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This Is How Arab Rulers Are Pitting Religious Scholars Against Qatar

The Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies (FPPMS) was started in 2014 by the UAE, which was supposed to promote peace in the region. The president of the forum, Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, is one of the most recognised scholars in the region and also in the west. He was praised by US President Obama for a strong anti-terror speech at the UN in 2014.

However, the forum issued a strong statement against the Gulf emirate on June 7, Less known about the forum’s president is that from 2004 until September 2013, he had been vice-president of the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholors (IUMS). This older body is headed by Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian scholar close to the Muslim Brotherhood

Qatar has always followed its independent foreign policy and tensions raised when it supported the Arab revolutions through its media outlet Al Jazeera, the uprisings were seen as a threat by the autocratic regimes.

The statement reaffirms the forum’s status as UAE’s rubber stamp. The forum’s annual conference is typically headlined by its president, Bin Bayyah, and the UAE’s foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, giving the distinct impression that it serves as one of the soft power tools in the UAE’s foreign policy toolkit.

The next most senior figure at the forum is its vice-president, US-based Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, who is Bin Bayyah’s most prominent student. Yusuf has been described as “arguably the West’s most influential Islamic scholar.” Both these scholars political engagements have, of late, been controversial, and their conspicuous roles at the FPPMS have given its recent anti-Qatar statement religious authority.

Photo: Middle East Eye

The statement fails to be neutral and clearly backs UAE without considering Qatar’s view, it calls UAE as a place of “tolerance and peace-making”.

“The Forum has followed with extreme unease the activities of the Qatari government in ripping apart Arab ranks, rebelling against the Gulf family, and insulting the generous faith of Islam by supporting terrorist groups, inciting political instability in safe countries, and inflaming sectarian conflict. [This] has led to remedial efforts by the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and several Arab and Islamic countries to limit the evil that stems from the actions of the Qatari government that aim at demolishing the foundations of stability and security in the region.”

The statement concludes with a call by the forum’s “presidency” for Qatar to cease and desist, citing the hallowed early Muslim figure of the second Caliph, Umar, who is reported to have said: “Returning to the truth is better than persisting in falsehood”.

It looks like the statement was drafted by the UAE authorities. What was the hurry to release the statement with 48 hours of the crisis?

Another point to be noted is that the statement was nowhere to be seen on the website and social media accounts of the forum’s president, Bin Bayyah, it was actually published first on the UAE’s Emirates News Agency, before it appeared on the forum.

Neither has Yusuf, the forum’s vice president, publicly commented on the blockade, although he was feted by the UAE’s ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, at an inter-faith event one week after the blockade began.

His position is complicated by the fact that Sheikha Aisha bint Faleh Al Thani, a Qatari royal and educational philanthropist, appears to sit on the Board of Directors of Zaytuna College, an important US-based Islamic liberal arts college where Yusuf also serves as president.

In an interview recently, UAE’s ambassador to US Yousef Al Otaiba said that Qatar’s opponents wish for a region dominated by “secular, stable, prosperous, empowered, strong governments”.

The reference to “empowered, strong governments” in an autocratic region underlines the UAE’s hostility towards democracy.

Now, US intelligence officials have confirmed that UAE was behind the hacking of Qatar News Agency, the act which sparked the crisis. So, what does the forum has to say about this?

About Abishek

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