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From Frames to Familiar: Concerning Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and RIS 2016 




Written by Dr. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali and originally published on Republished with author’s permission.

If you find yourself wounded at sea, there is a high probability sharks will attack you. That’s how I would describe many of the antagonists who assailed Shaykh Hamza Yusuf after his recent gaffe at RIS 2016. Besides a few sincere and objective critics, I saw many seizing the opportunity to avenge old vendettas, and many commoners who felt the world just needed to know their misinformed opinion of the man.

On the other hand, many of his diehard advocates were like moths drawn to a flame; justifying his every word, with one person even posting fox (faux) news statistics about black-on-black crime. I’ve always felt that most people tend toward extremes, and only the minority are blessed with the gift of balance. Observing responses over the past few days has only deepened my conviction. I pray that some good will come from this fiasco.

To be completely fair, the outrage was well-founded and in some ways well-deserved. This is because, as others have observed, Shaykh Hamza was irresponsible during his interview with Mehdi Hasan. Many know the Shaykh to be highly opinionated, dogmatic, tone deaf, and compulsive in his reaction to things that disgust him. As a result, he has rubbed many the wrong way over the years. But, these same traits contribute to his charismatic charm, especially since most people want to follow the lead of someone who is confident, intelligent, and speaks with a clear vision of what he wants and what he believes the community needs.

Those traits aside, characterizing him as a bigot, a racist, or white supremacist are grotesque in my view. A racist is someone who believes in his inherent superiority over another and/or supports systemic gratuitous entitlements for those like himself and the disenfranchisement of others. I cannot speak for others, but in the 18 years that I’ve known and worked with him, I cannot say that I have ever experienced or noticed any gesture which could be classified as racist. I’ve heard people call him arrogant, out of touch, and elitist. But, never have I heard anyone say that he’s a racist until this past weekend’s incident.

As for the allegation of him being a white supremacist, this is even more ridiculous. Would a white supremacist employ a majority of non-whites, among whom are blacks? Would a white supremacist “marry” a Mexican woman and father 5 children with her? Would a white supremacist defer to Arab and African teachers, constantly praise and speak of their exemplary intelligence? A white supremacist is not only a racist. He also believes that his “race” is naturally superior to others in every way (beauty, strength, intelligence, civilization), and is therefore worthy of maintaining the highest cultural and sociopolitical capital and hegemony.

Of course, the reason I can be so confident about this is that I can genuinely say that I “know” the man, not merely as a “sage on a stage.” I know him as sincere and passionate for good, a champion of normative Islam, a morally conservative person with a brilliant mind, a passion for reading, spiritually disciplined, and an indelible appetite for knowing and understanding more. I acknowledge, however, the reasons that it is difficult for others to grant him the benefit of the doubt. I believe that this results from similar factors which make it hard for people who don’t know Muslims to trust them to be peaceful or just “normal.” This results from the negative “framing” in media and film. Our employment of social media is, similarly, inadequate at helping us gain a more intimate familiarity with those with whom we develop a virtual relationship. It skews our view and perception of personalities, especially.

I realized after the RIS fiasco and the subsequent firestorm his comments caused that it would be highly unlikely before the Shaykh begins to publicly express what he really was trying to say. Rather than making this another critical post on Shaykh Hamza, I thought it would be more useful to highlight some important issues I believe were lost in the scuffle.

What Did He Actually Do?

In my view, Shaykh Hamza’s problems did not necessarily result from what he said. Rather, his problems were largely caused by what he did not say. During the interview, Mehdi Hasan asked some pointed questions, but instead of answering those questions directly, Shaykh Hamza attempted to steer the interview by answering things he thought were more important. Of course, many observers, especially many blacks, failed to see his larger point, which was that we should not unduly alienate any potential allies. Those allies include many white conservatives and even the policemen imprisoned by their fear of blacks and Latinos who may eventually make national headlines for shooting an unarmed minority. Due to this, he came off as dismissive, evasive, and “out of touch” with “reality.” His failure to simply affirm the need to champion black suffering in light of police brutality before moving on to make his point painted him as insensitive. No! It did much worse. It made him sound like a number of the white nativists who are being courted by the Trump administration and have been nominated for cabinet positions. This gaffe was a serious blight on his reputation. It hurt many blacks who did not have the privilege to see beyond the emotional outrage, especially once the internet was set ablaze by condemnations from a number of Muslim critics. While Shaykh Hamza may actually hold opinions that are perceived as reinforcing anti-black stereotypes, his opinions and motives for saying what he said are much more nuanced than the average person might consider.

Creating Space for Dialogue

One target of Shaykh Hamza’s critique is the leftist thinking which has overtaken the discourse of a number of Muslim activists. Even though the Islamic tradition largely privileges appeals to reason (logos) and credibility (ethos), rhetorically these activists, like their liberal allies, often prefer the emotional appeal (pathos) to actual dialogue. In other words, there is the tendency of these leftists (though not exclusively) to force a sort of uniformity of thought on a number of topics. That would not be so serious had it not been for the fact that this entails the requirement that one believe in the “realness” of white supremacy, white privilege, and structural racism. That Shaykh Hamza “may” not see these as forgone facts should not serve as justification to malign him. This is not to say, of course, that he cannot be criticized. He is not beyond critique. But, there is a difference between a personal attack where labels, like “racist” and “white supremacist” are used, and simply saying, “Our Shaykh made a mistake.” The Qur’an forbids casting aspersions on one another, especially by using offensive titles (Q 49: 11). And the Prophet Muhammad did not condemn Abu Dharr al-Ghifari to permanent “black-hater-ness” after he berated Bilal through mention of his mother’s black skin.

Perhaps, institutional racism and exposing white supremacy are not areas of major concern for Shaykh Hamza. Or maybe he hasn’t found arguments positing such ideas to be particularly persuasive. Whatever his position may be on the topics, what everyone needs to understand is that true and profound understanding of any given position results from study, dialogue, and persuasion, not compulsion. One could easily offer Shaykh Hamza a book or two in hopes to win him over to one’s understanding. But, the public crucifixion he has been subjected to over the past few days are not as productive as many may think they are. Who wins if a scholar of his caliber is torn to shreds?

If the appropriate atmosphere does not exist for honest dialogue, mutual understanding is an unachievable goal. If white people attempting to understand the pain of blacks and how they may be contributing to that pain attend a discussion about racism only to encounter disparagement, why would any of them be interested in a dialogue about race? It is only when it is made clear that the reward for honesty is patience and gratitude that people open up and make themselves vulnerable. If they know that they will be castigated for their honesty, they will shut themselves up never allowing for themselves to ever truly challenge their biases. Admitting that one is afraid of black people is not in itself a racist idea. There would definitely be great outrage at such an admission. But, maybe, the person simply does not know why she is afraid, and is seeking help from others to understand why she feels that way, and is looking for a remedy for the problem. None of that is possible, however, if we insist that the person not be allowed to speak honestly because it “might” be viewed as insensitive. This is not to deny the existence of implicit bias against blacks informed by varying societal factors. Bias does not always translate into malicious intent. The contention is simply that this bias is not “innate” to whites or others. An interview on a stage before thousands of onlookers may not be the appropriate time to be so honest. What I am speaking about is when the forum is right, and the protocols of dialogue have been set.

In addition, if support for black suffrage against police brutality means to buy into an anti-police culture of “f-the-police” or the promotion of indiscriminate violence against them, Shaykh Hamza or any one of us for that matter has every right to hesitate when asked the question about throwing his support behind BLM (Black Lives Matter). But since BLM neither supports nor promotes violence against police, this shows that he was ill-informed and put in a very compromised position when Mehdi decided to interview him on this topic. If he had known that everyone who supports the Black Lives Matter “movement” does not necessarily support the Black Lives Matter “organization,” he would have had less reason for concern about certain principles of the organization which do not harmonize with Islamic mores. From this vantage point, Mehdi Hasan may have to bear partial responsibility, since he inappropriately assumed that Shaykh Hamza was the right or best person to speak about such matters. Taking this into account, one can perceive that Shaykh Hamza’s refusal to endorse BLM was his way of insulating the community from compromising their morality by buying into popular trends wholesale. A major concern of his was that by unnecessarily alienating potential allies among police, the police may develop a no-compromise attitude as well, which will ultimately lead to disastrous strife in black communities. And there is no doubt that the police would win.

Can a White Man Be Proud of His People?

Another area of concern related to Muslim activists is the push for cultural Marxist egalitarianism. It is not that one should be opposed to equal opportunity for all members of society. It is just that Islam promotes meritocracy rather than “sameness” and “equal representation” for the sake of equal “representation.” According to this cultural paradigm, it is “good” to celebrate and take pride in what is unique about one’s own culture. This seems the case, at least, for any person who is not “white.” White people, on the other hand, due to their historical domination of others are forbidden from publicly expressing pride about European civilizational contributions lest they be declared a racist or white supremacist. This concern is shared by nativists like Richard Spencer. But Spencer, however, regurgitates the pseudoscientific racist assumptions of the 19th century French aristocrat Arthur De Gobineau who pioneered the Aryan master race theory. Those blinkered notions aside, what legitimate wrong could be claimed about a white man or woman feeling pride about the achievements of their ancestors if it does not result in cultural domination?

Under this regime of “sameness,” Shaykh Hamza Yusuf becomes nothing more than just a white guy by the name Mark Hanson. Because of white supremacy it can be argued that the respect and attention he receives has very little to do with his scholarship, hard work, and charisma. Rather, he is famous just because he’s a “white man.” This is the epitome of injustice (zulm), since Shaykh Hamza’s respect is well-deserved, not merely because of his whiteness. This is not to deny that his being white does add a kind of “turbo” charge to his talents, just as blackness often serves as a turbo “brake” in certain communities. The charge of white privilege, however, could more appropriately be made about the deference shown toward many other white Muslims, especially by the “immigrant” classes. Non-whites can be the most committed to white supremacy. Would the chatter about Shaykh Hamza’s comments be this loud had he not been white? I think not. Rather, it is because of the value that the “white” voice and “white” opinions are given which make the comments so hurtful.

