Shaykh Hamza Yusuf has supported the recent UAE-Israel peace deal that has widely been denounced as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.
The American theologian and president of the California-based Zaytuna Institute endorsed a statement by his teacher Abdullah bin Bayyah supporting the controversial Emirati move.
Bin Bayyah is the President of the UAE-funded Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.
The Arabic statement praised the “wisdom” of de facto UAE leader Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his “pursuit of a just and permanent peace in the Middle East region, and expressed the wish that this initiative would pave the way to peace and the promotion of stability in the region and the world.
The statement also praised the efforts of the United Arab Emirates to stop the extension of Israeli sovereignty over Palestinian lands.
Abdullah bin Bayyah’s statement was also supported by a number of prominent Muslim figures such as Dr Shawqi Allam, the Mufti of Egypt; Sheikh Ahmed Hillel, Imam of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Aisha Al-Adawiya, President of Al-Karamah Association in America; and Sheikh Mustafa Ceric, the former Mufti of Bosnia.
Over the past few years Hamza Yusuf has been heavily criticised by Muslims for giving credibility to the United Arab Emirates which has a questionable human rights record and is prosecuting a brutal war against Yemen.
In 2018 he described the UAE as a country that champions civil society and is “committed to tolerance” in remarks on the sidelines of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies in Abu Dhabi.
The forum is bankrolled by the UAE and critics have denounced it as a PR initiative to boost the the country’s image abroad and deflect criticism by human rights groups.
The Palestinians have denounced the UAE-Israel accord with President Mahmoud Abbas saying the deal was a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause.” Meanwhile, Hamas said the agreement encourages the occupation [by Israel] to continue its denial of the rights of our Palestinian people, and even to continue its crimes against our people.
Other prominent Muslim nations to denounce the accord include Iran and Turkey.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani decried the deal as a “huge mistake.” “The Emirate rulers think that if they approach America and the Zionist regime, their security will improve and their economy will grow,” Rouhani said. “But this is totally wrong.”
And Turkey said history will not forget and never forgive the “hypocritical behaviour” of the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to a deal with Israel to normalise relations.
On the other hand, Muslim nations and organisations (such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League) allied with Saudi Arabia either did not comment on the deal or supported it.
Jordan said that the UAE-Israel deal could push forward stalled peace negotiations if it succeeds in prodding Israel to accept a Palestinian state on land that Israel had occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a close ally of the UAE, welcomed the agreement. “I followed with interest and appreciation the joint statement between the United States, United Arab Emirates and Israel to halt the Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands and taking steps to bring peace in the Middle East,” el-Sisi said on Twitter.
The Gulf state of Bahrain welcomed the accord between the UAE and Israel, state news agency BNA said. Bahrain also praised the United States for its efforts towards securing the deal.
And Oman said it backed the normalisation of ties between the neighbouring United Arab Emirates and Israel, and hoped the move would help achieve a lasting Middle East peace.