Religious Freedom as Understood by the UAE and the New Alliance of Virtue: A Conceptual and Historical Analysis


In the United Arab Emirates through the work of Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies (now the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace), the concept of religious freedom, as presented, has gone through several iterations, at times conflicting, from the Marrakesh Declaration through the Washington Declaration to its present form in the New Alliance of Virtue. In this paper, I argue that the chronology of these conceptual changes, which seem to include at times equivocation and ambiguity, result from successive shifts in meaning. Included in the analysis is the broader context of Shaykh bin Bayyah’s work as well as the related policy by the UAE with its emphasis on tolerance. From this examination, I conclude that the present understanding of religious freedom as offered by the New Alliance of Virtue is an unresolved equivocation that leads either to simple incoherence or to a reduction of the argument of their claim for religious freedom. In response, I offer a possible resolution to this dilemma.


C Donald Smedley
Senior Research Fellow; Director, Center for Track Two Diplomacy and Religious Freedom, Rivendell Institute at Yale University, Connecticut, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


The Politics of Religion


Politics, Religion, Religious Freedom, Policy, UAE, New Alliance of Virtue

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