The U.A.E. named the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based group known as CAIR, as well as the Muslim American Society, in a list that also included al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
The announcement also targeted European groups such as the Finnish Islamic Association, the Muslim Association of Sweden and the Islamic Association in Norway. The U.A.E. cabinet, which released the list on Nov. 15, didn’t provide a rationale for including the groups on the list.
The Muslim American Society, which describes itself as a religious community service organization that serves people in the U.S., said it would seek U.S. government help “to address this issue.” CAIR said it was seeking an explanation from U.A.E. authorities “about this shocking and bizarre report.”
“There is absolutely no factual basis for the inclusion of CAIR and other American and European civil rights and advocacy groups on this list,” the group said in the e-mailed statement.
The U.A.E. announcement comes as the U.S. ally clamps down on political Islam and radical militant groups. Its air force is part of a U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Syria and has sent billions of dollars in aid to Egypt’s military-backed government after the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last year. Mursi was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which was also included on the U.A.E. terrorist list.
“Islamic Relief is a purely humanitarian organization,” the group said in an e-mailed statement, noting that it works in 31 countries and receives support from several United Nations agencies.
The U.A.E., an oil-rich federation of seven emirates, has escaped militant attacks as well as the political turmoil that has swept parts of the Middle East since 2011. Like the rest of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council countries, the country’s rulers are not elected through popular vote.
Last year, authorities put on trial 94 suspected members of al-Islah, a local franchise of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government. Al-Islah and a group known as Khalaya Al-Jihad Al-Emirati or Emirati Jihadist Cells, were on the terrorism list, according to the state-run Wam news agency.
‘Enough Is Enough’
The announcement signals that the U.A.E. is going after groups it perceives to be providing ideological and financial backing to militants “as well as groups that carry out direct acts of terrorism,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global Associates, which advises clients on risk in the Middle East.
“The U.A.E. is saying: ‘Enough is enough. We have to deal with the whole ecosystem of terrorism’,” he said by phone from Dubai. U.A.E. Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum wrote in an editorial in September that military action alone wasn’t enough to destroy extremist groups.
Among the groups targeted by the government announcement is the International Union of Muslim Scholars, a Doha-based organization headed by Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is known for his close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has repeatedly denied any links to terrorism.
CAIR, one of the two U.S.-based groups on the list, said it does not condone violence and called on the U.A.E. to reconsider the decision.
CAIR’s “advocacy model is the antithesis of the narrative of violent extremists,” it said in the statement. The group’s mission is “to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”
Bloomberg/ Business Week