The Courage to Understand

Islam is an iconoclastic religion of a radical monotheism. It not only forbids the worship of physical idols and matter, but also the worship of abstract entities including one’s lusts. According to a sound tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, “Among those given the most severe punishment by God on the Resurrection Day are the image makers (musawwirun).” The image maker or “framer” of things created by God is involved in a very dangerous craft. The image maker is dangerous because he possesses the ability to assign meaning to the person being represented by the image which can falsely represent reality.

The image maker or framer (musawwir) is able to transfer or recreate the image (surah) of a person, and produce a lasting impression (tasawwur) in the mind of the observer until it forms what we refer to today as a “stereotype” (surah namatiyah). Logicians say, “The judgment you make about a thing results from the way it is initially grasped” (al-hukm ‘ala al-shay’ far’ ‘an al-tasawwur). And when we grasp things incorrectly, we can assign to it the wrong value for better or for worse. The initial grasp or impression (tawawwur) is formed at a distance from the thing being grasped until greater familiarity/acquaintance (ta’arruf) is achieved either corroborating one’s assumptions or proving their falsity.

This is true for both concepts and concrete realities. Because of this, the Qur’an prescribes for shortening the perceived distance between cultures the pursuit of understanding and direct acquaintance. The Qur’an says, “O humanity! Indeed, We created you from a male and female, and have made you into peoples and tribes to achieve knowledge (and acquaintance) with of one another (li ta’arafu)” (Q 49:13).

Not knowing a person, like Shaykh Hamza, his personality and sociopolitical views can pose a great challenge to grasping a perspective or at least the intent behind that perspective when word choice is poor. I believe this is what happened on December 23, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. It was a major gaffe. However, occasional misspoken words should not be the sole reason to silence the person. And, just because we find a person’s perspective highly objectionable should not lead us to consider his/her views to be void of value in other areas. I do believe that many people have legitimate grievances with Shaykh Hamza. But, we need to be certain to ensure that those grievances do not become political in nature.

It was not merely black sensibilities that Shaykh Hamza offended that night. He also offended Dr. Yasir Qadhi and those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. I have chosen to focus on the first set of sensibilities, since most of the internet chatter related to it. He did apologize to Dr. Yasir Qadhi and clarified that he had no desire to see harm come to members of the Muslim Brotherhood. I believe the MB comment will be the most serious to overcome, precisely because the initial statement provides plenty of fodder for Islamophobes who see the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and constantly use that claim to cast aspersions on numerous national organizations once associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and Jama’ati Islami. One must remember that it is only recently that being affiliated with either organization has stopped being en vogue. During a certain era, our government’s policy was to encourage Islamist membership as a way of subverting secularist regimes they found odious. Beyond BLM and Yasir Qadhi, Shaykh Hamza will need to take a more decisive position about the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists. Does his desire not to alienate potential allies not include moderates who are formerly or even still affiliated with the two aforementioned groups? Or will he allow for it to be said that he is too partial and selective in his choice of people he does not wish to alienate?



  1. Avatar

    Malcolm X

    December 29, 2016 at 11:31 AM

    Deleted for violating our Comments Policy


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    Malcolm X

    December 29, 2016 at 11:33 AM

    Deleted for violating our Comments Policy


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      December 29, 2016 at 11:50 AM

      I think this guy is a Muslim hating troll? Insha Allah you erase him?

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    December 29, 2016 at 11:48 AM

    May Allah reward our scholars who work in the West, teaching us the faith that Allah created for us, that takes us from the fire, insha Allah, ameen. I only question the unintentional nature of white American racism, because it has existed so long and survived the life work of Dr. Martin Luther King. In America, we do have extensive laws because of King, that prohibit racism and prejudice, yet here we are, with an openly white racist man about to move into the White House. Hard to believe it’s an unconscious accident. But I beg Shaykh Abdullah forgives me if I offend him. For the sake of Allah and for a man who has taught me Islam (on the internet), I give white conservatives any benefit of doubt I can muster and search my own heart. I am seeing really great modern Imams immersed in fitna and most of all, I pray Allah causes the fitna to end.

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      December 29, 2016 at 10:43 PM

      ps…we are in a gasoline vapor filled environment where people rage at the least misspoken word, so I want to be very clear: Imam Abdullah is a great American scholar and I only question a line or two in this article. He mentions that conservative white America may be doing racist things unintentionally. As Muslims, I know we are to make every excuse (70) for the bad people do as we exercise patience. This has almost nothing to do with Shaykh Hamza. Shaykh Hamza is a great American Imam and I stand with him, because Allah made no man perfect, other than our beloved Prophet and the prophets before him. So for any man to make a mistake or not say something perfectly or to my liking, does not mean he is not a great teacher whom Allah has blessed me with. Insha Allah, we all can focus more on how to give black Americans the gift of true Islam, instead of engaging in organized silence about the suffering of black and oppressed people.

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        December 30, 2016 at 8:40 AM

        It is better to write ‘Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Prophets (peace be upon them all)’, capitalization as symbolic of respect along with the brackets.

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        December 30, 2016 at 11:25 AM

        jazak Allahu Khayrun. I rushed and made a mistake in mentioning the Light Allah (glory be to Him, the Most High) has sent to us. May Allah send peace and blessings on our Beloved Prophet and on his family and on all the Prophets, peace be upon them. Please forgive me my error and I pray Allah forgives me.

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    Malik W7

    December 29, 2016 at 12:40 PM

    A person can be a racist without self knowledge of the fact, I agree that a white supremacist is fully aware of being so. what is being missed is that simply because one is a Muslim by affiliation that does NOT make them a brother or sister to all Muslims. We would not go easy or defend a trump supporter who said the exact same thing as HY based on our need to stand firm in the face of misinformation and racism…why be any different toward HY then? As humans we are fearful of standing up against someone of our own faith, especially if they are in a position of authority, because we fear they backlash against us if we do so. I say the scales of justice need to be balanced. You can defend HY all you like and justify to yourself and others his words or actions, but I have to live with my own self and I for one will NEVER cape for a racist or for someone that speaks on things they know not about…Salaam!

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      A long-time Muslim

      December 29, 2016 at 5:49 PM

      As a white convert to Islam, one who looks decidedly Muslim, I have been treated in a prejudicial manner by many other Muslims throughout various regions in America and in Muslim countries; white converts often feel the brunt of bias by those who have Muslim backgrounds, eg Arabs, Indo-Pak, African-American muslims, etc. Racism / prejudice / bigotry goes in many directions.

      We have to look beyond mere words in a pressure situation, and instead see the actions of a person throughout their lives. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf has shown by his actions, his discussions, his entire life that he holds no sense of superiority over other ethnicities / races; he doesn’t even prefer to be called “shaykh” , deeming it too high status.

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        December 31, 2016 at 2:18 AM

        If you have suffered while ‘trying to be a Muslim’ and some who ve been actually muslims perhaps showed condesension; and and made you feel alienated;I feel sorry and apologise to you on account of all muslim brothers. Allah made everyone equal; and we all ought to treat and look at anyone with love and respect if at all we do.Be they muslims or of any other creed race or culture. It may not be easy but not at all impossible. May Allah reward you for your patience and elevate your status and give you success in both the worlds Aameen.

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    david z

    December 29, 2016 at 12:46 PM

    It is sad to see leftist progressive nonsense infiltrating Islam. :(

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      December 30, 2016 at 3:56 AM

      Ameen, but glad we get to see what other groups have been having to deal with. BLM is not a monolithe and has no central leadership, anyone can start a group and their own rules.

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    Susan Harr

    December 29, 2016 at 12:59 PM

    An incredibly thoughtful and impressively well written article which provides balance and measured opinion. Thank yo. .

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    December 29, 2016 at 1:09 PM

    “As for the allegation of him being a white supremacist, this is even more ridiculous. Would a white supremacist employ a majority of non-whites, among whom are blacks? Would a white supremacist “marry” a Mexican woman and father 5 children with her? Would a white supremacist defer to Arab and African teachers, constantly praise and speak of their exemplary intelligence? A white supremacist is not only a racist. He also believes that his “race” is naturally superior to others in every way (beauty, strength, intelligence, civilization), and is therefore worthy of maintaining the highest cultural and sociopolitical capital and hegemony”

    Yes, a white person can be a supremacist and still have close relationships with non-whites by making an exception for these people and believing internally that they are not like the others of their race.

    Your article doesn’t add anything of value to the conversation and I can see a clear lack of understanding of race relations in America. The activists that you so easily dismiss have actually took the time to study these issues. Your argument above shows that you have not.

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    December 29, 2016 at 1:21 PM

    would be great to have an article from someone who isn’t from Zaytuna and doesn’t have dollars/relationships at stake in this discussion.

