The United Arab Emirates: Next stop for the mujahideen?

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 2 Issue: 7

With jihadist violence having made its debut in Qatar, the issue of spreading instability in the Arab Gulf region as a whole, which supplies some 60 percent of oil imports to the United States, is now a growing concern. Already the relationship of Kuwait and Bahrain to the United States, as expressed through public opinion, is deteriorating, and last January Oman had to head off a mujahideen attack. Common in all of these developments is the jihadists’ success in weakening perceptions of their governments’ legitimacy, precisely because their close relationships with the United States. Until now the United Arab Emirates, through its relatively buoyant economy — which is a stabilizing factor in the region — has been free of jihadist political activism.

But on the same day of the Qatar theater bombing (see article in this issue) an unsigned posting appeared on the militant forums Al-Tajdeed [] and Al-Qal’a []. It featured ‘An Urgent Letter to the Rulers of the Emirates’ and warned that there was “no room for doubt that the punishment of God will befall your country”. There followed a carefully ordered list of misdemeanors perpetrated by the rulers of the United Arab Emirates, embedded in a text that was both soberly constructed and amply punctuated with a wealth of authoritative Qur’anic and Shari’a citations. The accusations leveled were:

– The opening up of the country to Jews and Christians, and support of their wars against Muslims

– Voluntary adhesion to the United Nations (in the knowledge that its decisions are made without reference to what is revealed by God

– The training and equipping of an Iraqi police force (in the knowledge that they would be deployed against Muslim mujahideen)

The permission for the construction of churches and places of worship for polytheists.

The drafters of the statement carefully stated that they had no wish to depose the government or seek worldly power, but carefully underlined how such actions, along with other secularizing practices, placed personal responsibility on the rulers, for which they would individually have to pay. It went on to suggest a course for repentance — the undoing of the above misdemeanors, the expulsion of the US ambassador, the closure of ‘all drinking establishments and night clubs in hotels’, the prevention of ‘the appearance in public of women wearing adornments … the halting of all songs and music.’ Each of these is presented as potential casus belli for the mujahideen, but particular emphasis is placed on the role of the Emirates in support of the United States — the posting appends a picture of the re-provisioning of the USS Kitty Hawk at Jebel Ali. The Letter finally gives warning that the emirs have ten days in which to carry out its instructions, otherwise they will be considered to be in a state of apostasy. As Terrorism Focus went to press the deadline had passed.

The statement is left unsigned, and the issue of authenticity is therefore irrelevant. But what is most interesting from the text is the careful attention to legal propriety, and the emphasis on providing a) sufficient warning, b) sufficient opportunity for the offending rulers to regularize their behavior in conformity with Islam. The procedural caution seems aimed at demonstrating that a completed warning cycle has been issued, thus acquiring adequate religious authority to embark on violent action. As such, it is in conformity with al-Qaeda’s practice of laying out the Shari’a grounds for hostilities as described in Terrorism Focus, Vol II issue 5.