Islam spread in Black America, because of Black Muslims who boldly spoke against white supremacy. Black Muslims worked to raise the self-esteem of ordinary Black folks which had been destroyed in a white supremacist society. Islam, was active in mitigating the social ills of the Black ghetto, from drug addictions, gang violence, poor education, and raising political awareness and consciousness. Today, considered by some to be a leader in the Muslim community “Shaykh” Hamza Yusuf blatantly disrespects the legacy of Black Muslims and all that Black Muslims toiled for in the United States.
A comprehensive analysis of Hamza Yusuf’s ministry reveals that it is completely devoid of knowledge of the political realities facing Black America and his status as a leader in the Muslim community spreads an image about Islam that runs counter to the image that Black Muslims must spread, for Black Muslims to successfully undercut and defeat Black Orientalism and other challenges, that impugns the legitimacy and spread of Islam in Black America. In short: Hamza Yusuf cannot teach Black people Islam and Black people have no business studying Islam from him.
Hamza Yusuf: Speaking as an Islamic Scholar or a typical Clueless White Liberal?
At times, one cannot distinguish as to whether Hamza Yusuf is speaking as an Islamic Scholar or a clueless white liberal. While many Muslims are aware of “Shaykh” Hamza Yusuf’s horrendous comments at the reviving the Islamic Spirit Conference where he fails to recognize any causality between institutional racism and the destruction of the Black family, left unaddressed were equally repulsive statements he has made at other venues. In a video titled, “Black Lives Matter – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf clarifies”, Hamza Yusuf discusses his mother who he says attended civil rights marches and lauds the civil rights movement, before castigating the Black Lives Matter activists as “ reverse racist” and the anger he sees among activist.For the record: It does not impress nor move me a single iota that “Shakyh” Hamza Yusuf’s mother fought in the civil rights movement because my family traces their Islamic genealogy to the Nation of Islam which successfully hypothesized the civil rights legislation as woefully inadequate to redress Black suffering and stood as an organizational entity opposed to integration. The problem with Hamza Yusuf’s statement is that there is an unjustified inherent assumption that the civil rights movement was superior to Black movements who sought a freedom for Black people and Black self determination outside of the confines of liberalism.
Black Muslims not just those in the Nation of Islam, but also Black Muslims in The Republic of New Afrika and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense identified civil rights legislation as being unable to resolve Black suffering. In seeking to make Islam compatible with the reformist politics of the civil rights movement and calling Muslims to these reactionary political stances, Hamza Yusuf puts himself at odds with the politics of Black Muslims freedom fighters such as Safiya Bukhari and Sekou Odinga who saw civil rights legislation as insufficient to resolve the oppression of Black people. Hamza Yusuf, politically seeks to align himself more with white liberals than Black Muslim freedom fighters.
Moreover, “Shaykh” Hamza Yusuf referring to Black Lives Matter activist as “reverse-racist”, demonstrates he has no understanding of racism as a power dynamic. Black Lives Matter activists are powerless in bringing murderous police officers to justice, nor can they bequeath a harsher prison sentence on white folks (despite that a Black kid convicted of the same crimes get off more lightly), Black Lives Matter activists are not able to systemically confine white people to impoverished neighborhoods, nor can Black Lives Matter activists systemically mass incarcerate white people. There is no“reverse-racism” by Black lives matter activist. Make no mistake about it: Castigating Black Lives Matter activist is white supremacist discourse that seeks to demonize Black people for fighting for their freedom.
The sad reality is that Hamza Yusuf comments on Black lives matter movement initiated numerous discussions as to whether Muslims should support the Black Lives Matter movement. This should not be focal point of our conversation. The discussions we need to be having should be centered around how we are going to push Islam forward in Black America and center Islam in the Black liberation struggle. Black people since being kidnapped and brought to America against their will have initiated numerous movements to redress white supremacy.
Black Lives Matter is simply the latest and the trendiest. However, Islam should not take a backseat to secular-leftist oriented Black social movements. Islam, its holy book, the Qu’ran, and the Sunnah of its messenger, the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh), should guide the institution’s Black folks establish to combat racism and liberate Black people. Effort spent seeking to get Muslims to support Black Lives Matter would be better spent with Muslims initiating their own movements to combat white supremacy. When Black Muslims are under the so-called Muslim leaders who do not even have a rudimentary understanding of racism and its devastating impacts, Black Muslim “liberation theology” for them is not possible.
Hamza Yusuf’s disengagement with black political thought!
