Hamza Yusuf stokes controversy with comments about Black Lives Matter and political Islam

The prominent American Muslim theologian Shaykh Hamza Yusuf has been widely criticised for comments he made about the Black Lives Matter Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Answering a question about whether Muslims should get more involved in the Black Lives Matter Movement which campaigns against systematic violence and racism against black people, Shaykh Hamza went onto defend the American criminal justice system. Speaking at the Reviving Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto yesterday, he later went onto criticise political Islam.

His comments can be heard in an audio file on this link.

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

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

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

Shaykh Hamza also went onto criticise Muslims who “have turned Islam into a political ideology,” although he said they were reacting to colonialism and political tyranny.

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He said the vast majority of Islam has nothing to do with politics but Islam has been turned into a political ideology by a certain group within the Muslims. He then explained that the actions of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir and Al Qaeda were a reaction to political oppression and the corruption of Islamic doctrine.

During the same question and answer session with the journalist Mehdi Hasan, Shaykh Hamza insinuated that fellow theologian Shaykh Yasir Qadhi had divided Muslims, although he later apologised for that comment.

He also said that he was not trying to belittle the struggle of black people against persecution, does not believe that the Muslim Brotherhood created al Qaeda, and does not want to see people who support the Muslim Brotherhood persecuted for their beliefs.

However, Shaykh Hamza’s comments brought about an immediate storm on social media with some accusing him of white privilege.

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

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

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

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

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