Why Hamza Yusuf No Longer Represents Muslims

The views expressed here are those of the author.

Today, in a country where communities are filled with uncertainty, instability, and the constant fear of deportation, President Trump and his current administration continue to threaten and bully minorities and immigrants. We, as a country, have become divided; at dinner tables, family gatherings, holidays, and at work. What caused it, and how did we get here?

Communities are being targeted and people are being deported, even veterans and their families. However, to prove there is no discrimination by the current administration, and that all the above taking place is not violating human rights, Mike Pompeo has been putting together a sort of ethics committee for human rights. The only problem? They come with bias. One of the people invited to the board is Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, a well-known Islamic scholar and the co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California.

Pompeo announced the launch of the “Commission on Unalienable Rights” at the U.S. State Department in Washington by telling reporters:

“As human rights claims have proliferated, some claims have come into tension with one another provoking questions and clashes about which rights are entitled to gain respect.” He added: “Nation states and international institutions remain confused about the respective responsibilities concerning human rights. We must, therefore, be vigilant that human rights discourse not be corrupted or hijacked or used for dubious or malignant purposes.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this has “bad idea” written all over it. Hamza Yusuf, how could you agree to align yourself with others on this panel created by known fascists, those who hold anti-women’s reproductive rights, and so much more that is wrong with our current state of affairs? 

Yusuf’s acceptance of Trump’s invitation adds to a growing track record of decisions that are adjacent to the values and priorities of Muslims. Hamza stated outright at the RIS conference in 2016 that we, as a nation, had “too much work to do, not protesting, not lighting fires, not saying, ‘Trump is not my president,'” insisting that “[Trump] is [our president], and that is how our system works: by accepting the results and moving on.” Sheikh Yusuf, why did you tell Muslims not to speak out against prejudice from this administration? Why would you tell Muslims to not stand with oppressed communities against their oppressors? Islam taught us the opposite: in the face of adversity and danger to surrounding communities, Muslims are obligated to speak up against injustice.

Hamza then went on to echo talking points synonymous with the Trump administration itself, insisting that the United States was one of the “least racist countries in the world” while attempting to employ the usual trope about the shootings of unarmed white people going under the radar, unlike that of African Americans. As if that wasn’t enough, Hamza went on to claim that the United Arab Emirates, a perpetrator of the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen and a nation known to come down hard on dissenters, was a tolerant nation. Spoiler alert: he served as council to the UAE government, much like he’s being used as a passive Muslim face for the Trump administration.

Sheikh Hamza, while you cozy up to the Trump administration, please tell us about Rep. Ilhan Omar and the struggles that she has faced? What do you say to that? From the fascist chants of, “Send her back,” to the death threats aimed at her and her family, don’t you have any statements to issue on that front, since you were clearly too busy to say anything about the Muslim ban? As per Muslim tradition, we know our leaders don’t get a pass on the Day of Judgment. I have always wondered why so much oppression against Muslim women has been able to happen without significant consequences, and now I feel that It’s because of hypocrites like Hamza, who pick and choose the parts of Islam for which they want to speak up.

Hamza’s appointment to Trump’s committee is a travesty, least of all for its hyper-superficial tokenization of the Muslim community-at-large. I want to know what my brother in Islam was thinking, but this might be who he’s always been. In 2001, he expressed agreement with the words of Margaret Thatcher, who felt that Muslims hadn’t done enough to condemn the horrific events on September 11. He sided with an administration that wanted to bomb Muslim-majority countries in the name of “fighting terrorism.” I wonder if the sheikh lost any sleep over his influence on those decisions, when Islam clearly states that killing just one innocent life is like killing all of mankind.

I am a proud Arab-American Muslim, and I believe in this country. I love this country, and I would do anything to protect it without contributing to the destruction of others. Want to know how? By speaking truth, standing against hate, prejudice, and alongside fellow Americans who are suffering.

Sheikh, the correct course of action would have been to take a stand against hate, bigotry, racism, and violence by politely declining the invitation and publicly stating why. You aren’t doing Muslims any favors by being complicit or joining ranks.

Islam taught me compassion, understanding and to respect all of God’s creation. My religion taught me to respect the laws of the land I inhabit. It taught me to respect everyone, show mercy, and remember that I’m only a vessel and a piece of flesh. Nothing gives anyone the right to feel superior over another human. God created us, and to Him we shall return with all our deeds. Muslims are not supposed to ever align themselves with aggressors who are contributing to the pain of others. This means even other Muslims who may be the perpetrators of oppression.

Sheikh Yusuf, I try to tell myself that the reason you joined this panel is probably because you think you can make a difference, but here’s what I think as a Muslim: the correct course of action would have been to take a stand against hate, bigotry, racism, and violence by politely declining the invitation and publicly stating why. You aren’t doing Muslims any favors by being complicit or joining ranks.

For too long, Muslim Americans have stayed in the shadows, but that time has now passed. We are all Americans and we refuse to be placed into categories. I don’t intend to be silent while my very being and the existence of my sisters is being attacked. The blood that runs through my veins is the blood of my ancestors; that of strong, powerful, passionate, intelligent courageous women. It’s the memory of Aisha, Khadija, Maryam, and Khoula bint Alazwar that remind me what courage in the face of oppressors looks like.

“انا الرجال قوامون علا النساء.” ً