"Peace and love are at the center of our religion, as evidenced by scripture and history," stated Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah at the inaugural 2014 Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies (FPPMS) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite his radical past, such positive portrayals of Islam continue to suffuse the recent December 5-7, 2018 FPPMS and related events, although, as this multipart investigation will show, the forum's reality is far more controversial.
Bin Bayyah's 2014 address suffers from a bad case of what Stephen M. Kirby has extensively analyzed as Fantasy Islam. "Our religion and our heritage are rich with tools for resolving conflicts" and "includes one of the richest legal and ethical systems humanity has ever seen," he stated, contrary to the voluminous history of Islamic jihad aggression. He made no mention of the Islamic sharia law dhimmitude contracts that held conquered non-Islamic populations in abject subjugation throughout history in the name of Islam's prophet Muhammad.
Rather, these laws apparently formed for Bin Bayyah a historical myth in which
Muslims followed the example of the Prophet, Allah's peace and blessings upon him, by spreading peace through treaties and agreements. Over several centuries, they signed more than a thousand treaties and agreements with Europe, thus contributing to the establishment of world peace.
Bin Bayyah shares a suspect past with his associate, the American Muslim convert Hamza Yusuf, who wrote a forward to a 2014 FPPMS companion booklet. Therein he declared that Muslims created "societies that became some of the most tolerant and peaceful in human history," language that evokes debunked tropes of glorious Islamic rule in Spain. He echoed UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, whose "generous patronage" the 2018 FPPMS booklet noted in the forum's establishment. "The tolerant Islamic Shariah was sent from Allah to promote peace and to preserve human lives. Our religion came to spread love and to unify mankind regardless of religious differences," Al Nahyan stated at the 2014 FPPMS.
The 2018 FPPMS emphasized the forum's 2016 Marrakesh conference and resulting declaration. Here motley interfaith religious leaders, including some with pro-jihad and sharia sentiments, tried to elevate Muhammad's short-lived seventh-century Medina charter/constitution into a kind of Muslim Magna Carta. With scant historical evidence and ignoring Muhammad's ultimate expulsion and extermination of Medina's Jewish tribes, Bin Bayyah declared at the 2014 FPPMS that "Islam established internal peace through the Constitution of Medina."
As the 2018 FPPMS conference booklet enthused, the 2016 Marrakesh Declaration was
calling on Muslim states to accord the rights of equal citizenship to the religious minorities in their midst, the basis of the Prophetic model in the Charter of Medina, and the Islamic values of benevolence, solidarity, human dignity, peace, justice, mercy and the commonweal.
Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein thus praised the Marrakesh Declaration before the 2018 FPPMS as an "empowering document" for meetings with foreign leaders, including non-Muslims. His fellow panelist, the Islamophile American evangelical and longtime Bin Bayyah collaborator Bob Roberts, concurred. "If you are a good Muslim, you are going to believe in the Marrakesh Declaration, because it's out of the scriptures," he stated, even though the Medina charter merely briefly appears in Muhammad's canonical biography, not the Quran.
Accordingly, Rice University sociology professor (and online plagiarist) Craig Considine continued his Islamophile insanity at the 2018 FPPMS. In his address, he lauded the Medina constitution as a "revolutionary anti-racist document that is for the whole of humanity," and proclaimed as a Catholic his admiration for Muhammad. Muhammad "wanted people to dialogue" and created a "civic state" with "rule of law. Muhammad treated everyone equally," Considine stated and thus drew inspiration for "energetic engagement with religious diversity."
Considine found spurious proof for his thesis in the "excellent work" of the Canadian Muslim convert and professor John Andrew Morrow. His book The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World claims a tolerant Islam on the basis of various documents such as the Achtiname that reputable scholars have dismissed as historical frauds. "No churches shall be harmed," according to these "revolutionary" documents, Considine counterfactually gushed.
Considine pursued his peculiar penchant for favorably comparing Islam with the United States, which he began several years ago with absurd equivalences between George Washington and Muhammad. He was "coming up with these ideas, with this social contract, 1,100 years before the United States even existed. Everything in these covenants can be found in the Constitution of the United States," Considine claimed.
