AJC Human Dignity Award Given to Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah

On September 20, 2023 the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Human Dignity Award was presented to Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, the President of the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace and Chair of the Islamic Law Council of the United Arab Emirates. For the occasion, AJC translated into Hebrew and distributed the Charter of the New Alliance of Virtue to thousands of rabbis and other Jewish community leaders in Israel and around the world. Below are materials surrounding the AJC Human Dignity Award event, various versions of the Charter for download, and a brief description of Shaykh Bin Bayyah’s interreligious leadership.


Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah’s Interreligious Leadership

Shaykh Abdallah Bin BayyahFew Muslim leaders of modern times have demonstrated the breadth and depth of scholarship to equal that of Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah. Born in Mauritania, he demonstrated at a young age a keen ability to master traditional Islamic texts and apply sharp analytic reasoning to interpret them. He served in many public roles in Mauritania, including as a Judge of the High Court, Minister of Education, and as Ministry of Justice. Known as a singular expert in all schools of Islamic law, he served as a professor of Islamic legal philosophy at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, before becoming chair of the Fatwa Council of the United Arab Emirates, the country’s highest authority in matters of religion.

Not only is the Shaykh a respected master of Islamic jurisprudence and thought, his knowledge of classical and western philosophy is just as remarkable. Above all, in preaching, teaching, and acts, the Shaykh demonstrates an understanding of the challenges of contemporary society and the courage to address them constructively. His efforts lead the way for communities across the Muslim world and set an example for all faith communities.

Chief amongst these contemporary challenges is promoting a righteous and peaceful society, protecting the rights of vulnerable minorities, and combating the abuse of religion, especially its violent instrumentalization. The Shaykh writes prolifically on this subject - advocating for the harmonious agreement between Islamic teaching and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and advancing a traditional Muslim perspective on pluralism that respects religious differences.

For years Shaykh Bin Bayyah has put his teaching into action with the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace. He convenes conferences of religious leaders from across the Muslim world and always ensures that Jewish, Christian and other scholars actively contribute to the discussions. Particularly notable are the gathering of hundreds of Muslim scholars and others that yielded the Marrakesh Declaration (January 2016) on the rights of religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries. Building on his work on the Marrakesh Declaration, Bin Bayyah convened a multifaith gathering with leaders in Abrahamic faith communities that led to the Charter of the New Alliance of Virtue (December 2019). The New Alliance of Virtue is a call to build a shared human society that honors religious and cultural differences.

These two landmark documents draw upon classical Islamic sources to affirm the shared religious values and ethical aspirations of the Abrahamic faiths - values that people of all faiths, and none can embrace to promote the welfare of human society.

For years, AJC professionals have worked with Shaykh Bin Bayyah and participated in the gatherings he has convened. AJC has been moved by his dedication to ensuring that religions contribute to peace and human flourishing, not violence and hatred. Out of our conviction of the importance of his endeavors for global interfaith harmony, improved Muslim-Jewish relations, and freedom of religion or belief, we seek to bring his declarations - in particular the Charter of the New Alliance of Virtue - to the wider Jewish world. Accordingly, we have created a Hebrew translation for widespread dissemination in Israel and to Jewish communities across the world. We hope that world Jewry in general and Israeli society in particular, will become familiar with and encouraged by the vision and work of Shaykh Bin Bayyah, along with his remarkable and courageous efforts to promote righteousness, peace, and reconciliation in our world.

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