Abu Dhabi’s quest for modernity offers lessons for the region

Sunday 03/12/2017
Taking off. Aermacchi MB-339 jets from UAE’s Al-Fursan display team perform with an Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380 before the start of the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, on November 26. (AFP)

People from around the globe were in the United Arab Emirates in late November for Formula One’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors a few weeks before.
This was no accident. It was a testament to the success of the United Arab Emirate’s approach to modernity.
The average Emirati citizen is very open to other cultures while, at the same time, being proud of his or her Arab heritage that is deeply rooted in Islamic tradition.
The UAE is a relatively young country. It became independ­ent 46 years ago and sufficient time has passed to put it on the world map in many domains. The UAE has become an important player in ensuring regional security and stability.
Not only did the original dream of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan for the UAE become a reality, it has spread to the whole region. For every country in the region wishing to effectively fight terrorism and extremism, it has become necessary to revive Sheikh Zayed’s credo of embracing the world and the present after making peace with one’s own heritage.
The UAE has chosen to free Emirati society from extrem­ism and terrorism and go the extra mile in fending off militarily the Iranian-spon­sored threat coming from Yemen. That UAE forces are taking part in field operations in Yemen is no secret. The UAE has lost many martyrs in that dirty war.
Spectators at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and visitors to the UAE could clearly see that the faraway events in Yemen have had no effect on the pace of life in the country. The Emirati Air Force displayed its superb flying skills more than once with spectacular air shows during the race.
The UAE’s path to moder­nity proves that a modern state is built one step at a time. Building a modern state requires sacrifices that Emiratis have been more than willing to make. They seem more than convinced that their unique experience needs to be protected.
Amid the storms sweeping the region, the Emirates knew how to protect themselves. The UAE was founded on wisdom, Sheikh Zayed’s wisdom. It is a federation of seven emirates coexisting in harmony and peace.
Lebanon, too, was once perfectly capable of organis­ing a sporting event of the cali­bre of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The only difference is that Lebanon did not know how to protect itself and its society. It fell victim to outside meddling.
It was a major crime against Lebanese sovereignty to allow Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to form their own state within the state. The Lebanese people are paying the heavy price of that foolishness. Former Palestin­ian leader Yasser Arafat’s banana republic inside Beirut has vanished but Hezbollah’s fiefdom is still with us. It is vying for power with the Lebanese state, with some asserting that it is more powerful than the Lebanese state.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government has fought daily to prove that Lebanon is alive as a sovereign state, resisting systematic battering by Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah. The Lebanese must continue their daily struggle to prove that their country believes in the culture of life and rejects the culture of death imposed by Iran. It is, in fact, fighting to protect its Arab identity.