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    let there be light

    December 29, 2016 at 1:24 PM

    bin Hamid,
    After reading your comments, I found your repeated push for us to see Hamza Yusuf’s statements at the RIS Convention 2016 as a “gaffe” abysmal and oversimple. While I agree that “occasional misspoken words […] should not lead us to consider [a person’s] views to be void of value in other areas” your whole approach to the reactions and hurt from much of the community is dismissive and elitist. You seem to be saying that only you and a select group of people have this understanding behind what he has said that is “more nuanced than the average person” is capable of which is an inexcusable justification on your part. If he is the scholar you are defending him as, then he has that much more responsibility to make clear and clarify for those “average” people what he means to say, and this is precisely the issue. As you pointed out, people who know him personally, or who are familiar with the history of his contributions to the ummah know him to be supportive of minority groups and opposite the smear labels some have been quick to throw out in their anger and upset at what they thought he meant by what he said at RIS. The problem is perpetuated by people like you, who also call yourselves scholars, defending and excusing (with just cause) but ignoring the fact that the reason people are lashing out is because they need to understand from Hamza Yusuf himself that he is not a person who is careless about people’s feelings, ignorant of causes that are deeply rooted in people’s beings, or dismissive of highly sensitive issues simply because he is not affected by them or because he has an elevated understanding of things. It is the duty of the scholar to be able to simplify complex concepts and present them in a manner which can be clearly understood by the majority. Especially on a public platform and in addressing a Convention audience. Furthermore, to say that Hamza Yusuf’s statements were a “gaffe” is aside from the point- and all the more reason for him to appropriately address the concerns that have led to people’s anger, hurt, and offense. The angry, hurt, and offended will only increase in their feelings as Hamza Yusuf continues to ignore what really pains them; skirting the problem that was sparked by his comments only makes those you’re pointing at as “framers” seem more justified, and makes him more wrong than he was or is. Perhaps you also have a personal bias, since you claim to know Hamza Yusuf personally, and are in the same position of scholar and leader in your community- and you’re cowering in the face of injustice, eager to point fingers at everyone but yourselves. Regardless, instead of resorting to “we’re right, you’re wrong” arguments which are getting us nowhere, maybe the real issue here is that our leaders and scholars are ill-representing us, making judgements about the “average” person based on assumptions, and failing to really get to know people as human beings instead getting lost at the top unable to connect on a grassroots level. The kind of scholars who will scoff at “average” people’s struggles, condemning them to the hellfire thinking they’re the only ones on the right path- and forgetting the liability they have in their position. Isn’t it the case that it just may be that the good deeds of those “average” people are the sins of the scholar? What’s a minor sin for the “average” person is major for the scholar. Are they the same, those who know and those who do not know? No. But it is yours and Hamza Yusuf’s responsibility to stop these self-righteous acts and help people to understand, if you truly believe you’re misunderstood.

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      December 30, 2016 at 11:37 AM

      you are “framing” here. A lot of this taking offense is because Shaykh Hamza is white and minorities in America have developed a mindset that makes them the thought police of white America. Obviously Shaykh Hamza has encouraged this particular critique of his mistake from an African American Shaykh. The scholars have a right, with permission to speak for one another. The racial dynamic here means you can’t go after Shaykh Abdullah and call him a white racist. You respond by saying, he’s not Hamza Yusuf, so the clarification made here, for you, is a dodge. You are framing this in a way that keeps whitey on the hook. Maybe we all ought to take it as a simple mistake, give Shaykh Hamza his right to be forgiven and move on, instead of this typical black thing were we go on and on any time we catch a white man slipping. Muslim women and children of every color are dying all over the world. Sadly, some of us can only get excited about attacking white people. It’s pretty clear that some of this is baggage we black and left wing people brought in with us when we became Muslim, but has nothing to do with Islam.

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    Paul Williams

    December 29, 2016 at 1:33 PM

    Having just listened to the comments of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf I thought what he said was above reproach. He courageously spoke about the massively disproportionate black on black crime statistics and how it is wrong to assume always that the police are racist.

    I am saddened to see this witch-hunt against him.

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      Ikram Hawramani

      December 29, 2016 at 2:01 PM

      The crime apparently is that he spoke truths WHILE hurting people’s feelings. Apparently that automatically makes one a monster.

      I would call the writer of this article more tone-deaf than Shaykh Hamza, having completely bought into the leftist-authored narrative of white privilege without having done proper analysis, and I am no fan of the Shaykh at all.

      It is sad to see liberal PC culture taking control of the Muslim intellectual community and turning it into a land of blissful ignorance and censorship where truths have to be swept under the rug just in case it offends someone.

      Shaykh Hamza is not famous because he is a white man, any more than the writer of this article is highly biased and lacking in his capability for analysis just because he is black. Shaykh Hamza is famous because he values truth and reaches the hearts of people, similar to Shaykh Yasir, Tariq Ramadan and sister Yasmeen Mujahed.

      Accusing someone of bias because he is telling a verifiable truth (black on black crime) by using an unverifiable accusation that he is benefiting from some mythical “white privilege” is the height of hypocrisy or a serious lack of understanding.

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      Ayesha K Mustafaa

      December 29, 2016 at 3:48 PM

      Then we won’t be hurt if someone begins to focus on palestinian-on-palestinian crimes or point to criminal elements in hamas. Or if we focus on those who aided ISIS in the destruction of Aleppo and the wanton murder of fellow Allepo citizens – detracting from the sources of murderous occasions in those societies.

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      Malik Taylor

      December 29, 2016 at 4:48 PM

      What exactly is “black on black” crime… is that like “Muslim on Muslim” killing/bombing/murdering?

      Most criminals commit crime against those whom the can blend in with. White criminals commit crimes against white people, Asians against Asians, etc. So why frame the narrative around blacks? That my friend is a supremacist’s approach. It’s them doing it to themselves not us. Mainwhile drugs are being flooded in the streets of black and brown people even though it’s not grown, cultivated and manufactured in those neighbourhoods. Where are all these guns used in these crimes coming from especially considering the fact that felons cannot get gun permits and we all know there is a high disparity between incarcerated blacks verses incarcerated whites.

      Lastly unarmed white males are not being shot by black cops. But black men sure are being slaughter by white cops.

      Sh. Hamza made a big mistake… he owned up to it. Let’s move on.

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        Ali Gill

        January 2, 2017 at 12:01 PM

        The issue with black on black crime (in the US) is that blacks commit murder at rates astronomically higher than Asians and whites commit violent crime. Murder is the NUMBER ONE cause of death for young black males. That is not the case for other “races.”

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      December 29, 2016 at 5:56 PM

      I agree. This is nothing more than scapegoating. Listen to what HY actually said. Learn from it. Where there are mistakes – correct him with your FACTUAL data. He explained himself afterwards (after 20 hours of no sleep, how many of us are articulate, esp when put on the spot?)

      His lifelong talks, teachings, lifestyle show his true character. Let any single one of us who have never said something “politically incorrect” or even with “mistaken data” … let those people who are so PERFECT be the ones to criticize.

      For anyone else who has made mistakes, been wrong, spoken out of turn, hurt someone’s feelings…. let those people say Alhamdulillah and be thankful they were not being watched by tens – or hundreds – of thousands of people and verbally attacked for what they said.

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        January 4, 2017 at 10:12 AM

        Well said sister, 100% agree with you.

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    Altaf Hossain

    December 29, 2016 at 1:44 PM

    Can someone share the direct link of the interview in subject?

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    Ahmed A

    December 29, 2016 at 2:18 PM

    Blah, blah, blah. Another attempt to over analyze something which his already been analyzed to death.

    The lesson I learned from all of this, is that we all (Shaikh Hamza included) talk far too much these days. Sometimes the best response is to stay quiet, especially with regards to matters we have no knowledge of.

    Let’s all just learn to be quiet… and let the healing process begin.

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      December 29, 2016 at 4:03 PM

      Bravo Br. Ahmed!
      We all need to learn to be quiet.
      1.) Narrated Sahl bin Sa’d: Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever can guarantee (the chastity of) what is between his two jaw-bones and what is between his two legs (i.e. his tongue and his private parts), I guarantee Paradise for him.” (Book #76, Hadith #481)

      Let us all be mindful that the angels are writing! When Aisha (RA) was slandered, help was sought through patience and prayer…
      “And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive” (Surah 2, Ayat 45)

      Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “(Following are) two words (sentences or utterances that are very easy for the tongue to say, and very heavy in the balance (of reward,) and the must beloved to the Gracious Almighty (And they are): Subhan Allah wa bi-hamdihi; Subhan Allahi-l-‘Azim,” (Book #78, Hadith #673)

      I love you all fillah!♡

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      December 30, 2016 at 3:30 PM

      Best comment, alhamdhulillah.

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    December 29, 2016 at 2:53 PM

    Appreciate this sincere attempt to be fair. I think what is more important than verbal mistakes is the (positive) record of public service.

    However there is also a history of some half-baked speculations which detract from spiritual discourse. We all would benefit from reflection about what religious speech and behavior can be. This speech is not only opinion, not only scholarship, but also can include a healing and enlightening dimension.

    We live in an information culture that obscures the difference between information gathering and understanding. The comments in this article about image making also relate to the many images we live among and their effect on us. Many of us would not choose to be fully iconoclastic and understand that images can convey important meanings just like any language can. However this “media” requires attention and awareness and good intentions. Labeling others (whether MB or sufis or people of color) often misleads rather than clarifies– we must all question our assumptions and our own rhetoric at every stage. Radical honesty serves the spirit well, inshAllah.

  14. Avatar

    Never in History, and a Prayer

    December 29, 2016 at 3:02 PM

    Thank you Shaykh Abdallah for this elaborate piece. I afraid this stigma against scholars, be it Shaykh Hamza or Shaykh Yasir or even yourself, is not going to fade away anytime soon, nor is it anything new. Historians know this has been the case ever since the dawn of Islam, i.e. strife over theological, legal, political even linguistic issues. It seems this is one big chunk of “the prophets’ heritage” we have failed to manage. You were right to attribute some of the guilt to Mehdi Hasan for unintentionally causing this inappropriate mayhem in the first place, thus leading to an avalanche of prejudiced, whimsical and ironically racist-in-itself outbursts to manifest on the biggest tribulation from Allah set for our times, a.k.a. the internet.

    I can only offer you (and others who still remember what Islam is about) a prayer to keep the faith, patience and forgiveness for all others, and be sure – I mean really sure – nothing will go in vein.

