Special needs charity denies being cult front

Gulf News/November 27, 2005
By Nina Muslim

Dubai : A UAE organisation to provide education for children with special needs says it is not a front for Scientology, despite being in partnership with a Scientology-linked association.

Ability Based Learning and Empowerment (Able-UAE), under the patronage of Shaikha Lamia Faisal Al Qasimi, has 12 partners, including the UAE Education Ministry and the Association for a Better Living and Education, or Able International.

Able International is a non-profit community organisation that follows the teachings of Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Hollywood heavyweights Tom Cruise and John Travolta are two of Scientology's most faithful devotees.

The Church of Scientology elicits a mixed response from the Western world; supporters credit it with saving their lives, critics, including the founder's son, condemn it as a money-making scheme.

Shaikha Lamia Al Qasimi, Able-UAE chairperson, told Gulf News that there was no connection between the special needs education objective and Scientology.

"We take what we want from anything and whatever is not suitable for us, we leave. We take the good and leave the bad.

"At the end of the day, it is to make a disabled child able," she said.

Shirin Huda, director of Able-UAE, said, "There are many organisations that collaborate with us, all with the aim of bringing the best practices in education."

She said her organisation would use methods employed by Able International to help special needs children learn as it has the "best methodology".

She added Able-UAE may receive funding from the international group.

Dubai Aid and Humanitarian City said it would monitor Able-UAE's activities to ensure it fulfilled its objectives.

Principles of Scientology

Scientology is a religious movement established in 1951 by science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. It started as an alternative to psychotherapy, but was re-characterised in 1953 as an "applied religious philosophy".

The Church of Scientology presents itself as a religious non-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging the development of the human spirit, and providing counselling and rehabilitation programmes. Critics say it is an unscrupulous commercial organisation.

Church spokespeople said Hubbard's teachings, called "technology" in Scientology terminology, have freed them from many mental and social problems including learning disabilities.

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