Hamza Yusuf’s controversial statements about Black Lives Matter and political Islam

Developing Just Leadership

Crescent International

Rabi' al-Awwal 29, 1438 2016-12-29

Daily News Analysis

by Crescent International

Thursday December 29, 2016

If one can encapsulate Islam’s fundamental principle, it is social justice. There are many passages in the noble Qur’an as well as sayings of the noble Messenger (pbuh) where social justice is emphasized.

Those with even a rudimentary knowledge of Islam would know this yet it seems to escape some well-known Muslim celebrities.

One such celebrity is Hamza Yusuf who loves to walk in the company of a huge entourage and presents himself as a cut above the rest. He has in the past made quite a few controversial statements but his latest outburst against ‘Black Lives Matter’ and Political Islam as represented by the Muslim Brotherhood rankled even some of his ardent supporters.

Yusuf is a regular feature at the Revival of the Islamic Spirit (RIS) conference held in Toronto around the Christmas break each year. In fact, Hamza Yusuf and RIS are virtually synonymous.

This year, Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hassan interviewed him on stage as thousands of his admirers fawned over him. This was supposed to be the highlight of Hamza Yusuf’s appearance at the RIS conference this year.

When Mehdi Hassan asked him whether Muslims should get more involved in the Black Lives Matter Movement which campaigns against systematic violence and racism against black people, Hamza Yusuf’s response not only astonished but angered many people.

We quote what Hamza Yusuf said: “The United States is, in term of its laws, one of the least racist societies in the world. We have some of the best anti-discriminatory laws on the planet… We have between 15-18,000 homicides a year, 50 per cent are black on black crime… There are twice as many whites that have been shot by police but nobody ever shows those videos. It’s the assumption that the police are racist and it’s not always the case…

“I think it’s very dangerous to just broadstroke any police that shoots a black as immediately being considered a racist, sometimes these are African American police officers. The police aren’t all racist.”

Mr Yusuf’s statement needs to be dissected carefully but before we do that, let us hear some more of his thoughts.

He continued in his response to Mehdi Hassan: “We should all be against any ideologies of supremacy of one people over another people, it’s completely antithetical to our religion but we have some of the worst racism in our own communities… the anti-Jewish rhetoric that you hear in the Islamic community is horrific… do you know what it’s like to be a Pakistani in a lot of the Gulf States or from India or from Kerala even worse? People talk about white privilege, what about Arab privilege over non-Arabs in the Middle East?”

He then launched a broad assault on the ideology of Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb ut-Tahrir and virtually suggested that the takfiri terrorists have emerged from their ranks. He was scathing in his criticism of those Muslims who “have turned Islam into a political ideology,” although he was quick to add, perhaps as an afterthought and in order to protect himself, that they were reacting to colonialism and political tyranny.

So the honorable Shaykh believes that “The United States is, in term of its laws, one of the least racist societies in the world. We have some of the best anti-discriminatory laws on the planet…”

What planet does Mr Yusuf live on? At 2.3 million, the US has the largest prison population in the world (and growing) of whom more than half are Blacks. Yet Blacks constitute less than 15 percent of the US population. Does this look like “the least racist societies in the world”?

The US judicial system is corrupt to the core. A Black person is twice as likely to be sent to prison for the same crime as a white person.

Mr Yusuf (sorry, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf) also tells us that “There are twice as many whites that have been shot by police but nobody ever shows those videos.” We do not know the source of this news but let us assume it is correct. Now let us do some simple math.

Assuming that the Latino population is 15 percent, that means whites constitute 70 percent of the US population. Even if we accept “the twice as many whites being shot by the police” as Blacks claim to be correct, the murder rate of Blacks is still disproportionately high.

For someone in Hamza Yusuf’s position to belittle the Black Lives Matter movement is not only demeaning and racist, it is completely antithetical to the values of Islam and the Sunnah of the noble Messenger (pbuh).

Islam places great emphasis on social justice and equality. True, the Arabian rulers and their henchmen do not abide by these pristine principles but they do not represent the values and teachings of Islam. In fact, their lifestyle is akin to the time of Jahiliyah.

Abdullah Hakim Quick, a revert to Islam but of mixed parentage (unlike Hamza Yusuf’s white background) said: “Muslim leaders in the Americas who do not recognize the systematic subjugation and continued suppression of Black people in the West and do not speak clearly against the organized racism that is raising its head today should step down and keep their mouths shut!!! They do not represent Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in their cowardice and should stop blaming Black People and Native People for their weak family structure or drug addiction. Stop victimizing the victims. Is there no blood in our veins or is it cold water? Are Muslims attending conferences to be entertained or to seek guidance? May Allah raise up courageous leadership from our people and protect us from hypocrisy!”

And the academic Jonathan AC Brown said: “Muslims in America should stand with Black Lives Matter, as should anyone who has a problem with an absurd number of unarmed men being shot with impunity. Not only is this a clear justice issue, but Muslims suffer from similar problems, and many Muslims are black! Muslims who don’t have the bandwidth to be supportive on this issue should remain silent on it…

“In short, white men should let African Americans speak for themselves and support them. They probably shouldn’t offer their opinions on issues regarding the African American community.

“We can sit and insult the ‘Muslim Brotherhood,’ whatever that means, till we’re good and happy. But to use ‘the Muslim Brotherhood’ in the same sentence with Isis, terrorism or extremism cannot be tolerated. It lends credence to the absurd policies advanced by the UAE/Sisi regime, which have led to the oppression, imprisoning, rape and torture of thousands in Egypt and elsewhere. In the US and Europe, it advances the UAE/Islamophobe agenda of criminalizing mainstream Muslim organizations.”

Hamza Yusuf has made other ludicrous statements in the past. Soon after the 911 attacks, he went to see then President George W Bush. He then issued a statement that if Muslims do not like it in America, they should go back to where they came from.

When a Muslim leader offered this white man to step on the boat and will drop him off in Europe on the way to Pakistan, the celebrity declined.

Even Hamza Yusuf should know that his European ancestors have the blood of millions of Native People and African Americans on their hands. He has no right to criticize, much less condemn Black Lives Matter movement. And he does not speak for Islam.

If he cannot speak out against injustice, as Brother Abdullah Hakim Quick said, “keep your mouth shut!”

The organizers of RIS conference have a choice to make. Do they want those legitimizing oppressive systems, even if they enjoy the status of celebrity Sheikhs on their speakers’ platform?


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