  15. Avatar


    December 29, 2016 at 3:12 PM

    I guess it is a well hidden secret from individuals who don’t read about the cares of the world that the U.S government and the west specifically Co opted, recruited and or conscripted many of the so called intellectual leadership (scholars) of our ummah to mislead and sell out the believers by promoting secularism and to categorically reject the islamic aqeedah that one concept that binds us as one ummah intellectually and spiritually. Many Muslims just do not know this to be a undeniable fact. Amerika intends to gut the islamic aqeedah from the inside out and what better way to do it than to use our own scholars the likes of hy, small letters intended. He has shown his true colors time and again so his statement about Black people like myself is no small gaffe and therefore totally unacceptable on every level most specifically his recruitment by the U.S government. Being 65 yrs old I’m used to racism but I’ll never ever get used to Muslim sell outs like hy.
    If my judgments are wrong then I’ll seek forgiveness, but since we are allowed to judge actions based upon outward show then my judgment stands. I’m truly saddened by the affairs of our ummah because I embraced Islam believing that I could escape the fitna of African Americans only to find that the ummah is rife with declined thinking Muslims who practice racism themselves OH MY ! LORD I CRIED! But what hy is doing is worse than racism and may ALLAH (swt) forgive all of us for our sin and transgressions and guide us back to siratul mustaquim, amin

    • Avatar


      December 29, 2016 at 10:55 PM

      Your “judgement”??? Your understanding of Islam is you are supposed to judge our scholars? Ya Allah! Really? I thought your job as a Muslim is to fight with all your might to stay out of the fire. I thought, the easiest way for a Muslim to end up in the fire is misusing his tongue? May Allah guide us.

  16. Avatar

    Ihsan Muhammad

    December 29, 2016 at 3:15 PM


    Some random points:

    ● Labeling his statement/opinion as a “gaffe” or misspeak is misleading
    ● He shouldn’t be made to apologize for his real feelings and views
    ● He should apologize for misuse of the platform afforded him by Islam by irresponsibly voicingkdivisive opinions
    ● Anyone who uses the argument juxtaposing “black on black crime” with the perpetual black genocide at the hands of the police/state, as a rebuttal or otherwise, shows a lack of historical and contemporary knowledge necessary in understanding this sphere and comes off–at best–as unconsciously/subconsciously defending the antebellum agenda of subversion, continued subjugation, and destruction of black people
    ● The color of his skin should not be a factor. Anyone clearly and repeatedly evincing their privileged upbringing and subsequent elitist perspectives which blind the eye of intellect to social realities–regardless of race/origin–would have received the same backlash, if not worse
    ● Checking/challenging his statements does not imply his scholarship in jurisprudence and good works are in question, and these points do not indicate disrespect. Scholars and leaders should want to be held accountable. Many others have been held accountable at the point of a lance, as it were, and a few appreciate and count on this constructive criticism.

    Hope that this will be a learning moment for him.

    • Avatar

      Ismail Owino

      December 30, 2016 at 12:07 PM

      swadakta!well said

  17. Avatar

    isa abdullah

    December 29, 2016 at 3:46 PM

    Major problem with our Ummah is that we put race, culture first before ISLAM. I am muslim first and foremost before anything and as muslims if we had this mentally alot of our issues would cease. Brothers always ask me, Brother where you from? nationality? country? “I’m Muslim” and that’s it. Keep the race out of it and be muslim first!!!

    • Avatar

      Ayesha K Mustafaa

      December 29, 2016 at 3:50 PM

      So where do you want to start to eliminate the race problem – Muslim store owners who sell bad meat, lottery tickets, liquor in black neighborhoods and then head to the suburbs to be pious and condemn the population they make their money of the backs of – never inviting to Islam and often hiding the fact they are indeed Muslim. Where should we start?

      • Avatar


        December 29, 2016 at 4:51 PM

        Ouch! These are shameful affairs you make note of. To be honest though, the people you are talking about typically don’t care much about the religion at all, much less invite anyone to Islam.

        I only listened to part of Sheikh Hamza’s talk. I think he didn’t answer the direct question. I wouldn’t assume he is racist, but to me that is not the critical question. What matters is if what he said is true, and if what he said benefits or harms the listeners.

        With this question in mind, I believe the institutional racism in the US is definitely alive, well, and needs to be rejected and resisted. However, I also believe that the best way for the resistance to work is for the likes of Malcolm to appear to put strength and expectations back in the victim communities. Strength is through addressing the weaknesses that make Blacks and other minorities easy prey. A strong, educated, resourceful and informed populace is the most difficult to exploit. The fact that Blacks kill each other is a painful truth that only makes them easier to prey on (this truth and its effect is common to every weak and exploited group). The fact that Muslims don’t invest in the Black communities in a systematic way that the likes of the “nation of islam” was able to do is lost opportunity. I say this knowing that the Nation was headed by charlatans. These charlatans, however, were effective in introducing types of organization and communal expectations that actually led to a certain amount of strength in spite of their other agendas. Imagine, the likes of Malcolm came out of the “nation of islam.”

        I felt like sharing this with you because I appreciated some of your points.

        Can you be or inspire a Malcolm? Taufeeq.

      • Avatar

        Malik Taylor

        December 29, 2016 at 4:54 PM

        Boom! ? No one wants to address that sis!

      • Avatar


        December 29, 2016 at 5:59 PM

        Well said!

        Those are some of the many issues we need to focus on! inshAllah

        Muslims love to be divisive (unfortunately).

      • Avatar

        Um Mariam

        December 29, 2016 at 9:50 PM

        Regarding Muslim store owners–this comment speaks volumes. We are so disconnected as a community! Perhaps this writer assumes store owners are representative of the “Muslims who live in the suburbs”? That really isn’t the case. Amongst “suburban Muslims” in the U.S., only a very, very few own stores. Most are employees of businesses, while others are doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, engineers, and computer science people. Not many have much direct contact with African Americans, given that African Americans now surprisingly comprise less than 13% of all Americans (fewer than 3 out of every 20 people). That may sound unbelievable, as some American cities’ populations are half black or more–but if you google American demographics, it’s true, according to census and polling data. Muslims themselves are less than 2% of Americans, and amongst Muslims themselves, fewer than 25% of Muslims in America are African American, while 63% are foreign-born immigrants. Too many of our masjids are not integrated, though that”s mostly due to neighborhood affiliation and cultural/languistic commonnalities. There are too many Muslims who come to the masjid mainly for the chance to interact with others from their home counties and search for spouses for their children from amongst their own demographic groups–but that’s another discussion. Alhamdullila, it seems that most regular attendees still attend for the purpose of worship.

  18. Avatar

    dr hakim

    December 29, 2016 at 4:23 PM

    As salaam Alaikum, , I stop reading after the term commoner was used for Muslim brothers and sisters whom the Prophet peace and blessings described as equal like the teeth on a comb. I posit that such elitist opinions are part of the problem with Muslim community it North America. I believe Assad believes in the commoner thesis.

  19. Avatar


    December 29, 2016 at 4:55 PM

    you know, when you write an article about an issue, the professional way to go about it is to provide a link to the issue in the first place, so your readers know what you’re talking about. I have totally missed this controversy upon which a lengthy article is based, because u dived in on the assumption that the whole world and his uncle know what you are talking about. A link or two to the topic at hand would be most appreciated.

    • Avatar

      Um Mariam

      December 29, 2016 at 8:36 PM

      Please, let’s try to remember to remind others in a nice way. No need to mention that “the professional way to go about it is…” We all forget to do things at times. This issue is burning hot and perhaps the brother just rushed to jump in and help. I hate how this is dividing us—sunni/sufi, elitist/egalitarian, black/white, and now, unprofessional vs. those who know better how to do things. Let’s all try to support each other instead by assuming the best intentions and qualifications.

    • Avatar


      December 29, 2016 at 11:00 PM

      This article is posted on the internet, you know, where you put the term you need information on in the search bar and hit return? Type in “Hamza Yusuf Black Lives Matter” and it will work even better than a link.

  20. Umm Zakiyyah

    Umm Zakiyyah

    December 29, 2016 at 5:05 PM

    I have to agree with the commenter “let there be light.” There are only two words that I’d use to describe this post: dismissive and elitist.

    May Allah help us and guide us.

    Here are my thoughts on the aftermath of the “apology”: He Apologized? We Have No Idea What an Apology Means:

    • Avatar

      Jack Sparrow

      December 29, 2016 at 5:52 PM

      I’m not sure I see the “elitist and dismissiveness” of the article. I believe that the man spoke his mind on the issue. You’re free to disagree with it but calling it dismissive is a little out of place, to be honest. There should be a space for dissent to flourish without the fear of retaliation.

      As for the allegation of him being a white supremacist, this is even more ridiculous. Would a white supremacist employ a majority of non-whites, among whom are blacks? Would a white supremacist “marry” a Mexican woman and father 5 children with her? Would a white supremacist defer to Arab and African teachers, constantly praise and speak of their exemplary intelligence? A white supremacist is not only a racist. He also believes that his “race” is naturally superior to others in every way (beauty, strength, intelligence, civilization), and is therefore worthy of maintaining the highest cultural and sociopolitical capital and hegemony.

      This paragraph is case in point, factual, and reasonable evidence against the charge of racism or supremacy tendencies that Hamza Yusuf is charged with.

    • Avatar

      Um Mariam

      December 29, 2016 at 8:58 PM

      I think some of those calling it elitist and dismissive are THEMSELVES elitist and dismissive in their insistence that everyone must know what they do–otherwise they are baaaaad people who really do not care. Please consider that not everyone has had sufficient experiences and exposure to the highest understanding of what is most true and correct, and even those who are trying may not be there yet. We each live in the bubble of our own experiences and may not have come across what you see as so obvious, because the sea of issues and various info-outlets is so vast. Unless someone has studied a particular issue from the pros in its field of coverage, they may be excused for not knowing enough about everything there is to know. We are living in times of so many disturbing issues that no one can be expected to know it all. When you are personally involved and this is one of the issued you have to deal with on a continual basis, it may seem obvious–but not everyone has had the benefit of your being able to see things due to your having been made fully aware of the issues due to your experiences. My eldest child is studying in the U.S. and tries to do her part in da’wah amongst the non-Muslims and Muslims she encounters there. I’m glad she doesn’t harshly judge others for what they don’t know or understand about Islam and Muslims, although it could be said that they really SHOULD know better. Effective bridges aren’t built without cooperation and mutual understanding–and harsh criticism is divisive and not an effective means of creating a shared understanding.

