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UAE helped 'cement Islamophobia' in the UK: report

The UAE's lobbying efforts in the UK allegedly worsened Islamophobia [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 July, 2018

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A newly-published report has claimed that the UAE used 'clandestine' lobbying tactics in the US and UK to steer government and public opinion against the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar.
The United Arab Emirates helped to "cement Islamophobia" in the UK in order to boost its standing in the west, through a range of campaigning techniques, which are similar to those used by pro-Israel lobbyists in the US and Europe, a new report has claimed.

The 50-page report pubished by "Spinwatch: Public Interest Investigations" alleges that the UAE has influenced UK and US foreign and domestic policy through aggressive and "clandestine" lobbying.

It alleges that the UAE carried out its campaigning by "promising billions in return for influence in the US, infiltrating the British media to smear rivals, threatening to interfere in parliamentary select committee reports, buying politicians' loyalty with lavish trips, donating to think tanks and trying to influence them, aiming to deport political opponents, trying to influence BBC coverage and protesting against press freedom".

A key effect of this was to steer western governments against the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political group seen by the Gulf state as a threat to its system of autocracy. The report says that the anti-Brotherhood hysteria spurred on by British media outlets worsened attitudes towards Muslims as a whole.

"Ultimately this is counterproductive because it sours the narrative against Muslims in the West and cements Islamophobia, which ultimately works to erode broader relations between the West and the Muslim world," the report says.

Elsewhere, the UAE's anti-Brotherhood lobbying led to the UK overlooking the atrocities committed by then Egypt's then-Defence Minister-now-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, following a military coup in 2013. 

"While massacres were taking place in two parts of the capital city, they got instant, full British diplomatic support," Chris Davidson, reader in Middle East politics at Durham University, is quoted in the report as saying.

The report also questions the UAE's credentials as an alleged supporter of "freedom" and "human rights", given its own detention and torture of activists and deep involvement in the controversial Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have killed at least 10,000 people - the vast majority civilians - and damaged vital infrastructure.

"The issue is not whether Qatar or the Muslim Brotherhood have connections to 'extremism' – after all both Saudi and the UAE are dictatorships with a very significant ongoing track record in human rights violations," the report concludes.

"The issue is, how the UAE has manipulated the British press, won over politicians and bought into think tanks to advance its agenda, which amounts to an implacable opposition to democracy."

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