Hamza Yusuf is one of America's most prominent Muslim voices. He is the co-founder of the Zaytuna College and a popular speaker at American Muslim events across the country.
On December 24, 2016, Yusuf appeared as a star speaker at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit convention in Toronto, an annual Islamic event that draws crowds of thousands. Interviewed by the British Shi'ite journalist, Mehdi Hasan, Yusuf discussed strident anti-Semitism within the Muslim community, and attacked the "plague" of Islamism that has gripped so much of Western Islam.
Hamza Yusuf on Islamism:
Mehdi Hasan: A lot of Islamophobes say they are anti-Islam because it's Islam that's driving the violence they see, it's Islam that's behind ISIS, that terrorists are a product of the religion and then there are Muslims who say it is nothing to do with Islam, nothing to do with Islam. You have said and I quote: 'what we do not need, are more voices that veil the problem with more empty hollow and vacuous arguments that this militancy has little to do with religion. It has everything to do with religion,' you said. What did you mean by that?
Hamza Yusuf: Well I mean, I think that we, our community is in denial about certain aspects within the community and I think that denial, first of all, it prevents people from really hearing you honestly. Because once you say this has nothing to do with Islam, you just lost all of those people out there that you need to reach. That's the first thing. Once you admit that we have a problem, this is something I told the Saudi government immediately after 9/11 I told them you have to admit you have a serious problem and I think, unfortunately...
Mehdi Hasan: How did they take that?
Hamza Yusuf: They didn't they just changed the subject in that meeting, but it's a real problem because denial - it is a river in Egypt - but it is not a river in Egypt, right? So we are in a state of denial about how deep this goes and one of the problems with our religion and the Jewish religion, I can say the same about the Jewish religion, about the premodern Christian religion, all of our premodern religions have real problems in them, in terms of the modern world. And the problem with Islam is because it has one aspect of Islam, is political, these are called al-ahkam as-sultaniya [principles of government]. The political aspect of Islam is very small in any book of Sharia, but it exists like the penal code, we have qanun al-'uqubat [penal code] about these things, but the vast majority of Islam has nothing to do with politics. What's been done to Islam is it's been turned into a political ideology by a certain group within the Muslims and so what's happened, by making it a political ideology and saying it can only be practiced within the framework of a political ideology, is a major problem in our community. And then if you couple that with all of these things in our books that are problematic and you bring those out, what's happening is.. Daesh is a gross perversion but the text that they are basing... it exists.
Omar Suleiman, founder of the Yaqeen Institute and an "instructor" at the Al Maghrib Institute, is one of the most prominent clerics within American Islam.
In July 2016, Suleiman was invited to address an "interfaith service" held for the victims of the Dallas police shootings. On national television and in newspapers across the country, Suleiman could be seen sitting just a few feet behind the 43rd and 44th first couples: George and Laura Bush, and Barack and Michelle Obama.
Suleiman is treated by the media and the political establishment as a moderate cleric. In front of a Muslim audience, however, what sort of Islam does Omar Suleiman preach?
We are only two days into the annual joint convention of the Muslim-American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). Islamist Watch has previously written about the MAS-ICNA conference and its many extremist speakers, leading to Keith Ellison's withdrawal. But we weren't expecting the conference to become a propaganda event for Reccep Tayyip Erdogan.
Today, Turkish president Erdogan's daughter, Sumeyye Erdogan Bayraktar, addressed the MAS-ICNA conference, peddling the official line (for which they have little evidence) that the recent coup attempt was the work of the "Fethullah Terror Organization" (FETO), which is how the regime now refers to the followers of Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gülen.
Bayraktar called FETO more dangerous than the Islamic State: "It is easier to turn some hopeless, desperate, uneducated people into militants. They have little to lose.... FETO on the other hand takes possession of the minds and hearts of well-educated doctors, engineers, generals, scientists [because of] its highly hierarchical and closed system using the method of dissimulation." In response, she said, "Our state will defend the integrity, security and public will of our country with full vigor and force..."
Any moderate speakers ought to reconsider their participation. They will be sharing a platform with Islamist clerics and activists who have in the past advocated for violence, extremism, racism, and hate. Among the worst include:
Shaikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah: Shaikh Bin Bayyah, in addition to his many government positions in Mauritania, is also a former vice president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, which is headed by notorious radical cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. In 2004, while Bin Bayyah was a member of the IUMS, it issued a fatwa declaring that violent resistance against the US presence in Iraq was a defensive jihad that did not require the authority of a Caliph, and was therefore "a duty on every able Muslim in and outside Iraq". Bin Bayyah himself defended Palestinian terrorist groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in 2011.
On December 11, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is hosting its annual convention. A number of prominent non-Muslim politicians are expected to attend. They will be sharing a platform with a couple of problematic Islamist activists: MPAC official Edina Lekovic and Imam Jihad Saafir.
While at UCLA, Edina Lekovic worked for a publication named Al-Talib. The July 1999 issue, which lists her as managing editor, features Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden on the cover celebrating "the spirit of jihad." One article in this issue, written by "Al-Talib staff," states: "When we hear someone refer to the great Mujahid (someone who struggles in Allah's cause) Osama bin Laden as a 'terrorist,' we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter." The July 1999 issue was published after the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa and Bin Laden's declaration of war against the U.S.
Another issue of Al-Talib, also bearing Lekovic's name, alleges that the Holocaust is exaggerated.
There is a new Islamic institute in town. Founded recently by the prominent cleric, Omar Suleiman, the Yaqeen Institute claims to tackle "the rise of Islamophobia on one side, and extremism on the other," as well as the "rise in the Muslim community" of "Atheism and Agnosticism."
Islamist Watch does not discourage any attempt, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, to challenge genuine anti-Muslim hatred.
Our expertise, however, is Islamist extremism. If the Yaqeen Institute is serious about its commitment to fighting extremism, then we suggest it reconsider some of its staff, including its founder.
Omar Suleiman has been already condemned by moderate Muslim activists after he described homosexuality as a "disease" and a "repugnant shameless sin." He refers to the Islamic death penalty for the "people that practiced sodomy."
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) recently announced their latest conference, to take place on February 25th, 2017. As usual, many of the headlined speakers have histories of Islamist extremism.
Mehdi Hasan, a prominent British journalist and political editor of several news programs, has been caught on video saying that non-Muslims "live their lives as animals, bending any rule to fulfill any desire."
Over the last decade, Islamist Watch, along with several moderate Muslim organizations and other anti-Islamist groups, have spent a considerable amount of time documenting and analyzing the Muslim Brotherhood network in the United States – examining its officials, finances and ideology.
We have sought to understand how this minority extremist movement of political activists has managed to impose its own unelected leadership on historically moderate American Muslim communities.
Over the election cycle the leaders and spokesmen of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) took full advantage of the unorthodox candidacy of president-elect Donald Trump to fuel their usual arguments about a bigoted, "Islamophobic" America.
But could it be that much of their overheated rhetoric was just for show and that actually the Islamists see more than enough silver lining in a Trump victory?
1. This is a HUGE Opportunity for Fundraising.
Here was CAIR-Dallas/Fort Worth executive director Alia Salem reminding supporters to give to local offices, not just CAIR-National:
ISLAMIST WATCH, a project of the Middle East Forum, combats the ideas and institutions of lawful Islamism in the United States and throughout the West. Arguing that "radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution," we seek to expose the Islamist organizations that currently dominate the debate, while identifying and promoting the work of moderate Muslims. Islamist Watch specifically does not deal with counterterrorism but works to establish that lawful Islamism is by and of itself a threat.