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Opinion and Editorial

Sheikh Mohammed's leadership inspires generations

Abdulla Ali bin Tamim
Filed on June 6, 2020

Sheikh Mohammed explains that helping and serving citizens should be the purpose of all actions, organisations, and laws

In the English speaking world, Middle Eastern Studies seem to neglect literary works from the Arabian peninsula, specifically the United Arab Emirates. This is apparent when examining this subject in academia. For example, Columbia University's Library Catalog brings up only two relevant results when searching for Emirati literature. Similarly, Google Scholar only brings up a few results. Both have no relevant results for Emirati autobiographies. There is yet to be an English academic analysis (that I know of) that examines Emirati autobiographies.

The autobiography of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is in his own words an "incomplete biography". Titled Qissati in Arabic and My Story in English, this autobiography written in fifty stories. This book was released in celebration of Sheikh Mohammed's fifty years of public service. Therefore, one of this work's main subject matters is how Sheikh Mohammed -and the Al Maktoum family - has built a city and its people, in terms of economic prosperity and quality of life. Some of his efforts include developing the city through innovative projects and turning Dubai into a major tourist destination, and promoting education through initiatives like the Arab Reading Challenge.

The autobiography also describes tragic losses and beautiful joys that have shaped him as an individual. He has written about relationship with his mother, Latifa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, for instance, and the influences she had on his life. The role of his brother (Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum), his father (Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum), and his grandfather (Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum) are also discussed in detail, reflecting how each of these individuals were positive drivers of change in his life and community.

The book also highlights Sheikh Mohammed's life as a political and military leader in the Middle East. As a military leader and minister of Defense, Sheikh Mohammed's efforts in the establishment of the UAE Armed Forces, which was essential in maintaining the UAE's stability and autonomy after it had declared independence and throughout the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Furthermore, his career as a defense minister involved tackling terrorism from abroad, and in this autobiography, he focuses on his efforts in negotiating with plane hijackers and terrorists Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. On the other hand, his experience as a political leader in this autobiography oftentimes involves recollected conversations with other political leaders. When political leaders such as Bashar Al Assad and Muammar Al Ghadafi asked him how they can develop their cities like Dubai, he advised them to focus on developing their nation, economy, and people. However, they never heeded his advice. Sheikh Mohammed is hopeful that the region will rebuild itself.

This autobiography was published for the betterment of individuals and societies. The fifty story structure has moral teachings and it aims to inspire people to do more for their land. The last 'story' has 'ten teachings', directed at the reader. The first teaching, and arguably the most important, is to "help people." Sheikh Mohammed explains that helping and serving citizens should be the purpose of all actions, organisations, and laws. Here, by imploring people to participate in public service, Sheikh Mohammed makes it clear that one of his main objectives in writing the autobiography.

Abdulla Ali bin Tamim is an Emirati researcher

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