Tony Abbott MP
Federal Member for Warringah
TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MP, OPENING REMARKS AT THE MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM FOUNDATION KNOWLEDGE SUMMIT, GRAND HYATT, DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
For years knowledgeable friends had been urging me to visit Dubai.
When I arrived here for the first time, in 2010, it was night – and I left before dawn – but even in the dark, the scale of what was happening was obvious.
What had been, just 40 years earlier, a sleepy, dusty outpost had been transformed into a wonder of the modern world.
But Dubai wasn’t just an Aladdin’s Cave of wealth.
At least by the standards of the Middle East, Dubai was free.
You could worship in a Christian church; drink alcohol in an international hotel; and even wear a bikini on a local beach.
In short, the contrast between Dubai and so many other parts of the Middle East could not have been more stark.
The UAE was the perfect antidote to notions that the Arab world was doomed to medievalism or fundamentalism.
A large part of the UAE’s success, I’m sure, has been your focus on education and innovation which this foundation embodies.
I congratulate Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Emirati government and all its people for your wonderful achievement and hope – and pray – that your example will be compelling across this entire region.
I hope that the rulers of Iran will look across the gulf and ask themselves why some states with oil and gas are advanced while others with natural wealth remain backward.
I hope that those wishing “death to the infidel” will look to the Emirates and appreciate that decent Muslims live harmoniously with people of other faiths.
And I hope that political scientists everywhere should look to the successful Arab states and re-assess the role of monarchy in holding together countries with a complex mix of clan and faith.
I know that Australia looks to the UAE: as a strong economic and military partner and as a like-minded friend in a changing and challenging world.
Not so far away – in Yemen, in Libya, and most viciously in Syria and northern Iraq – we see the utter depravity to which people can sink.
Not since the Middle Ages has such cruelty been not only practised but revelled in.
It’s good that the military campaign against the Daesh death cult – as I’ve called it – is steadily gaining ground.
But what’s needed is not just a military victory but an intellectual and spiritual conversion – nothing less than the religious revolution that Egypt’s President el Sisi has so courageously called for at Al Azar University.
Gatherings like this Knowledge Summit are vital if our world is to know the peace and prosperity that all aspire to.
At gatherings like this, what humanity has in common becomes more obvious and we better appreciate that what unites us is far more important than anything that divides us.
We do, indeed, build those “bridges of communication and understanding” that your foundation seeks.
That’s why it’s such an honour to be here and to contribute to your deliberations.