The UAE's fight against extremist islamist ideologies: soft power versus hard power

  • Talal Faris

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


When looking to counter an extremist ideology with strong connections to religion, it is crucial to use a number of different methods. For this thesis the methods revolve around the use of soft powers and the use of proportionate hard power tools only when strategically appropriate. The benefits of using soft powers means the problem can be tackled at the root cause while also creating a strong long-term strategy to counter extremism. Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction while hard power uses coercion or payments to get what one desires. While the use of hard powers should only be used in proportion to the threat, on most occasions it still exacerbates the problem. Defining extremism and religious extremism is a challenge due to the various explanations that currently exist. That said, extremist ideologies are those that are on either the far right or far left of the political center. When trying to combat extremism, Joseph Nye’s concept of soft power in the realm of international relations can be used as it emphasizes non-aggressive tactics.In recent times, hard powers have been used to combat the growing support for extreme Islamic ideologies and have all have failed. The Muslim Brotherhood, Khomeinism and Al Qaeda are all examples of organizations and individuals whose extremist ideologies have today gained a great amount of support following their repression. The spread of these ideologies have had a direct or indirect impact on the UAE and the world at large. Each of these organizations continues to affect the UAE’s security and its fight against Islamist extremism. To prevent the spread of extremist ideologies it is important that the UAE avoids the same mistakes other regimes globally have committed in their fight against these three movements. All have encountered excessive oppression and violence and it would be more appropriate long term to use soft power rather hard power tactics. A variety of soft power tools can be incorporated into a counter terrorism strategy; this paper recommends Education, Research, Community Policing and Rehabilitation.
Date of AwardMar 2014
Original languageAmerican English


  • Religious Extremism; United Arab Emirates; Soft Power; Hard Power.

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