Hagia Sophia verdict seen as Erdogan’s attempt to ‘mask economic failure’

  • President signs decree to reopen heritage site — Roman Empire’s first cathedral — as mosque

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree on Friday to reopen Hagia Sophia, the UNESCO world heritage site that was the Roman Empire’s first Christian cathedral, constructed in the sixth century CE, as a mosque.

UNESCO had previously urged Turkish authorities “to engage in dialogue before taking any decision that might impact the universal value of the site.”

The long-predicted move has been widely interpreted as an attempt to rally conservative nationalist voters around the ruling party and its nationalist coalition partner ahead of snap elections that many have forecast will happen next year. Several commentators, however, doubt the efficacy of the move given that — under the current economic conditions — the majority of the Turkish people are focused on more urgent matters.

Around 55 percent of respondents to a poll conducted by Turkey’s Metropoll in June said the main reason for announcing the reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque would be to distract from debates on Turkey’s economic crisis and to boost the government’s hand ahead of a snap election.

Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said the move is another step in Erdogan’s attempt to impose his “brand of conservative Islam,” in direct opposition to the founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s secular revolution.

“Just as Ataturk ‘un-mosqued’ Hagia Sophia 86 years ago, and gave it museum status to underline his secularist revolution, Erdogan is remaking it a mosque to underline his religious revolution,” Cagaptay said.

The reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, regardless of domestic and international criticism, overlaps with Erdogan’s desire to be the “new sultan” of the country, he continued.

“Erdogan is already patronizing the construction of two mosques in Istanbul. He wants to leave a political and religious imprint behind, and Hagia Sophia completes his ‘trilogy’ of mosques,” he said.

But, Cagaptay noted, there is a tactical aspect to the announcement as well.

“As a nativist-populist leader, Erdogan hopes to rally his base by underlining their ‘victim’ narrative — saying, ’How dare these secularists deny us, pious Muslims, the liberty to pray at Hagia Sophia?’” he said.

BACKGROUND

  • The long-predicted move has been widely interpreted as an attempt to rally conservative- nationalist voters around the ruling party ahead of snap polls.

Cagaptay, along with other experts, believes any boost Erdogan may enjoy following the announcement will likely be undermined by Turkey’s ongoing economic challenges, including high inflation and unemployment rates.

Last year, Hagia Sophia drew 3.7 million tourists to its famed dome, rust-colored walls and ornamental minarets. But many believe Erdogan’s latest move will hurt the country’s popularity as a tourist destination.

“Turkey’s global brand as a Muslim-majority society that is open to its Christian past is going to be irreversibly damaged,” Cagaptay said.

“One of the effects of the conversion of Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque will be a spike in Islamophobia in the West and elsewhere. Which, of course, Erdogan will then use to his advantage,” Dimitar Bechev of the Atlantic Council tweeted.