Perhaps Considine would also equate President Barack Obama with Muhammad, given Considine's understanding of Muhammad as a community organizer who taught that
if one community or if one individual is facing a challenge, the entire community is also facing a challenge. So he was teaching that we are mutually dependent upon one another, we are only as good, or we are only as progressive as, let's call it, our weakest link.
Yusuf in his 2018 FPPMS remarks similarly praised Muhammad's Medina example as the inspiration for the Marrakesh Declaration's "inclusive citizenship." He "did not see religion as something that left us in an antagonistic relationship," and "attempted to create an environment of religious freedom." Paralleling the Fantasy Islam analysis of University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole, Yusuf attributed aggression perpetrated in Islam's name to distortions of the faith after Muhammad's death. "Our prophet was not a warmonger, he was not belligerent," Yusuf stated, but rather "empire adopted the religion of Islam. Empire used Islam for its own pursuits."
Sharia law advocate and former Bosnian Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric, a regular FPPMS participant, likewise wrote after the 2018 FPPMS in defense of the forum that "Islam is the faith of tolerance." By "very definition, 'Islam' is the concept of peace, and thus a 'Muslim' is also by definition a peaceful man or woman," he declared, repeating a common distortion of Islam's Arabic meaning of "submission" noted by Muslims themselves. "Islam has never been a religion of destruction. Islam has always been a religion of constructive and inclusive culture and civilization," he wrote.
Ceric and other questionable forum attendees had previously participated in the February 5-7, 2018, Washington, DC, launch of the Alliance of Virtue (AoV), another FPPMS initiative prominent at the 2018 forum. The 2018 conference booklet noted that at the "time of Muhammad, but before his Prophethood, leading citizens of Mecca, concerned at the lack of justice in the city, created the Alliance of Virtues." This pre-Islamic tribal alliance or Hilf al-Fudul "was not founded on the basis of common faith, tribal, or racial allegiances, as was customary in those times, but on values, virtues and the revival of a shared ethical framework."
Bin Bayyah elaborated upon these themes in his Washington, DC, conference speech. (He also noted the highly disturbing endorsement of the Marrakesh Declaration by the sharia-supporting, anti-free speech grouping of 57 Muslim-majority countries in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.) The "original Alliance of Virtue...was based upon universal values, not tribalism or religious sectarianism; this indicates that it was open to people of various religions and beliefs." The Washington Declaration of an Alliance of Virtues for the Common Good likewise declared that "our shared values are more important than our differences."
Perceptive observers will note several theoretical flaws in the AoV and its Washington Declaration, including the historical understanding that the alliance arose before Muhammad's claimed to prophethood. According to the Islamic doctrine of abrogation, in which Muhammad's later actions and revelations annul chronologically earlier teachings when they contradict each other, Islam's finally formed canons could interpret, modify, or nullify any Hilf al-Fudul precedent. These caveats should cautiously inform particularly non-Muslims when the 2018 FPPMS booklet states of the AoV that Muhammad "later said that he would have joined it even after his revelation."
The Washington Declaration also cites Thomas Jefferson's landmark 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in support of global religious freedom. However, the statute appealed to Americans for religious freedom on the basis of the Judeo-Christian Biblical God as the "holy author of our religion." The declaration, moreover, does not refer to religious conversion, an issue that Yusuf at the 2018 FPPMS suggested should be temporarily "bracketed out" in a world that is currently religiously conflicted.
The 2018 FPPMS booklet also described how the Washington, DC, conference sought
new foundations for a religious dialogue—one that transcends disputation and proselytization to achieve a discourse of mutual acquaintance and cooperation based upon common values and virtues.
In all, skeptics have every reason to doubt whether FPPMS' soaring rhetoric has any relation to Islamic realities. Additionally, many Muslim and other individuals suspect far less idealistic motivations in FPPMS' UAE sponsorship, as this investigation will next explore.