To recap on Hamza Yusuf’s track record: Hamza Yusuf in the reviving the Islamic spirit conference argued that the problem in the Black community was not institutional racism but the breakdown of the Black family. In his inability to recognize causality between institutional racism and the Black family, Hamza Yusuf directly insulted the legacy of Abu Bakr, an enslaved Black Muslim scholar who was kidnapped from Africa, forever forcibly separated from his family, and whose slave narrative literally laments about the fact that Islam may not be in his family in future generations due to the oppressiveness of slavery. Hamza Yusuf disrespected insulted Omar ibn Said, an enslaved African Muslim who could not maintain a family on the slave plantation because he and his children could be sold off to another slave plantation on a whim by the slave master.
Hamza Yusuf directly disrespected Malcolm X, whose father was kidnapped by the Ku Klux Klan, tied on a railroad track, leaving the train to mutilate his body, ripping his head off, tearing his legs from his body and decapitating Malcolm X’s beloved father. This action left Malcolm X’s beloved mother Louise Little so mentally distraught that the last time Malcolm X visited his mother in a mental hospital, Louise Little was unable to recognize her own son. Unbeknownst to Hamza Yusuf, the breakdown of the Black family is a direct product of white supremacy.
When Hamza Yusuf was asked about police brutality, he gave the non-sequitur response of mentioning “Black on Black crime.” In doing this, Hamza Yusuf insulted the memory of Black Muslim slave rebels who were massacred by Police chief, Gonclaves Martins. Hamza Yusuf directly insulted the memory of Ronald Stoke and William X Rogers, Black Muslims who in an act of police brutality, were killed by Los Angeles Police officers, leaving Malcolm X completely distraught. Hamza Yusuf directed insulted the memory Amadou Dialla, a Black Muslim whom the New York Police Department shot at over 41 times.
In his refusal to recognize how “Black on Black crime” is fostered and produced, by a system of institutional racism and global white supremacy which confines blacks to impoverished and drug ridden neighborhoods, Hamza Yusuf repeatedly demonstrates he is not attuned with the social and political realities of Black Americans.
When “Shaykh” Hamza Yusuf does not have a basic grasp of the political realities facing Black America, the educational institutions established by him cannot establish any Black oriented Muslim oriented liberation theology that will address the spiritual, economic, political and theological needs of Black folks in the most disenfranchised ghetto. It is this wedge between Islamic knowledge and the social situation facing Black Americans, that you hardly find. Hamza Yusuf is not fit to teach Black people Islam.
So many Black Muslims in their zeal to seek Islamic knowledge find themselves in seminary schools that have no application of Islamic thought to address the post slavery traumas of Black America and under the tutelage of Shaykhs who know nothing of their condition. Black people: Liberate yourselves from theological slavery and give up submitting yourself to the tutelage of white “Shaykhs” who know nothing about your condition.
If you want to learn how to live Islam, you do not need to go to “Shaykh” Hamza Yusuf. Read the autobiography of Malcolm X and learn how Malcolm X soldiered in the hood to bring disenfranchised Black folks in the mosque. Read what sister Safiya Bukhari teaches on how the Qu’ran and Hadith inspired her to fight white supremacy in her book, The War Before. True Life Story of Becoming a Black Panther Keeping the Faith in Prison. Study what brother Kamau Sadiki says about Islam in the autobiography of Assata Shakur and incorporate that message into your own life. Pick up a copy of From the Back of the Bus To the Back of the Camel: Analyzing the Psychology of Toby Muhammad from Brother Hameed. Read The Friday Prayer and the Two Celebrations Made Simple by Imam Amin Nathari. Learn about Islam from people who actually care for the need for Islam to address the spiritual, political, and social needs of Black people.
Learn about Islam from Black freedom fighters not from folks who can elaborate extensively about complex European philosophical views such as Kant’s categorical imperative, Nietzsche’s will to power, and Aristotelian ethics but who do not even know simplistic information about the oppression that Black people have been facing for over 400 years.
The FBI’s cointellpro program sought to detach Islam from the Black liberation struggle. This illegal, covert program designed to infiltrate, discredit and disrupt radical Black leadership and self-determination. Now, we have “Muslim leaders” seeking to make Muslims romanticize about the civil rights movement (which failed to adequately redress Black suffering) and calling Black lives Matter activists “reverse racist.” Seriously, we’ve seen this trick again and again. Not only here in American but throughout the Continent of Africa, the Caribbean and in South and Central America before, this time we won’t get bamboozled! Let no one, I mean no one, detach Islam from the Black Liberation struggle!