“West’s most influential Muslim scholar” Hamza Yusuf criticised for backing UAE-Israel deal
Hamza Yusuf was once dubbed "the most influential Muslim scholar in the western world".
Hamza Yusuf, a notable Muslim scholar based in the United States, is facing criticism after publicly endorsing the United Arab Emirates’ decision to normalize ties with Israel – a move which has in large part been criticized by Muslim religious leaders.Yusuf, once dubbed “the most influential Muslim scholar in the western world,” endorsed normalization in a statement published by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Middle East Societies (FPPMES), an organization led by his teacher, Abdullah bin Bayyah, on Thursday.
The statement, which starts by heaping praise on Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and UAE’s de facto ruler Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) and the country’s foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed, says normalization “stopped Israel from claiming its sovereignty over Palestinian lands,” and as a means to “promote peace and stability across the world”.While Emirati officials have hailed normalization as a successful means to stave off annexation and save the two-state solution, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly confirmed that he remains “committed to annexing parts of the (occupied) West Bank”.Usaama al-Azami, a lecturer in Contemporary Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford, told Middle East Eye newspaper that the “bizarre statement” closely aligned with the forum’s history of legitimizing the decisions of the UAE authorities. Azami also analysed the statement as “in keeping with the strategy of the UAE to get scholars on board and have them rubber-stamp state positions”.
Hamza Yusuf is an American Islamic scholar and a co-founder of Zaytuna College. The Guardian has referred to Yusuf as “arguably the West’s most influential Islamic scholar,” and, likewise, The New Yorker magazine described him as “perhaps the most influential Islamic scholar in the Western world.”Hamza has been listed in the top 50 of The 500 Most Influential Muslims (also known as The Muslim 500) a yearly publication compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan, which ranks the most influential Muslims in the world.
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