    • Avatar


      December 29, 2016 at 11:17 PM

      Sister you do recognize you are rejecting an apology based on the idea that you will scan someone’s heart and intentions don’t you? Is this allowed in Islam?

      • Umm Zakiyyah

        Umm Zakiyyah

        December 30, 2016 at 7:18 AM

        GregAbdul, I’m going to assume you’re addressing me here?

        To be clear, firstly, I didn’t reject any apology. Whether or not an apology is sincere or not is between the wrongdoer and his Lord.

        Secondly, by the very definition of an apology, if I’m one of those wronged, I have every right to accept or reject an apology. And a rejection of an apology has nothing whatsoever to do with scanning another person’s heart and intentions. It’s about whether or not I wish to exercise the right ALLAH gave me in choosing to accept the plea of forgiveness from the wrongdoer. But as I made crystal clear in my own blog, I put no stock whatsoever on apologies in environments of racism and injustice. I focus on my own healing.

        Um Mariam and Jack Sparrow, as for this post, it is indeed dismissive and elitist in my view. If that opinion makes *me* dismissive and elitist, I accept that description. In subjective matters, one’s reality is perception. And I have a right to mine. And my point of view has every right to be here as anyone else’s. Disagreement is more than welcome, as I believe it is healthy and necessary. So it doesn’t trouble me in the least that you all disagree with me.

        But the article remains dismissive and elitist.

      • Umm Zakiyyah

        Umm Zakiyyah

        December 30, 2016 at 7:33 AM

        Also, GregAbdul, so as to not be misunderstood further: My position on the “apology” issue is about two things (as delineated in my blog):
        1. how apologies are erroneously defined and used today
        2. the harm this erroneous understanding causes for those who suffered from the initial wrong.

        And I make a clear distinction between this erroneous misunderstanding and the potential sincerity of the one issuing the apology:

        To quote from my blog: “…sometimes the one issuing the apology is indeed sincere. Sometimes the one apologizing genuinely realizes he’s wrong and wants to make amends. But that doesn’t stop the mobs of #Istandwithhimnomatterwhat from using the apology as an excuse to keep the blows coming. But now they have the excuse, ‘He apologized! What else do you ingrates want?’
        I’ve never understood the statement of an apology in the same context of getting irritated or angry with those harmed by the initial blow. An apology is supposed to be an admission of guilt and the hope for forgiveness, not a magic wand that makes the harm suddenly disappear—or magically turns the wrongdoer into the victim and the victim into the wrongdoer.”

        I hope that makes my stance on at least that aspect of this tragedy clear.

      • Avatar


        December 30, 2016 at 12:04 PM

        Sister, we need cool disagreement and may Allah give us coolness first and then love for each other as Muslims. I am no scholar. But I think that in the Quran, Allah talks about “Qisas and says, you have a right to revenge, but forgiveness is better (ihsan). For me, I seek the forgiveness of my Lord and for my many sins and I pray others forgive me as I work with all my might to forgive those seeking forgiveness for the wrongs done to me. My original post is that there are whites being intentionally sadistic in a 400-year-old way towards black American people. Shaykh Hamza clearly is not one of them. In our resistance against deliberately hateful white people, does it make sense to go after white people, Muslims even, who side with us, over slight mistakes about statements made at our conventions? Does his wrong statements mean he is not to be respected as a scholar and your Muslim brother? Last time I checked, our Messenger (peace and blessing be upon him) was the last perfect person, which means we all have flaws. Shaykh Hamza’s flaw on display negates all the work he has done to further Islam in the West? Doesn’t Allah command you to bind yourself to him and to love him for his Islam and the Islam that he has taught so many millions of us? Does your racial animus come before Allah’s command that we seek unity regardless of racial or political difference? “Accepting an apology” is a dodge term. Are you really here arguing for a right not to forgive a Muslim, even after he apologizes?

      • Umm Zakiyyah

        Umm Zakiyyah

        December 30, 2016 at 9:14 PM

        GregAbdul, I’m assuming you’re addressing me again?

        If so, I must be honest and say I have absolutely no idea what on earth you’re talking about.

        Nothing I said here has anything to do with my personal thoughts on Hamza Yusuf as a person or a racial stance on anything. My reply only addressed the issue of the DEFINITION of accepting or rejecting an apology. If you believe the right to not forgive someone whose wronged you is unjust, then that’s an issue you should take up with ALLAH, not me. I was just repeating HIS rules, not my opinion.

        But for the record, I wasn’t speaking of MY right to not forgive per se; I was speaking of the INHERENT right granted by ALLAH to those wronged. As I said in my reply and in my blog, I personally put no stock whatsoever in apologies one way or the other in these contexts, so I’m neither accepting nor rejecting his apology or anyone else’s. I used the term “I” in the generic sense, not the specific sense.

        My goal in this incident is to inspire self-reflection in each of us as brothers and sisters in Islam to be more sensitive to those hurt (even if unintentionally) by any of our speech, and the brother’s speech specifically. From my understanding of Islam, this is a responsibility carried by all Muslims, including (and most especially) leaders.

        So I admit, I’m thoroughly confused regarding our point of disagreement, let alone the point where disagreement needs to be “cooled.” Your points regarding our need for a united ummah regardless of skin color are quite correct, so I’m not going to say nothing against those points (though I’m confused as to how anything I said inspired you to think I disagree).

    • Avatar


      December 30, 2016 at 3:27 PM

      As Salaamu Alaikum Rubye (Baiyinah) aka Umm Zakiyyah,

      Alhamdullilah, I was reading this article and discovered your comment here. It’s been some years since I’ve heard from you. And Allah knows I’ve sent you more (private) messages than my dignity ordinarily permits…. Ironically, I even sent you an “apology” after that very defining argument and parting we had at my house. I felt so bad about it later and tried to apologize, yet you have not answered me.
      Thus, I will try a different approah— this public forum.
      Rubye, I am sorry we argued. I am sorry I lost patience with you. I am sorry most of all that I did not listen to the wisdom of our father when he tried to get me to do the right thing and not what I wanted to do… parents are imperfect but they are wise in ways we aren’t yet…
      As much as I am regretful of that day we argued, I am troubled also. Troubled that that you have separated yourself from your family and shut yourself off from even returning the salaams to us… or at least most everyone I’ve spoken to has not heard from you either
      — yet you engage in this dialogue here. Why? We may not always agree or even get it right, but we are family, ordained by Allah, and He Knows what we “know not”. At least keep in touch. Be patient with what you may not like or even fully understand.
      Rubye, whatever it is that is troubling you about your past and your family, forgiveness is pleasing to Allah and benefits your own soul, as well. If you don’t wish to call, write me an old fashioned letter or email me. Just don’t cut ties.

      Peace and Love,
      Your Sister Always
      Shakirah F.S.

  21. Avatar

    muhammad shahid mathee

    December 29, 2016 at 5:11 PM

    “If he had known that everyone who supports the Black Lives Matter “movement” does not necessarily support the Black Lives Matter “organization,” he would have had less reason for concern about certain principles of the organization which do not harmonize with Islamic mores. From this vantage point, Mehdi Hasan may have to bear partial responsibility, since he inappropriately assumed that Shaykh Hamza was the right or best person to speak about such matters”

    What this suggests is that Hamza Yusuf does not know. If that is correct, why does he not know? It is inexcusable. It is worrisome to say the least and indicative of an attitude of whiteness, i.e. Hamza Yusuf does not regard BLF and its organization as worth it to know. His informed and willing ignorance becomes even more worrisome in light of the murder of several Black people at the hands of racist White police and other white citizens. Rather, Black on black violence concerns him, not the underlying structural factors that cause black on black violence. His concern for the police is baffling; even if he overlooked “colour” as an epistemic construct, he could be critical of the police as a state institution functioning not for the protection of citizens (clearly marginalized Blacks due to three hundred years of slavery, racial discrimination, etc.) but for the protection of Capital. This is indicative of a white supremacist attitude.

    So when Bilquis says, “Yes, a white person can be a supremacist and still have close relationships with non-whites by making an exception for these people and believing internally that they are not like the others of their race” I think she is correct. White paternalism is worse than white racism (a slogan of Black Consciousness discourse and its movement in South Africa in the struggle against Apartheid). That white people who become Muslim come with no baggage (historical and cultural) is a myth.

    • Avatar


      December 29, 2016 at 11:25 PM

      I do not know about the BLM movement and I am black American. I know about young black people, coming out of Muslim origins, who do not understand the importance of spiritual development, but insist on fixating on fighting with the police. Does that mean I have “an attitude of whiteness” too?

  22. Avatar

    Abubakar Kasim

    December 29, 2016 at 5:45 PM

    It is amazing how this situation has been handled. It is sad to see how this scholar of high imminent who has always been vocal and at the frontline in defending human rights and speaking against injustices getting this reaction.

    Those who hate him from within have used this to crucify him publicly.

    Another interesting observation. If Sheikh Hamza was black and offered the same criticism he wouldn’t have received such backlash. It would have been viewed as a constructive criticism.

    Those who hated sheikh Hamza and have been meliciously labeling him as a “misguided Sufi” considered this as a golden opportunity to smearing him.

    All he did was to offer self criticism. He didn’t view blacks as outsiders but rather he felt as if he was criticizing his own people but sadly his skin color was used against him.

    A man with an incredible positive track record, a humble imam and scholar whose lectures are widely available – how could anyone justify calling him names? Doesn’t e deserve benefit of the doubt?

    Very sad to see how low we went to get him.

    May Allah purify our hearts from enmity and ill feelings and enable us to treat people especially scholars with the respect they deserve.

