Security is the UAE’s key to freedom

The UAE was ranked number one in the Middle East in the Global Social Progress Index

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

Published: Updated:

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” said the 18th century Irish politician John Philpot Curran. I could not agree more, especially when there are so many unscrupulous people abusing their freedom to create violence and anarchy.

Sadly, troublemakers and deranged people have succeeded in turning parts of the Middle East and North Africa into a living hell, which is why GCC member states have no-tolerance policies, sometimes unfairly criticized by western human rights groups, which have no conception of the dangers we face.

We have rules as well as codes of behavior and those who abide by them have nothing to fear. We make no apology for pulling up the drawbridge to keep out terrorists and criminals who think nothing of strolling into a cinema, school or mall in other parts of the world, armed with automatic weapons with which to gun down innocents.

We make no apology for pulling up the drawbridge to keep out terrorists and criminals

Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor

The economic foundation of every successful country in this day and age is security, security and more security. Investors are attracted by stability; they want to put their money and assets in a protected, safe environment, which is also a magnet for top-notch experts and employees keen to work in a place where they walk down the street without being robbed or molested; a place where their children can run carefree without being preyed upon by drug pushers or other criminals.

High level security is one of the reasons behind the UAE’s booming, diverse economy. The UAE is one of the safest countries in the world and the authorities intend to keep it that way. Indeed, Abu Dhabi and Dubai were recently ranked the safest cities in the Middle East and Africa on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Safe Cities Index 2015.

Our shopping malls do a roaring trade, our hotels are full and our airports are some of the busiest anywhere because residents and visitors can relax and enjoy themselves in the knowledge they are being protected 24/7 by the National Guard and highly-trained security personnel.

On alert

Last year, the UAE was ranked number one in the Middle East in the Global Social Progress Index with the lowest violent crime rate and the lowest homicide rate worldwide. I still remember the days when it did not occur to us to lock our front doors and it was normal to see an open-topped car parked with the keys left in the ignition. Intolerance of thieves is inherent in our culture but now that our cities have become multi-cultural metropolises, the authorities have grown exponentially alert assisted by vast networks of CCTV cameras and sophisticated surveillance equipment monitoring public places and highways.

The country’s intelligence agencies have been equipped with advanced technological tools so as to stay abreast of new threats and have impressed allies with their competence, extending beyond borders.

The UAE has not only beefed up its border security over recent years; tough laws combating terrorism have also been passed. Dozens of international and local companies have been shut down after being accused of money laundering while scores of ships suspected of carrying dangerous cargo have been boarded by security forces.

Moreover the Central Bank has frozen the accounts of numerous alleged terrorists and their funders in coordination with foreign partners. No one privileged enough to live in my homeland complains about such intrusive measures apart from the criminals themselves – and foreign-based human rights groups which seem to care more about the rights of bad guys than ordinary folk going about their business.

A robust security force

Furthermore, so as to assist residents wading through the legal system that in many countries is complicated and slow, the Dubai Courts have initiated a groundbreaking e-services portal offering ‘100 smart services to provide integrated legal services’ to assist with ‘amicable settlements’, ‘labor proceedings’, ‘commercial proceedings,’ etc. There is also a UAE Public Prosecutions Portal which enables interested parties to search for specific cases, lawyers, experts and translators.

Although the UAE has built up a reputation for being harsh with drug traffickers and dealers whose greed ruins young lives and shatters families, the government’s strategy also includes reintegrating drug users back into society, especially first-time offenders who are directed to the National Rehabilitation Centre or other treatment facilities.

Most of all, praise should be sent to our police forces who not only deal efficiently with perpetrators but have also won the respect of citizens and expats. A 2014 YouGov poll, commissioned by The National newspaper, found that 78 per cent of respondents across all nationalities feel the police are doing an excellent or good job. Some 79 per cent expressed the belief that were they to have contact with the police, they would be treated with respect.

Dubai Police hit the global headlines in January 2010, following the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room by a hit team which had entered the country with fake passports, believed to have been acting upon the instructions of the Israeli Mossad. Within no time, the police distributed footage of the killers along with their photographs and details of their passports astonishing the international community with its efficiency.

Today, Dubai has ten police stations and a 15,000-strong force trained to be able to interact with the public as the emirate’s law-enforcement ambassadors. An image-booster has been a fleet of super-luxury cars, including Ferraris and McLarens, driven by tourist police, rendering visitors eager to take photographs with uniformed officers while acquiring information about the city.

And innovation does not stop there. Dubai Police is set to grab Robocop off the screen technology; not as gun-wielding crime-stoppers but rather interactive robots linked to police call centers.

One of the great things about law enforcement in the UAE is the way that a strict approach to lawbreakers is softened by care and compassion for people who walk the straight and narrow. Winning hearts and minds goes hand-in-hand with clamping down on those out to destroy all that we have built. The Emirates welcomes good people with an open heart, but there is no ‘get out of jail’ card for anyone with bad intentions or disrespect for our culture and laws.

Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and he has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.