U.S. Muslim Leaders Headline UAE Conference at Expense of American Muslim and Palestinian Rights

December 12, 2018
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(WASHINGTON, D.C. 12/12/2018) — Last Wednesday, a group of prominent and select American Muslim leaders traveled to the United Arab Emirates to participate in the fifth annual conference of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies (FPPMS), which is sponsored by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah bin Zayed, and headed by Mauritanian Islamic scholar, Abdullah bin Bayyah. Despite the country’s appalling human rights record, U.S. Muslim leaders present praised the country for being “committed to tolerance [...] and civil society.”

During the conference, the same Muslim figures were photographed in a meeting with several leading members of the Zionist-Jewish American community including representatives of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a powerful pro-Israel lobby organization whose dark history of domestic spying and investment of millions of dollars to extinguish all criticism of Israel is documented in a 2014 report by AMP. The photo, which was widely tweeted on Friday by ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, features Sh. Hamza Yusuf, a California-based scholar who has been described by the Guardian as "arguably the West's most influential Islamic scholar," and Imam Mohamed Magid, the former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), who serves as the Executive Imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Virginia. 

It is worth noting that the UAE “Promoting Peace Forum” was founded in 2014, the same year that the UAE government designated CAIR, the largest Muslim civil rights organization in America, a terrorist organization. Several critics have denounced this forum as part of a series of counter-revolutionary measures carried out in the wake of the Arab Spring to crush pro-democracy efforts in the region and promote obedience toward autocratic rulers. It’s been previously exposed that conferences such as these are part of a sophisticated PR campaign by the Emirati government to pursue its own political agenda in the name of “moderate Islam”. AMP is disturbed by the continuous participation of some American Muslim leaders in these propaganda conferences that whitewash the nefarious agenda of the UAE government.   

“Given the UAE’s dismal record on human rights and its catastrophic policies in the region, as in Yemen and the staging of counter-revolutions, it is the last country to allege the promotion of peace in Muslim societies. The American Muslim leaders and scholars who participated in the conference should not have lent their names to an event aimed at legitimizing a regime that has brought much harm to their own communities and other nations,” said AMP National Policy Director Osama Abuirshaid. If “promoting peace” in Muslim societies is the purported objective of this forum then it should have called for the immediate ceasefire and end to the armed intervention in Yemen, and expressed solidarity with the Palestinians living under Apartheid conditions and occupation.

Not only has the UAE labeled the most prominent American Muslim civic group as a terrorist organization, it also has elevated virulently Islamophobic and pro-Israel organizations such as the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), whose senior researcher Jonathan Schanzer has waged a longstanding smear campaign against AMP and was recently captured maligning Palestine activists in the censored Al Jazeera documentary on the Israel Lobby. The film sheds light on the operations directed at demonizing Muslims and Palestine activists in the U.S. The hosting of the ADL at this year’s conference is especially disconcerting given the group’s sinister history of instigating political prosecutions against prominent American Muslim and Palestinian leaders and institutions, as detailed in Israeli author Miko Peled’s recent book Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. Peled recently commented to AMP that the ADL “is an organization dedicated to protecting Israel from criticism. They conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. The ADL supports the racism, ethnic cleansing, genocide and apartheid regime to which Israel has subjected the Palestinians. ADL does not represent Jewish people and must be shunned by people of conscience.” Rather than invite the ADL and AJC to the stage, the primary purveyors of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian discourses, the "Peace Forum" should have expressed support for the peaceful and nonviolent BDS movement and highlight the global success of the Palestinian struggle. 

Since the Arab Spring, the UAE government has exposed itself as an enemy of human rights and democracy. From intervening in Libya and Egypt to aiding and abetting Saudi crimes in Yemen, supporting its blockade of Qatar, and helping cover up its recent murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi, it is clear that the country is willing to secure its regional strategic interests at all costs and on the backs of millions of Muslims and Arabs. Meanwhile, it continues to openly tighten its relationship with Israel, working with lobby groups in the U.S. and purchasing Israeli spyware to target civil society both locally and abroad. No conference or publicity stunt can change these critical facts or boost this country’s corrupt image.  

“This was a conference to normalize Islamophobia, bigotry against Muslims in the West, in addition to normalizing relations and engagement with apologists for Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian people. The participation of these Muslim leaders and scholars make us wonder whether they are involved in last year’s revealed attempts of UAE’s ambassador in Washington to hijack the representation of Islam in the U.S under the pretext of promoting 'moderate' Islam which is in essence a distorted complacent form of Islam that aligns itself with Zionists and Islamophobes in the U.S through trojan horses within the American Muslim community,” Abuirshaid added. 

The active participation of some American Muslim leaders in these dubious initiatives with a deeply troubling agenda demands serious and urgent accountability.

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