Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah
Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah is recognised by Muslim scholars around the world as perhaps the greatest living authority on Islamic legal philosophy. Utilising scripture and classical texts from across all of the major Sunni legal schools, he has dedicated his career to addressing the crucial concerns of modern Muslim societies from within the Islamic tradition.
Born in Mauritania, the Shaykh received a classical Islamic education under his father, developing an advanced understanding of the Arabic language and the Quranic sciences at an early age. He then went on to become an official authority for issuing Islamic legal advice, with his background enabling him to develop a universal framework which adapted Islamic jurisprudence to local contexts while maintaining its essential principles.
The Shaykh is renowned for denouncing Islamic terrorism on the basis of the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the ways of the Prophet ﷺ), and has sought to prove the theological illegimtacy of extremist groups. He is of the conviction that ideas can only be defeated by ideas, and that issues such as extremism must be answered using sound reasoning drawn from orthodox, accepted sources. More recently, he has also developed theories of jurisprudence in non-Muslim, secular and pluralistic societies.
Sheikh Al Mafoudh Bin Bayyah
Sheikh al-Mahfoudh Bin Bayyah is the current serving Secretary General of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. For the past 20 years, he has also worked under the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. A seasoned diplomat, he has been instrumental in establishing the Forum’s flagship programmes including the Marrakech Declaration, the New Alliance of Virtue, and the Charter for Inclusive Citizenship in Arab countries.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Sheikh al-Mahfoudh joined the first group of religious leaders to meet President Bush at the White House, after which he participated in several international training programs and conferences focused on countering violent extremism. He also played a pivotal role in the formative years of the establishment of Zaytuna College, the first accredited Muslim liberal arts College in the US.
Zeshan Zafar is the Executive Director of the Abu Dhabi Forum For Peace and the Chair of the UK Forum For Peace. He has spent his career bringing together individuals from multi-disciplinary backgrounds in the pursuit of promoting dialogue and collaboration, and now focuses on how this can be brought to the UK. Born and raised in Wales, Zeshan Zafar is passionate about strengthening the ethos of the British Muslim community to which he belongs. As well as being an active voice in this context, he has also played a key role in the establishment of international initiatives including the Forum’s annual assemblies in Abu Dhabi, the historic Marrakesh Declaration, and the Alliance of Virtue.
Imam Qari Asim
Qari Asim MBE is a trustee of the UK Forum For Peace who works primarily as a senior Imam at Makkah Mosque in Leeds and as a Legal Director at a global law firm. He is the Chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, and the senior editor of Imams Online. He is also a trustee of a number of charitable organisations, including British Future, Hope Not Hate and Peace Matters.
Qari is passionate about fostering relations between communities. His various positions share in common the goal of addressing issues related to government policy, education, business, leadership, youth empowerment, gender equity, environment and social welfare. His own experiences as an Imam in the UK inform his knowledge of the Muslim community in Britain and how best to inspire the promotion of tolerance in the pluralistic societies of the Western world.
Shahien Taj is a trustee of the UK Forum For Peace and the Founder and Executive Director of Henna Foundation, a charity dedicated to issue affecting Muslim families in the UK. She has spent over 20 years liaising with HMICFRS, having worked on numerous legal cases and advising the Crown Prosecution Service, the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Forced Marriage Unit, Police Constabularies, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Welsh Assembly Government, the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Shahien has received a number of prestigious accolades for her outstanding contributions. These include the Nationwide Building Society Award for Voluntary Endeavour 2002, an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list 2008, and a letter of commendation from the Association of Chief Police Officers for the outstanding contribution made towards furthering the UK’s response to forced marriage and ‘honour’ based violence in 2009. In 2013 she was shortlisted for Muslim woman of the year in inaugural British Muslim Awards, and the following year awarded an OBE for services to Victims of Honour-based Violence and Forced Marriage. In 2016 the Open University presented Shahien with an Honorary doctorate in recognition of her contribution towards Public Services.
Yasir Mirza is a trustee of the UK Forum For Peace and an award-winning diversity, inclusion, and equality leader. Having previously worked for the Guardian, Channel 4, the BBC and now the Financial Times, he has engaged with people from all walks of life and worked to represent their voices as a journalist and storyteller.
He has worked on human rights initiatives and outreach to marginalised communities across the world, combining his journalistic skills with humanitarian compassion to make positive change. His recent achievements include contributing to a media ethics paper on Islamophobia; setting the strategy for HSBC’s gender parity pledge; and teaching an MA course on diversity in the media at Westminster University. He has received a number of accolades, including the People Management magazine’s Outstanding Achievement Award.
Revd Canon Andrew Thompson
The Reverend Andy is a vicar and an interfaith advisor in the Diocese of London. For the last thirty years he has served the Anglican Church in the UK, and several countries in the Middle East. His publications include Christianity in the UAE: Culture and Heritage, Jesus of Arabia, Celebrating Tolerance: Religious Diversity in the UAE, and Christianity in Oman: Ibadism, Religious Freedom and the Church. He holds Masters degrees from the universities of Nottingham and Gloucester for research on Christian-Muslim Relations. In 2011 he received the MBE from Queen Elizabeth II for services to Human Rights and Interfaith Dialogue, and in 2019 was awarded a Pioneer of the Emirates medal by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. He is a Canon of Bahrain Cathedral and was the Chairman of the Board for the Al Amana Centre, an Interfaith Resource based in Muscat, Oman. He is also chairman of the London Borough of Hillingdon Interfaith Community.