  23. Avatar

    Um Mariam

    December 29, 2016 at 7:59 PM

    Thank you, Dr. A.b.H. Ali, for this very cogent, pertinent, and wise response to the Hamzh Yousef incident. I did not hear what H.Y. said to provoke such outrage, but I’ve seen it light up the internet. While I don’t follow the brother, I do feel sorry to see anyone’s reputation torn apart. Muslims are supposed to be brothers united by Islam, and we are supposed to give our brothers the benefit of the doubt. إن بعض الظن إثم (Qur’an 49:12: In much of suspicion is sin–we should not suspect other’s intentions!). I’m a “white” revert who insists at every juncture that Black Lives Matter. Yet, I also understand why many caucasians fail to grasp the great importance of acknowleging that as much as I understand the outrage of those offended by their refusal to do so. The multi-layered crap-heap of assumptions that underly the world views of so many is so deep, that it seems such whites think in Portuguese while their black counterparts think in Japanese, lacking any common language. Their frames of reference are so different that they truly have zero understanding of the “reality” of the other’s experiences and resulting outlook. Racism is from jahilia, and non-Muslim society is jahil. Many Muslims do carry vestiges of jahilia in their psyche, but as a result of ignorance, not malevolence. As you know H.Y. personally, I trust your opinion that he is not a racist and did not mean what others inferred from his comments. It seems he is now being used as a scapegoat/punching bag representing all of the jahil and/or consciously racist Muslims who seriously blight our ummah’s relationships as well as adding polluted fuel to the fire of other conflicts—-YES, we must admit that some Muslims (of various and all backgrounds) truly are racist!! Our ummah will remain divided to the extent that each and every one of us fails to make an real effort to understand and respect our brethren while giving all the benefit of the doubt. We must not make assumptions about our brothers’ and sisters’ intentions! Education–not blame or hate–is the answer. Let those who know inform those who don’t know, and let’s not allow anything to further tear us apart–those who wickedly hate Islam are already hard at work on that project and our ummah is sadly and very tragically in enough of a shambles already.

  24. Avatar


    December 29, 2016 at 9:21 PM

    Assalamu ‘alaikum,

    I think the most important lesson of this is: only a black person can talk about black issues and only a white person can talk about white issues. Forget about Islamic brotherhood. It reminds me of a book written by a US senator may years ago about the hold the Israeli Lobby has on the US politics. He titled the book “Who Dare Talk?”.

    Wa salaam.

    • Avatar

      Um Mariam

      December 29, 2016 at 10:43 PM

      @Sarmad That book, “They Dare to Speak Out,” by Paul Findley, actually encouraged speaking out against wrong concepts, words, and deeds. If each group discussed things only amongst themselves, none of us would learn or progress. As for me, as a Muslim, I want to learn from all my Muslim brethren and, hopefully, better my understanding of their concerns, which by default also should and do concern me. Our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that Muslims are like a single body, and when one part of our body hurts, the entire body is affected. He also said that no one truly believes unless he loves for his brothers what he loves for himself. To me, this means that I need to know my all my brothers’ and sisters’ concerns and try to act on that knowledge, to try to help. If I really care, I should try to become informed about the multitude of problems facing our ummah, and to do that, I need to speak with everyone–not just people from my own ethnicity or socio-economic group. If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. The Prophet taught that when dealing with injustice, the highest level of Iman is to act. If we cannot act, then we should speak out. And if we don’t speak out, then we should at least hate the wrongdoing in our hearts–and that is the weakest of faith (hadith). So here I am, speaking out yet again, because we really do need to learn how to all get along. Last, we should be defined by our faith and identify as “Muslims,” rather than being separated and divided by external differences. The Muslims are my people and my family and my nation. Until we can agree on that, we will suffer. Sadly, we will continue to suffer to the extent that some of us will never agree to agree on that—for such compartamentalized Muslims, sadly, other things seem more important—whether it’s race, culture, nationalism, sexism, intellectualism, elitism, politics, economics, prestige, or simply their own interests, safety, pocketbooks, or general comfort. Sure, it’s most comfortable for too many people to avoid all the mess and stay safe inside the protected bubbles of their own little worlds.

      • Avatar


        December 29, 2016 at 11:18 PM

        Dear Sister Umm Mariam,

        I agree and believe in everything you wrote above. What I tried to say in my post is that the ‘controversy’ may lead to what I wrote. Because, I think, if SHY was black and said what he said there wouldn’t have been a ‘controversy’.

        On another note, I just read a post in which Sheikh Yasir Qadhi apologized to SHY about what he said many years ago. I don’t remember what SYQ said about SHY about I do remember that SYQ was extremely critical of Tassawuf, in the same league as Dr Bilal Phillips. This apology of SYQ is very instructive to me and shows that a person can change, develop and learn no matter what high level one reaches. Sheikh Nuh Keller said when the Sufis say so and so ‘arrived’, it is in fact a misnomer because no one ‘arrives’ because there is no end since Allah swt is Infinite. Alhamdulilah.

        Wa salam

  25. Avatar


    December 29, 2016 at 10:05 PM

    Assalamu ‘alaikum,

    I think the persecution of SHY is the result of Allah’s love for him. This is a moment of ‘ibtila’ for him. Allah swt knows what is going on and knows that SHY didn’t malign anyone and still he is being subjected to this. What else can’t it be if it is not a ‘test’? As one of the early Shaikh’s said these are ‘the feast days’ of SHY.
    Wa salam,

  26. Avatar

    Malhar Zawahir

    December 29, 2016 at 11:13 PM

    Many weak Muslims without knowledge fall into a big sufi organization in US.
    The president of this organization is Hamza yusuf the one who translated the famous Qasida Burdah in English and used to chant with his followers.
    May Allah Save us!

    The famous Qasida Burda by Busiri that Hamza Yusuf and other sufis chant states within it:

    Did he forget that he can seek refuge in Allaah the ALL HEARER? Allaah the MOST HIGH says:

    (Qur’an 113:1) Say: “I seek refuge with (Allâh) the Lord of the daybreak

    (Quran 114:1) Say: “I seek refuge with (Allâh) the Lord of mankind,

    Did he forget that the dead can’t hear the living?

    • Avatar


      December 29, 2016 at 11:36 PM

      I am sort of not knowledgable and confused about your post. Being Sufi is the Shaykh’s sin or is it starting a place of learning for Muslims wanting to know more about Islam? You dislike him because he is a Sufi or because he is a professor teaching Islam? Which is haram?

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        December 30, 2016 at 1:54 PM

        I’m talking about the translation of Qasida Burdah. Didn’t you find the seriousness in this?
        May Allah Guide us to the Truth!

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        December 30, 2016 at 1:55 PM

        I’m talking about the translation of Qasida Burdah.
        May Allah Guide us to the Truth!

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        December 30, 2016 at 6:54 PM

        So you are saying he worships our Prophet Muhammad and not Allah? I am not going to bother with your references. You and I, insha Allah, can speak plain English. You are saying that in his Sufism he puts the Prophet Muhammad above Allah? By the way, this is more framing. It is totally a non sequitur. One shark from the left and you from the right? My question remains: you are saying his sin is that he is a professor who teaches Sufism (both)?

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        December 30, 2016 at 6:55 PM

        Glory be to Allah. He is the Most High. Peace and blessings be upon the messenger of Allah.

  27. Avatar


    December 30, 2016 at 1:32 AM

    The Islamic State just conducted an exercise using child soldiers to hunt and summarily murder bound adult captives and this is what the Muslim intelligentsia are worried about? The failure of one of your clerics to endorse Black Lives Matter under duress?

    As for Hamza Yusuf’s comments? White people are well aware that black assailants (some 13% of the population) kill more white people than white people kill blacks. Between 1/1/2016 and 9/29/2016, black people had killed 500 white victims and white people had killed 229 black victims. Since hispanics routinely are reported as “white”, the number of white on black murders is actually skewed far higher than it is in reality. (See US News and World Report 9/29/2016) Black people usually die at the hands of other black people.

    More white people than black people are shot and killed by the police. 238 white people were killed by police in 2016. 123 black people were killed by police in 2016. White killings get almost no publicity, which is why public perception is skewed. Neither of these figures represent a “genocide” unless you are extremely bad at math.

  28. Avatar


    December 31, 2016 at 12:26 AM

    So now we have a common enemy. The ‘Leftist’ the ‘Progressive’. That makes entire Islam Rightist as in Tom Cruiz, and regressive as in Trump.
    Actually, it is the Russians who are responsible for this too. Let us carpet bomb Russia and sing Kumbaya.

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      Um Mariam

      December 31, 2016 at 11:29 PM

      Several comments here mention the “respect due to scholars.” This concept logically leads to the question: Who are our scholars? We cannot deem anyone a “scholar” just because he or she has extensively studied. So much depends on what was studied and from whom and from which sources . More obviously, neither can scholars be identified by thier verbal prefaces to speeches, special clothing, distinguishable headcovers, or any accessories that mark them as visibly different from other Muslims of this time, as verbal formulas and clothing do not make the man. Such markers, rather, are innovations that were not utilized in the time of our Prophet (pbuh). Back then, no one referred to his community’s knowlegable brothers as “Shaykh so-and-so.” Someone having acquired certification of Islamic knowledge should not be singled out for any form of deference or special treatment. Our Prophet (pbuh) taught us NOT to praise others and NOT to insult, demean, or defame anyone–whether kniwlegable or not. ALL MUSLIMS are fairly subject to being corrected if they are wrong, “scholar” or not. Famous “scholars” of our ummah’s past famously qualified their statements with “Allahu aylum.” Let’s not put anyone on a pedastal or throw him or her down because he or she has studied and has some credentals. Let’s also recognize that what was studied by person “A” and what they deduce from their frame of “scholastic” reference may be very diffent from the Islamic educational experience of person B. When I see A or B on youtube or the lecture curcuit, I try to evaluate to what extent his view and ways match up with the teachings of the Quran and the advice and conduct the Seal of the Messengers (pbuh). To me, those are the only credentials that really matter. I believe that if Prophet Muhammad (pnuh) were to observe the Muslims of today, he would be very disappointed and saddened to see our disunity, disrepespect, and harshness toward one another–although he knew such a time would come, as he predicted the ummah would grow weaker with successive generations. He also would not recognize the “Islam” followed by so many of us today, which includes practices he never taught or engaged in. But Allah said to the Porphet (pbuh) that if he’d been harsh with people, they would have turned away. Let’s not jump on the bandwagon of scathing criticism toward those amongst us who make mistakes or are somehow lacking in their grasp of any concepts or practices–even those purported to be scholars. Those of us who are better informed about various points should enlighten their brethren in a positive and much more gentle way. And those whose work (paid or volunteer) effectively positions them as being amongst our teachers and leaders should recognize that they indeed have an extra responsibility to carefully examine their ideas and be extra careful about what they teach others through their statements, stances, and behavior. We will all be held responsible for how we promote;or fail to promote and practice correct Islamic teachings and unity amongst Muslims, especially as we are living in a time when the kuffar are working so hard to tear our ummah apart. Let’s try to support each other instead of trying to castigate our brethren for what we perceive as their mistakes and weaknesses. We should rather reexamine ourselves first and make sure that our attempts to correct and improve the ummah are not carried out in insensitive or destructive ways.

