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    An Accidental Liberal: HE Omar Ghobash’s Global Citizenship lecture

    By Lara Carim, on 5 April 2013

    What does it mean to be an Arab and a Muslim in the modern world? How does an ordinary Arab individual explain to themselves the series of cataclysmic events that took place in the 1970s–80s?

    Sheikh Zayed Mosque

    Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

    How do and should the country deal with radical Islamic ideas? HE Omar Ghobash, United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Ambassador to Russia, addressed these existentialist, political and ethical questions in the first UCL global citizenship lecture on 18 March 2013.

    Drawing on his personal experiences growing up in UAE then at boarding school in England, and levening the demanding subject matter with a welcome sprinkling of humour and anecdotes, HE Ghobash charted his own journey towards a liberal outlook – a liberalism he defined as encompassing tolerance, respect for the individual and a healthy attitude on the part of the authorities towards the private sphere.

    He described why he felt such liberalism is actually intrinsic to the UAE, given its long history of welcoming diversity due to its seafaring and desert-life roots.

    HE Ghobash outlined the work he thought yet to be done to embed this liberalism in the present day, touching on 9/11, the Arab Spring, the relationship between absolute virtues and socioeconomic conditions, and the fallacy of yearning for glorious Islamic empires gone by.

    His half-hour talk proved a springboard for a lively discussion about the shape of the nation and Middle East overall in the 21st century.

    With thanks to Jyothsna Alva, third-year Medicinal Chemistry Msc student for help in compiling this summary.

    Image: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi by Achilli Family | Journeys on Flickr.

    Click on the player below to watch the lecture in full.