Fighting propaganda wars? US launches anti-IS ideology center in UAE

The Sawab Center will use direct online engagement to counter Islamic State propaganda, ideology


Web Desk July 09, 2015
US President Barack Obama and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. PHOTO: AFP

ABU DABHI: The United States on Wednesday launched the “Sawab” center in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which has been designed to counter Islamic State propaganda online.

According to the State Department, the center in Abu Dhabi aims to counter online messages, propaganda and recruitment efforts by the Islamic State, known as Da'esh in Arabic. Launched by UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash and the US Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel, it is a joint online engagement initiative, in support of the Global Coalition Against Daesh.

The Sawab Center will use direct online engagement to counter terrorist propaganda rapidly and effectively, including messages used to recruit foreign fighters, fundraise for illicit activities, and intimidate and terrorise local populations,” a statement from the State Department read. It added that false claims and religious misinterpretations propagated by IS will be countered.

“Sawab” in Arabic signifies "doing the right thing" or being on the "right path".

The center will try to increase the intensity of online debate by presenting and promoting moderate and tolerant voices from across the region and amplifying inclusive and constructive narratives.

The initiative was first announced by US President Barack Obama earlier this year at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. It builds on and links to other similar counter-extremism initiatives in the UAE including the Hedayah Centre to Counter Violent Extremism and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.

State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner stated during the daily press briefing in Washington on Wednesday that the center is part of President Obama's strategy on defeating IS, which requires the international community to discredit their the militant group's ideology.

“So the United States will therefore continue to do its part to support partners like the United Arab Emirates to counter IS’s hateful ideology and will partner specifically with Muslim communities as they work to reject some of these distorted interpretations of Islam that are propagated and peddled by IS.”

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