Queen Rania: ISIS using media to ‘hijack’ Arab world
Her Majesty Queen Rania. (AFP/file)
Her Majesty Queen Rania on Tuesday said the Arab world needs to reclaim its narrative from extremist groups in the region.
“A minority of irreligious extremists is using social media to rewrite our narrative… hijack our identity and rebrand us,” Queen Rania said in her opening address at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit 2014, which gathers more than 500 media industry leaders from around the globe. The theme of this year’s summit is “Driving and sustaining a future media in MENA and beyond”, according to a statement from Her Majesty’s office.
With images of violence and destruction from the Arab world projected on screen, Her Majesty insisted that these images do not represent the vast majority of Arabs.
“These images don’t represent me anymore than they represent you. They’re alien and abhorrent to the vast majority of Arabs — Muslims and Christians. And they should make every Arab across this region seethe. Because they’re an attack on our values as a people. And on our collective story.”
However, the Queen noted that the moderate majority of Arabs are equally to blame. “They say, ‘a story is told as much by silence as by speech.’ Well, our silence speaks volumes. We are complicit in their success.”
But Her Majesty asserted that the fight against extremists goes well beyond that battleground and is a fight between moderates and extremists all over the world.
“It’s a fight for the future of Islam and the future of the Arab world. So, it’s a fight that moderates have to win,” she said, noting that “winning also depends on our ability to conquer the philosophical battleground as well. Because at the heart of this assault is an ideology.”
Queen Rania questioned the increase in the number of followers and fans of radical groups in the region. She explained that these followers are “from classrooms in which they were never challenged to think for themselves and where they learned an outdated curriculum. From societies in which a quarter of their peers is unemployed, where there’s inadequate social security to afford a life of dignity, and where opportunities to help to change the status quo are few and far between.”
Her Majesty added that the only way we can save our youth from the sirens’ call of extremism is to provide them with a better alternative.
“The satisfaction of a job, the relief of justice, the solidarity of equality and the fulfilment of participation. We provide real opportunities for change and advancement.”
Her Majesty presented the audience with the options facing the region today: “We either develop our region, or we let others dismantle it. Find solutions to the challenges, or watch the challenges avalanche. Harness the tools to drive the Arab world forward in the 21st century, or let others use those tools to drag us back to the dark ages.”
Education reform topped Her Majesty’s to-do list for the region: “Our strategy must be long-term. And that starts by investing in quality education for all... Education reform doesn’t come cheap. But the price of ignorance is far, far greater.”
The Queen cited the example of EDRAAK, an initiative she launched earlier this year to bring massive open online courses to the Arab world in Arabic. She also thanked General Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his support for the initiative, noting that online learning is the best opportunity to achieve quality and modern education, which the Arab world desperately needs.
Commenting on quality education for all, Queen Rania asserted that it must include girls as well as boys. “Because educated girls strengthen their nations’ economies; they prioritise the health and education of their own children, and they help to build stable societies more resilient to radicalisation.”
“Education alone isn’t the solution. We need jobs as well. Recent estimates indicate that we need to create over 100 million jobs by 2020 to absorb new entrants into the labour market,” the Queen added.
Acknowledging the job creation challenge, Her Majesty was nonetheless optimistic about emerging opportunities in the region: “The good news is that new industries are emerging. The digital landscape is evolving. And Internet connectivity and mobile technologies are creating new horizons for entrepreneurs. Arab Internet users are growing at around 20 per cent annually. Mobile penetration at around 110 per cent.”
She also highlighted the potential of e-commerce in the region, as well as the ICT sector that is set to hit $20 billion in 2020.
“A burgeoning technology sector. An insatiable consumer market. And a huge youth population hungry for opportunity. The conditions for explosive growth are within reach.”
Talking about the Arab world’s resources, Her Majesty said the region has the values, the money, the minds, the youth, the technology, the market, the networks and the motivation to tap into these reserves and create lasting change.
Ending her speech, Queen Rania said: “For the sake of each one of us… for Islam and the Arab world… for the future of our young people, we must create a new narrative and broadcast it to the world. Because if we don’t decide what our identity is… and what our legacy will be, the extremists will do it for us.”
Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, minister of culture, youth and social development, and Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, minister of higher education and scientific research, attended the opening session of the media summit, the statement said.
Earlier at the event, Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, highlighted the importance of the media industry to the regional economy.
“The media sector is becoming increasingly far ranging and relevant. From a regional perspective, our industry represents an ever-increasing and significant contributor to the regional economy,” Mubarak said.
He went on to describe the market opportunity in the region, which is being driven by the relentless increase in connectivity in the region, commenting on how media innovation is transforming the way students receive and engage with information, and how twofour54 (a media and entertainment free zone based in Abu Dhabi) is responding with a number of initiatives to support the industry’s development.
“All of twofour54’s investments are giving young UAE nationals unprecedented access to a thriving industry in which they can learn their craft, improve their skills, develop new ideas and help shape the media sector of the future.”
Mubarak added that “through education and training the media industry has an unrivalled potential to contribute to the development of future generations, formally and informally, directly and indirectly, in this region and globally. That is both a huge opportunity and a great responsibility.”
While introducing Queen Rania, he reminded the audience of Her Majesty’s strong advocacy of education in the Middle East and North Africa, saying: “I can think of no better person to open our summit on the future of media in the MENA region and beyond.”
This year’s three-day programme features a series of panel discussions, interviews and presentations by seasoned industry leaders as well as new players. Each day is focused around a particular industry topic: content creation, distribution and financing, the statement said.
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