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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Portrait of a Nation: The Emirati whose de-radicalisation expertise is as crucial as it is timely

Maitha Qambar attended the prestigious American University in Washington DC

Maitha Qambar, 24, has just completed a master’s degree in Terrorism and Homeland Security from the prestigious American University in Washington DC. Courtesy Maitha Qambar
Maitha Qambar, 24, has just completed a master’s degree in Terrorism and Homeland Security from the prestigious American University in Washington DC. Courtesy Maitha Qambar

Maitha Qambar's research on how to de-radicalise those drawn into extremism is as critical as it is timely.

At a time when many nations fear the return of Isil fighters after their imminent defeat, dealing with that challenge comes into sharp focus.

At 24, Ms Qambar has just completed a master’s degree in Terrorism and Homeland Security from the prestigious American University in Washington DC. She is currently finalising a study that looks at de-radicalisation.

Many nations will likely look to imprisonment for returning citizens. But the present thinking is rehabilitation, she says.

“By adopting peaceful, educational and therapeutic approaches, we help those imprisoned on charges of terrorism or extremism and transform them into productive members of the society," she says.

“We also strengthen their sense of patriotism and belonging to their country and leadership, who deserve the best from their people for the support the leadership provide to all layers of the society in all aspects of life.

"A well-informed community member would be able to identity and help a person who is being lured by extremists."

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Read more:

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Ms Qambar has always been a high achiever. In 2010 she graduated from high school with a score of 93 per cent, which earned her a place at Pennsylvania State University. There she studied intensive English communication for a year.

Afterwards she enroled in International Studies with specialisation in Global Security and Human Rights in the Middle East at the American University, on a scholarship from the UAE Government.

“If it wasn't for my country’s support and my father’s encouragement, I wouldn't have achieved such an accomplishment,” says Ms Qambar, whose drive to make her country and father proud spurs her on.

“I represent not only myself, but my country and family therefore when making any decision or a slightest move, I would solely think if this would make my country and my parents proud,” she says.

Ms Qambar holds her own within a well-educated and accomplished family. Her mother taught at the school Ms Qambar graduated from.

While studying for her BA, Ms Qambar trained in the Political Department at the UAE Embassy in Washington DC. There she researched human rights issues in the UAE related to labour laws and human trafficking.

She returned to the UAE last year to join the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi where she published a report about the UAE’s counterterrorism policies. The study involved monitoring and classifying terrorist operations in other countries, comparing lists of designated terrorists and conducting a comparative study on non-military counterterrorism policies.

Upon her return to the US to pursue her Master’s degree, Ms Qambar worked as a research assistant for five months at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland. START is funded by the US Department of Homeland Security and houses the largest database of American national extremists.

In May, while working as a research assistant for a programme on extremism at George Washington University, Ms Qambar wrote an independent paper on rehabilitation and de-radicalisation programmes. Her study was informed by analyses of speeches by Muslim Brotherhood members and research from primary and secondary sources on Islamist extremism, ideology and radicalisation.

“I have noticed a confusion among people when it comes to what terrorism and extremism is, that’s why my goal is to spread awareness among the public about their proper definition, types and the right approaches to identify and combat them," she says.

The biog

Name: Maitha Qambar

Age: 24

Emirate: Abu Dhabi

Education: Master’s Degree

Favourite hobby: Reading

She says: “Everyone has a purpose in life and everyone learns from their experiences”