Bosnian peace scholar likens Trump to ISIL at Abu Dhabi peace forum

US presidential candidate Donald Trump is to the United States what ISIL is to Islam, the chief scholar for the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies says.

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ABU DHABI // US presidential candidate Donald Trump is to the United States what ISIL is to Islam, a leading scholar with the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies said on Saturday.

“He is damaging Americans like ISIL is damaging Muslims,” Dr Mustafa Ceric, a member of the Forum’s board of trustees, said in answer to media questions about Mr Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the US. “He is the extreme.”

Dr Ceric, who is also president of the World Bosniak Congress and former grand mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was in the emirate for the Forum for Promoting Peace board of trustees launch.

“I think Trump is doing for Islam and Muslims more than anybody else,” said Dr Ceric.

“He is uniting Muslims, even those who never thought to be together.

“I do believe that Americans who even thought they would never support Muslims, they will now do so because of him.

“So, the Muslims are gaining allies because the Americans who are defending Muslims against Trump are actually defending themselves because that’s the values [freedom of religion, acceptance of other cultures] that America is based on.

“So, if America fails or betrays its own values of what America is all about, America is losing. That’s the paradox, but this is the truth.”

The forum held two days of meetings with its top leadership to establish a board of trustees for the organisation and to lay out a plan for the upcoming year, said Zeshan Zafar, the forum’s executive director.

The plan will not be “a strategy that reacts to the current situation we’re in, but something that’s very meaningful and develops a long-term primary narrative”, he said.

It is about “reclaiming our voice as to what is Islam, not letting our voice be hijacked by these criminals who are going around on the streets of Paris and all parts of the world”.

The forum was launched last year under the patronage of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to bring together Muslim scholars, academics and leaders from across all sects “in an inclusive format and approach that clarifies and corrects key concepts used by extremists to justify the actions,” according to the forum.

Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah, president of the Forum for Peace, said the message the forum is trying to promote is a simple but important one.

“The message is a message of peace and message of peaceful coexistence,” said Sheikh Abdallah.

“The forum is trying to help correct all of these misconceptions we see today.”

rpennington@thenational.ae