“This is not a PR campaign; this is not to make us look good,” declared the American Muslim convert Sheikh Hamza Yusuf at the December 5-7, 2018, Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies (FPPMS) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Yet the British Muslim academic Usaama al-Azami has decried the FPPMS as precisely “another cynical PR initiative” by the UAE that masks controversial realities behind FPPMS’ previously analyzed interfaith rhetoric.
During his opening address to the forum, United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownbeck contextualized the UAE-based FPPMS and its annual conference as reflecting a progressive UAE. He praised the UAE as a “secure, economically prosperous country that is home to people of many faiths.” He also noted his first speech as ambassador his “second day on the job” at the “auspicious occasion” of the February 5-7, 2018, Washington, DC, conference that launched the FPPMS’ Alliance of Virtue.
There FPPMS’ founder, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, had similarly lauded the UAE. Its capital Abu Dhabi “is home to many peace initiatives and is a place where all constructive and innovative ideas that promote a culture of tolerance and coexistence are welcomed.” Meanwhile, his FPPMS partner Yusuf drew scorn from human rights activists for stating at the 2018 forum that UAE is a “country that is committed to tolerance” and “civil society.”