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        January 1, 2017 at 2:04 AM

        A degree in Islamic studies (ejaza) is bidah? That is your argument…really? Are all modern degrees are bidah or only the Islamic ones?

      • Avatar

        Um Mariam

        January 1, 2017 at 3:00 AM

        @Br. Ahmed: I cannot comment on what it’s like to be black in America today. But my daughter at university feels what it’s like to be a non-white, atypical person in the U.S.A. of 2017. She’s a visibly (hijabi) Arab Muslim girl who has grown increasingly weary and disheartened by the way she is perceived and reacted to in America and Europe. Distrust, discrimination, and low expectations–even when subtle–do wear on one’s psyche. It is not an easy thing to feel that you are considered “different” and negatively perceived by so many of those around you, feeling you have to continually prove yourself and justify your existence in the midst of a society that so many presume belongs to them and not to you. To be a perpetual outsider–despite working hard and living an exemplary and generous life—whose mere presence is nevertheless questioned and resented, is not easy for anyone–especially for the young–and especially when those who resent you are your fellow citizens who themselves are mostly not working as hard as you and yet are comfortably living upon stolen (indigenous-American) land, much of which was built upon the labor of oppressed slaves. Perpetually dealing with others’ horrible assumptions about you and your identity-group (Muslim) and having to continually answer their myriad questions (which often assume the worst) could be a good task-field for the efforts of an expert dawah-worker—but for a young person who didn’t sign up for that…… can be exhausting. I am sure that many of the black students on my daughter’s mostly-white campus feel similar feelings due to their lack of full acceptance and inclusion at the Institution to which they have dedicated themselves and their work. Perhaps in your neighborhood and workplace black men are not so rare, and so you don’t have to experience multiple daily disturbances and annoyances simply due to your being different? Or perhaps you are old enough to have experienced a time when discrimination was worse, and you wonder what younger people are now so upset about? I think they’re upset because it seems the racial climate is getting worse again. Is it?? All I know is that it definitely is getting worse for Muslims in America. Perhaps it’s time for some of us weary people to leave for greener pastures where who we are and what we believe in is not such a huge issue for others. But where would that be, nowadays?

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        Um Mariam

        January 1, 2017 at 3:47 AM

        @Greg Abdul: First, I wish we Muslims could always exchange ideas in the spirit and mindset of mutual good will and without any unfavorable assumptions or snideness. Second, I did not mean what you apparently thought I meant. I never said degrees in Islamic Studies are bidah. But I did want to point out a few things, such as the fact that not all degrees in Islamic Studies are equal. Some Islamic Studies degree programs do indeed teach some bidah. Yet even that wasn’t my main point. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that in the time of the Prophet (pbuh), he did not distinguish his sahaba with titles like “Shaykh” or “Imam.” He chose leaders of the prayer and leaders of communities based strictly upon their character and knowledge, and he never appointed anyone who sought a leadership position. I have no issues with graduates from various Islamic Studies programs using the title of “Dr” if they earned a Ph.D, because that simply denotes that they successfully completed their repsective institution’s program of study and, as such, the title (Dr) simply connects back to the institution of learning they attended. But the titles of “Shaykh” and “Imam” seem to connote something more–a status of sorts, implying that they are proven scholars of a definitive body of knowledge and great leaders at the same time–which I think sometimes leads others to place too much confidence in them, as not all are equally qualified. Further, cultural customs over time have perhaps made “Shaykh’s” uniforms seem normal today, which in turn normalizes the concept that there are indeed “shaykhs” in Islam—but we mist remember that no one wore such distinguishg attire in the time of the Prophet, pbuh! There is no clergy in Islam, but many Muslims seem to think there is or behave as if there is. Moreover, a “Shaykh” from institution X might have been taught very different perspectives from a “Shaykh” who graduated from institution Y or Z. This can be confusing for the general public, who often take “Shaykhs” as their leaders and assume that simply by following them they can be guided aright. Please note that I do NOT intend to imply here that there is no value in Islamic Studies programs or that we should never trust in any Muslim leaders. Sound programs of Islamic Studies based strictly on daleel from authentic sources are extremely valuable and needed. Those who graduate from such institutions can be of great value to their communities. But not even all students from the best Islamic Studies programs will be equally competant in their level of understanding and application. I therefore wish we could regard such Ph.D. graduates simply as graduates of their particular study programs without concomitantly assuming they are thus automatically qualified to lead and exemplify the teachings of Islam. Last, for those who would confer the titles of “Shaykh” or “Imam” on others as a gesture of admiration toward recognizing a “scholar’s” status, let’s again remind ourselves that the Prophet (pbuh) never did so; rather, he cautioned us against praising others and perhaps thereby exposing them to the fitna of riyaa’.

  29. Avatar


    December 31, 2016 at 7:42 AM

    I swear people are never grateful for what they have.

    Are there blacks experiencing racism in the US? Yes.

    Is it a problem? Yes.

    Is it a massive problem? No.

    As black guy myself i cant help but get sick and tired of people never beinh grateful. Just study how america was 50 years ago. Then look at ameirca today and say ALHAMDULILAH.

    Yes its not perfect today but its good. Look at other parts of the world and thank Allah for ur situation.

    America is not your eternal abode. And america will never be jannah just accept that. Do what you can to change it for the better and the rest is up to Allah. Be happy for ur situation.

    American muslims can so cringey sometimes wallahi.

    P.S i am not a Hamza Yusuf fan at all. I never listen to hum, especially when i heard him tell people to call upon the dead for help.

  30. Avatar

    Um Mariam

    January 1, 2017 at 12:27 AM

    @Br. Ahmed: I cannot comment on what it’s like to be black in America today. But my daughter at university feels what it’s like to be a non-white, atypical person in the U.S.A. of 2017. She’s a visibly (hijabi) Arab Muslim girl who has grown increasingly weary and disheartened by the way she is perceived and reacted to in America and Europe. Distrust, discrimination, and low expectations–even when subtle–do wear on one’s psyche. It is not an easy thing to feel that you are considered “different” and negatively perceived by so many of those around you, feeling you have to continually prove yourself and justify your existence in the midst of a society that so many presume belongs to them and not to you. To be a perpetual outsider–despite working hard and living an exemplary and generous life—whose mere presence is nevertheless questioned and resented, is not easy for anyone–especially for the young–and especially when those who resent you are your fellow citizens who themselves are mostly not working as hard as you and yet are comfortably living upon stolen (indigenous-American) land, much of which was built upon the labor of oppressed slaves. Perpetually dealing with others’ horrible assumptions about you and your identity-group (Muslim) and having to continually answer their myriad questions (which often assume the worst) could be a good task-field for the efforts of an expert dawah-worker—but for a young person who didn’t sign up for that…… can be exhausting. I am sure that many of the black students on my daughter’s mostly-white campus feel similar feelings due to their lack of full acceptance and inclusion at the Institution to which they have dedicated themselves and their work. Perhaps in your neighborhood and workplace black men are not so rare, and so you don’t have to experience multiple daily disturbances and annoyances simply due to your being different? Or perhaps you are old enough to have experienced a time when discrimination was worse, and you wonder what younger people are now so upset about? I think they’re upset because it seems the racial climate is getting worse again. Is it?? All I know is that it definitely is getting worse for Muslims in America. Perhaps it’s time for some of us weary people to leave for greener pastures where who we are and what we believe in is not such a huge issue for others. But where would that be, nowadays?

  31. Avatar


    January 1, 2017 at 5:35 AM

    The fundamental fault in the character of women is that they have no “sense of justice.”

    This arises from their deficiency in the power of reasoning already referred to, and reflection, but is also partly due to the fact that God has not destined them, as the weaker sex, to be dependent on strength but on cunning; this is why they are instinctively crafty, and have an ineradicable tendency to lie.

    For as lions are furnished with claws and teeth, elephants with tusks, boars with fangs, bulls with horns, and the cuttlefish with its dark, inky fluid, so God has provided woman for her protection and defense with the faculty of dissimulation, and all the power which God has given to man in the form of bodily strength and reason has been conferred on woman in this form.

    Hence, dissimulation is innate in woman and almost as characteristic of the very stupid as of the clever. Accordingly, it is as natural for women to dissemble at every opportunity as it is for those animals to turn to their weapons when they are attacked; and they feel in doing so that in a certain measure they are only making use of their rights.

    Therefore a woman who is perfectly truthful and does not dissemble is perhaps an impossibility. This is why they see through dissimulation in others so easily; therefore it is not advisable to attempt it with them.

    From the fundamental defect that has been stated, and all that it involves, spring falseness, faithlessness, treachery, ungratefulness, and so on. In a court of justice women are more often found guilty of perjury than men. It is indeed to be generally questioned whether they should be allowed to take an oath at all.

  32. Avatar


    January 1, 2017 at 10:33 PM

    This is not an accidental utterance from Sh. Hamza Yusuf. There was signs even before. He was carried away by the glittering of the limelight, and the numbers of cheerleaders, and the closeness to authorities….
    This shows even our scholars are not immune to worldly temptations…..

