"Conditions for explosive growth are within reach..." – Queen Rania at The Abu Dhabi Media Summit
With H.H. Sheikh Nahyan and H.H. Sheikh Hamdan in attendance
Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan opened the Abu Dhabi Media Summit 2014 yesterday, which gathers more than 500 media industry leaders from around the globe for this year's theme, 'Driving and Sustaining a Future Media in MENA and Beyond'.
The opening session was attended by H.H. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Social Development, and H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, where Queen Rania delivered a speech with a clear message that 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." She said.
"A minority of irreligious extremists is using social media to rewrite our narrative hijack our identity and rebrand us." 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, and implored, "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."
She also noted that the more 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." A bold statement, before Her Majesty asserted that the fight against extremists becomes 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 continued, adding that, "winning also depends on our ability to conquer the philosophical battleground as well. Because at the heart of this assault is an ideology."
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."
She then 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 came top of this, she explained, "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."
"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." The example of EDRAAK, a concept which brings a massive amount of online courses to the Arab world, in Arabic. She also thanked His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his support for the initiative and noted that online learning is the best opportunity to achieve quality and modern education, asserting 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." She said.
Acknowledging the job creation challenge, Her Majesty was 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% annually. Mobile penetration at around 110%."
"The conditions for explosive growth are within reach." Her Majesty also highlighted the potential of e-commerce in the region, saying that it has, "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 resources the Arab World possess, she highlighted that the Middle East 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."
Earlier at the summit, the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, H.E. Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, welcomed Queen Rania and media industry guests to Abu Dhabi, and reflected on 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."
Watch the inspiring keynote speech below, now: