Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan said it was time to reclaim the identity of the Arab world from a minority of extremists who have filled screens with images of violence and destruction.
“These images don’t represent me anymore than they represent you,” said Queen Rania, in her speech to open this year’s Abu Dhabi Media Summit 2014
“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 added.
Queen Rania said it was time that the Arab world reclaimed its narrative from “a minority of irreligious extremists is using social media to rewrite our narrative… hijack our identity and rebrand us.”
However, she said that the moderate majority of Arabs must not stand by and remain silent.
“They say, a story is told as much by silence as by speech. Well, our silence speaks volumes. We are complicit in their success,” said Queen Rania.
The fight against extremists, she said, goes well beyond that battleground, and is now 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.
“Winning also depends on our ability to conquer the philosophical battleground as well. Because at the heart of this assault is an ideology,” she said.
Queen Rania questioned the increase in the number of followers and fans of radical groups in the region.
She explained that these followers are “from classrooms in which they were never challenged to think for themselves, and where they learned an outdated curriculum. From societies in which a quarter of their peers is unemployed, where there’s inadequate social security to afford a life of dignity, and where opportunities to help to change the status quo are few and far between.”
Queen Rania presented the contrasting options that are facing the future of the region.
“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,” she said.
Investing in education should be a priority, she said, and it should be a long-term commitment to provide quality education for all – girls and 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.