    • Avatar


      January 4, 2017 at 12:20 PM

      Another Framer…can you tell us how and when you acquired the ability to look in the Shaykh’s heart?

  33. Avatar


    February 20, 2017 at 1:10 PM

    In my life I never heard about anyone about whom all have same views. His interview was controversial. It happens always. Even you will find some people in this discussion who will disagree. Off course there will be some persons who will agree with me. so far as for the allegation of him being a white supremacist is concerned I think it is just an attempt to defame him. When someone has finished the stock of arguments then series of such rumors starts. His marriage with a Mexican woman and his relation with non-white people are enough to reject this blame. Personally I am in favor of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.

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#Current Affairs

5 Quick Things Americans Can Do For Uyghurs Today

Abu Ryan Dardir



“I may die, but let it be known that my nation will continue their struggle so long the world continues to exist.” Kazakh leader Uthman Batur. He said these words as Chinese authorities executed him for resisting the communist occupation. Currently, China has, one million Uyghurs (Uighurs), Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities held in concentration camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) (East Turkistan) in northwestern China.

Their struggle surpasses the 10 or so years since we have become aware of it. Just like the Rohingya genocide, we waited till the last minute. We are always late and say, “Never Again.” It happens again and again.

In my lifetime, there have been horrendous genocides that could have been prevented to stopped. As a child, I remember Rwanda in the headlines, then a year later Bosnian genocide. Then we hear these demonic stories after the fact. I remember stories from survivors from Bosnia, and thinking to myself, “How are you here and functioning?”

Let us not be fooled to why this is happening now. It is related to economic advantages. The Chinese government’s present signature foreign policy initiative is the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) that seeks to connect the PRC economically to the rest of the Eurasian continent through massive infrastructure projects that will stimulate international trade. The western and south-western components of the BRI require the XUAR to serve as a transportation and commercial hub to trade routes and pipelines that will join China with Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and the entirety of Europe. As a result, the XUAR has become an important strategic region for the Chinese, and the state views its indigenous populations as an obstacle to developing its vision for this future critical center of international commercial networks.1

The expansion of their trade route also ties in Iran hence the sanctions placed, but that’s a different report for a different time. China, of course, has defended their actions by claiming its an anti-terrorism plan. Getting reliable information is hard. China has made it a point to make things difficult for reporters. Yanan Wang, a China-based journalist from the Associated Press, has reported extensively on and from Xinjiang.

In a ceremony at Asia Society on Tuesday commemorating AP’s 2019 Osborn Elliott Award for Excellence in Journalism on Asia, Wang described the subtle ways government minders worked to thwart her reporting: “(Both of the times we went there we arrived at the airport, we had a welcoming committee from the local authorities. They’re always very polite and professional. They say that “you’ve arrived in Xinjiang and we’re here to assist you in your reporting. Tell us what you’re working on so we can help you.” They offer us drives in their car and plenty of hospitality.

Basically, from the moment we arrive, we’re followed by at least one car. There are a bunch of interesting scenarios that we came across. You can see that the local handlers are trying hard to be professional. They are members of the propaganda department, so they’re PR professionals. They don’t want to make it appear like it’s so stifling. At one point, we were taking photos, and someone suddenly appeared on the scene to say he was a “concerned citizen.” He said he’d seen us taking photos and that it was an infringement of his privacy rights. He had this long monologue about privacy rights and about how it wasn’t right for us to take photos of him without his knowledge. We asked him, “Well, where are you in these photos?” and he’d go through all of them. He said we had to delete all of them. He’d say, “This is my brother,” or “This is my place of work, you have to delete it.”

They had all of these interesting tactics to work around the idea that they were trying to obstruct our reporting and make it appear that someone who claims to be a concerned citizen.)”2

On top of that, locals that talk to journalist are punished, sometimes go missing.

I decided to do something this time around; I got in touch with an Uyghur community near my residence to see how an individual could help. It started at a Turkic restaurant, and from there, I have been involved in whatever capacity I am able. Through this effort, I got in touch with a Turkic professor in Turkey who has students stranded as they are cut off from contacting family back in Xinjiang. He helps them out financially; my family and friends help with what they can.

As Muslims in the West, there is no doubt we should act. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim).

How Can You Help Uyghurs

Here are a few things you can do to help:

1. Ask Congress to pass To pass S.178 & H.R.649 Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019. Urge your senator and representative to support this cause. It has been introduced. This bill can help the Uyghur community to be treated like Tibetans (another region oppressed by China).

2. Stay informed. The mainstream media is not the place to get accurate information on the situation. Be skeptical of where the data is coming from, stick to reliable sources that are verified. As mentioned above, journalists find it difficult to report.

3. Donate to Uyghur Human Rights Organizations to end concentration camps: UHRP, Uyghur American Association  Donate to Awareness Campaigns: Save Uigur Campaign 

4. Boycott or reduce buying Made in China products

5. Follow these links for updated information: and

This crisis is an ethnic cleansing for profit. These are dark days as we value profit over people.

1.Statement by Concerned Scholars on mass detentions | MCLC …. s/

2.Why It’s So Difficult for Journalists To Report From ….

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#Current Affairs

Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.




israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

Continue Reading


Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari



For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are paramount. Each Prophet of God belonged to a community which is termed as their Qawm in the Qur’an. Prophet Lut (Lot) was born in Iraq, but settled in Trans-Jordan and then became part of the people, Qawm of Lut, in his new-found home. All the Prophets addressed those around them as ‘Ya Qawmi’ (O, my people) while inviting them to the religion of submission, Islam. Those who accepted the Prophets’ message became part of their Ummah. So, individuals from any ethnicity or community could become part of the Ummah – such as the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad.

Believers thus have dual obligations: a) towards their own Qawm (country), and b) towards their Ummah (religious companions). As God’s grateful servants, Muslims should strive to give their best to both their Qawm and Ummah with their ability, time and skillset. It is imperative for practising and active Muslims to carry out Islah (improvement of character, etc) of people in their Ummah and be a witness of Islam to non-Muslims in their Qawm and beyond. This in effect is their service to humanity and to please their Creator. With this basic understanding of the concept, every Muslim should prioritise his or her activities and try their utmost to serve human beings with honesty, integrity and competence. Finding excuses or adopting escapism can bring harm in this world and a penalty in the Hereafter.

Like many other parts of the world, Britain is going through a phase lacking in ethical and competent leadership. People are confused, frustrated and worried; some are angry. Nativist (White) nationalism in many western countries, with a dislike or even hatred of minority immigrant people (particularly Muslims and Jews), is on the rise. This is exacerbated through lowering religious literacy, widespread mistrust and an increase in hateful rhetoric being spread on social media. As people’s patience and tolerance levels continue to erode, this can bring unknown adverse consequences.

The positive side is that civil society groups with a sense of justice are still robust in most developed countries. While there seem to be many Muslims who love to remain in the comfort zone of their bubbles, a growing number of Muslims, particularly the youth, are also effectively contributing towards the common good of all.

As social divisions are widening, a battle for common sense and sanity continues. The choice of Muslims (particularly those that are socially active), as to whether they would proactively engage in grass-roots civic works or social justice issues along with others, has never been more acute. Genuine steps should be taken to understand the dynamics of mainstream society and improve their social engagement skills.

From history, we learn that during better times, Muslims proactively endeavoured to be a force for good wherever they went. Their urge for interaction with their neighbours and exemplary personal characters sowed the seeds of bridge building between people of all backgrounds. No material barrier could divert their urge for service to their Qawm and their Ummah. This must be replicated and amplified.

Although Muslims are some way away from these ideals, focusing on two key areas can and should strengthen their activities in the towns and cities they have chosen as their home. This is vital to promote a tolerant society and establish civic roots. Indifference and frustration are not a solution.

Muslim individuals and families

  1. Muslims must develop a reading and thinking habit in order to prioritise their tasks in life, including the focus of their activism. They should, according to their ability and available opportunities, endeavour to contribute to the Qawm and Ummah. This should start in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on one’s obligations to their neighbour; one that stands out – Gabriel kept advising me to be good to my neighbour so much that I thought he would ask that he (neighbour) should inherit me) – Sahih Al-Bukhari.
  2. They must invest in their new generation and build a future leadership based on ethics and professionalism to confidently interact and engage with the mainstream society, whilst holding firm to Islamic roots and core practices.
  3. Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
  4. They should jettison any doubts, avoid escapism and focus where and how they can contribute. If they think they can best serve the Ummah’s cause abroad, they should do this by all means. But if they focus on contributing to Britain:
    • They must develop their mindset and learn how to work with the mainstream society to normalise the Muslim presence in an often hostile environment.
    • They should work with indigenous/European Muslims or those who have already gained valuable experience here.
    • They should be better equipped with knowledge and skills, especially in political and media literacy, to address the mainstream media where needed.

Muslim bodies and institutions

  • Muslim bodies and institutions such as mosques have unique responsibilities to bring communities together, provide a positive environment for young Muslims to flourish and help the community to link, liaise and interact with the wider society.
  • By trying to replicate the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, they should try to make mosques real hubs of social and spiritual life and not just beautiful buildings. They should invest more in young people, particularly those with professional backgrounds. They should not forget what happened to many places where the Muslim presence was thought to be deep-rooted such as Spain.
  • It is appreciated that the first generation Muslims had to establish organisations with people of their own ethnic/geographical backgrounds. While there may still be a need for this for some sections of the community, in a post-7/7 Britain Muslim institutions must open up for others qualitatively and their workers should be able to work with all. History tells that living in your own comfort zone will lead to isolation.
  • Muslim bodies, in their current situation, must have a practical 5-10 year plan, This will bring new blood and change organisational dynamics. Younger, talented, dedicated and confident leadership with deep-rooted Islamic ideals is now desperately needed.
  • Muslim bodies must also have a 5-10 year plan to encourage young Muslims within their spheres to choose careers that can take the community to the next level. Our community needs nationally recognised leaders from practising Muslims in areas such as university academia, policy making, politics, print and electronic journalism, etc.

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