NEW YORK, Oct. 1, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — American Jewish Committee (AJC) has presented its prestigious Human Dignity Award to Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, one of the world’s most respected Islamic scholars and a champion of religious freedom, peace, and enhancing Muslim-Jewish relations.
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Shaykh Bin Bayyah, President of the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace and the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) top religious jurist, was cited for his bridge-building efforts and his strong voice against religious extremism.
“For decades, Shaykh Bin Bayyah has been an inspiration to those who see encounters between religious communities as a tool for building peace,” said AJC CEO Ted Deutch, who opened the award ceremony Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. “His counsel and wisdom are sought by religious and political leaders alike, and his courage has pushed the ties between the Jewish and Muslim worlds dramatically forward.”
As the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people, AJC works with and convenes the top interreligious officials from around the world to build alliances that advance issues of mutual concern, including the urgent effort to combat rising antisemitism.
Shaykh Bin Bayyah is a native of Mauritania, where he was appointed as a judge on that nation’s High Court, and later served as Minister of Justice. He was a lecturer in Islamic legal philosophy at King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia and is the author of many scholarly works, including “Terrorism: A Diagnosis and Solutions.” He has served as chair of the UAE Religious Law Council since its founding in 2017.
Renowned for his personal piety and his erudition in traditional Islamic as well as secular academic scholarship, he has built Islamic scholarly foundations to support religious freedom, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and interreligious cooperation. In 2016, he gathered hundreds of Muslim scholars around these ideas as a co-convener and author of the Marrakesh Declaration, which rejected the persecution of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries.
Speaking through a translator, Shaykh Bin Bayyah said at the Sept. 19 ceremony, “Humanity today is aboard one ship that is about to capsize in the turbulent currents of the sea of conflicts and disputes. People of virtue must redouble their efforts and their cooperation to guide this ship to shores of safety and peace. There is no alternative to achieving this goal. It requires a people of reason and conscience across the world working together, particularly religious leaders, to counter hate speech and extremism.”
Shaykh Bin Bayyah has also received international acclaim as an advocate for peace. He spoke out against the practices of the terrorist group ISIL, including issuing a fatwa—a religious legal ruling–against their activities in 2014, and declared, “Islam must not call to war. Islam invites peace.”
“The pioneering work of Shaykh Bin Bayyah has advanced a culture of peace within and beyond faiths,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. “He is a remarkable religious figure whose leadership has created a space for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, along with people of other faiths and beliefs, to convene around common values and joint action for the common good.”
AJC’s Human Dignity Award is a facsimile leaf of a medieval copy of Maimonides’ Introduction to the Mishnah in a lavishly illuminated edition. Maimonides, who wrote primarily in Arabic (albeit in Hebrew letters), is a model of the jurist-philosopher who bridged disciplines, languages, and cultures, upheld reason and moderation and abhorred religious extremism from any source.
Shaykh Bin Bayyah was also handed a lavish Hebrew translation of the Charter of the New Alliance of Virtue, an interfaith pact he founded in 2019. As a tribute to his impact on Jewish-Muslim relations, the Hebrew document is being distributed online to thousands of rabbis and other Jewish community leaders.
Shaykh Bin Bayyah is just the second recipient of the AJC Human Dignity Award. The inaugural recipient was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians.
The event, which gathered 200 religious and business leaders, diplomats, and interfaith activists, included a congratulatory video message from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and words of welcome from Miguel Moratinos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations.
The evening also included a moderated discussion on “Human Dignity, Global Diplomacy and the Role of Religion in Promoting Peace,” featuring Dr. Nazila Ghanea, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion in conversation with Dr. Ari Gordon, AJC Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations.
AJC is the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people. With headquarters in New York City, 25 offices across the United States, and 14 overseas posts, as well as partnerships with 38 Jewish community organizations worldwide, AJC’s mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world. More at AJC.org