Islam in the Service of Peace: Religious Aspects of the Israel-UAE Accord

(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University) Dr. Ofir Winter and Dr. Yoel Guzansky - Over the last decade, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has striven to disseminate a religious-political doctrine that defines peace as an Islamic value. It poses this stance as an ideological alternative to the radical concepts of political Islam advocated by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi-jihadist forces. These efforts also contribute to the UAE's international image as a stronghold of religious freedom, pluralism, and multiculturalism. In 2016, the UAE founded a government ministry for promoting tolerance and declared 2019 a Year of Tolerance, during which it hosted a summit between the Pope and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar University and the leading religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world. Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, chairman of the Emirates Fatwa Council, the country's supreme religious authority, noted that "the Islamic sharia abounds in many examples of such cases of reconciliations and peacemaking in accordance with the public good and circumstances." Supporters of the agreement with Israel quote the Qur'an to show Islam's preference for peace, such as, "if they are inclined to peace, make peace with them" (Qur'an 8:61). Jerusalem Mufti Muhammad Hussein ruled that pilgrims from the UAE would not be allowed to pray in the al-Aqsa Mosque. In response, Dr. Abbas Shoman, former Secretary-General of the Egyptian al-Azhar Council of Senior Scholars, denounced the ban, stating that he knew of no precedent in Islamic law preventing people from praying at any mosque whatsoever because of the political stance of a native country. Shoman wondered why the Palestinians did not bar citizens from Turkey and Qatar from praying in al-Aqsa when their countries had conducted normal relations with Israel for many years. The writers are research fellows at INSS.

2020-09-10 00:00:00

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