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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Fatwa council vows to protect against extremism and hate at inaugural meeting  

First meeting pledges to shelter UAE from ‘disrupting influences that threaten region and world’

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, receives Shaikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, Emirates Fatwa Council chairman. Mohammed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, receives Shaikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, Emirates Fatwa Council chairman. Mohammed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

Leading Islamic scholars have vowed to protect the UAE from disruptive religious rulings that promote extremist and terrorist ideologies, during the first meeting of the newly-formed Emirates Fatwa Council yesterday.

While the council is a new organisation, members said they would put end fatwas that encourage terrorism, bloodshed, discrimination and hatred.

The UAE’s fatwa council was set up late last month and will be the official reference for fatwas, and will oversee all work related to Islamic rulings.

Chaired by Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, the council will co-ordinate fatwas and issue rulings on public issues that represent the country.

Sheikh bin Bayyah said the council would strive to “protect the nation from random fatwas and disrupting influences that threaten the safety of the citizens, society, the region and even the entire world”.

“The role of the council does not stop here, but will be a milestone for scholars in this blessed land and their counterparts,” he said.

The council also has the authority to grant licences to issue fatwas, to train muftis (religious scholars) and develop their skills, as well as to conduct related studies in co-ordination with the country’s General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments.

The council, said Sheikh bin Bayyah, will act against “extremists who have defamed religion”.

“Immediate action is required today that leaves no room for extremists to develop their own dogmas, compositions and constraints that are alarmingly rich in fluctuations and changes. This is what impels Muslim societies to confront extremism by using preventive measures to curb violence and hatred.

“Society will be immune to rogue fatwas that lead to corruption and ignite the flames of war instead of promoting a peaceful environment that acts as an umbrella for all citizens and grants them their human rights,” he said.

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, an American scholar who is president of Zaytuna University in California, is considered one of the West’s most-influential Islamic scholars. He and Prof Dr Amany Lubis from Indonesia are members of the council.

Fatwas, said Sheikh Hamza, are an attempt to understand what God means.

“It is a very difficult thing to do. A lot of people are not qualified and give out fatwas.

“On television, on one channel they may tell you one thing and then go to another channel and they will tell you another. It creates confusion in the minds of a lot of people,” he said.

One of the council’s missions is to unify fatwas that represent the UAE and the country’s religious stance on public issues.

“The Emirates is now trying to protect its own country,” said Sheikh Hamza.

“The UAE Government’s first priority is the security of its own people, and if religious anarchy threatens that security then you have to address the issue. This is an initiative first and foremost to protect the UAE from the type of madness that is going on elsewhere right now.”

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He also highlighted that the UAE has been relatively isolated from regional difficulties where religion is manipulated by political actors “for their own political advantage”.

The council will interpret Quranic laws not in their literal wording, but in spirit. This is a different methodology that takes into consideration the time, place and circumstances that the law applies to.

“We look at the spirit of the law and not just the letter of the law. A lot of fatwas are based on the letter of the law and do not take into consideration the context,” Sheikh Hamza said.

Dr Mohammad Al Kaabi, chairman of Abu Dhabi’s General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, said that the council is the “embodiment of the government’s efforts to develop religious discourse”.

The council, he said, will also protect young people from extremist and terrorist ideologies. “It will bring back the developed and clear image of Islam.”