Oman’s Resilience Against Terrorism: A Model of Stability in the Middle East

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The Sultanate of Oman has been always able to preserve its stability of security and stay away from the menace of terrorism, improving the efficiency of its national counterterrorism strategy. The last two decades have been characterised by terror, yet Oman remains one of only a handful of countries to not undergo a terrorist attack. How has Oman avoided an attack and is the trend likely to continue? As the country’s leader ages with no known successor, this question is becoming increasingly timely.

Former Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said has headed Oman since 1970 when Qaboos dethroned his father in a coup. Qaboos contemporized Oman by developing roads, schools, and hospitals. Businesses developed as Oman embraced its oil and gas reserves, and the government was able to expand its public service projects and lower crime rates. Today, the World Economic Forum lists Oman as the 4th safest nation in the world despite its conflict-prone neighbour, Yemen.

Oman has parallels to its Western neighbour, Yemen, with whom it shares a 187-mile border. Oman and Yemen adjoin large bodies of water and possess highlands that are good for agriculture. Until the mid-1900s, they were “two of the world’s least internationally trained and socio-economically developed countries” and looked as though they would persist in following similar trends. Now while Yemen is afflicted with ongoing conflict and is consistently in the top 10 countries most impacted and devastated by terrorism, Oman is seen as a calm, friendly state due to Qaboos’ consistent policies.

Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar have demonstrated similar foreign policy processes as each small country has taken measures to bolster discourse in the Middle East. The three states “prefer to recreate a neutral role and, at times, to negotiate between Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

Oman has many aspects of its Middle Eastern neighbours. It shares a geographic landscape and a large Muslim population with Yemen, a similar people size to Kuwait, and the same government classification and rough political stability as Qatar. However, Qaboos, “the longest-served Arab monarch in power,” enabled Oman to avoid terrorism and brutality by promoting stability and allowing the government to develop over time through the leader’s consistent policies.

Whereas other MENA countries undergo religious tensions that have led individuals to enter terrorist groups, Oman has remained comparatively lenient. In 1996, Qaboos codified into regulation the right to worship and the illegality of prejudice on the basis of religion. Almost 75% of Muslims in Oman attach to the Ibadi School of Islam, which requires strict observance of Sharia law. It is thought that “the adherence to Ibadism is one of the main reasons for the country’s historical seclusion in a Sunni-dominated Arab world.” 

Additionally, Oman is house to “over 60 registered Christian groups, three Hindu temples, and two Sikh gurdwaras.” Oman’s commitment to education has been instrumental in evolving Oman. In 1970, there were only three academies in the country. Today there are almost 750,000 students registered in about 1,800 schools and multiple vocational training prospects and tertiary education at Qaboos University. This focus is important because “education is the world’s vaccine against terrorism” as it provides mastery and a sense of community.

Similarly, Oman stresses nonviolence and avoids “direct military involvement in regional conflicts,” which allows for limited internal radicalization. Oman has also served as a regional peacemaker to settle issues in the MENA region. The country has been involved in bringing parties together to bargain, particularly on behalf of states whose nationals were abducted by hostile governments or terror outfits.

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