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FBI Pays Hamza Yusuf A Visit

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  • Islamic News and Information Network
    Asalamu alaikum ININ NOTE: This is very yellow journalism. But then look at the paper and look at the author s names and then you will understand why. ININ ...
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 4, 2001
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      ININ NOTE: This is very yellow journalism. But then look at the paper and
      look at the author's names and then you will understand why.


      Muslim Leaders Struggle With Mixed Messages

      By Hanna Rosin and John Mintz
      Washington Post Staff Writers
      Tuesday, October 2, 2001; Page A16


      On Sept. 20, FBI agents showed up at the house of Hamza Yusuf, a Muslim
      teacher and speaker in Northern California. They wanted to question him
      about a speech he had given two days before the Sept. 11 attacks, in which
      he said that the U.S. "stands condemned" and that "this country has a great,
      great tribulation coming to it."

      "He's not home," his wife said. "He's with the president."

      The agents thought she was joking, Yusuf said. But she wasn't. That day
      Yusuf was at the White House, the only Muslim in a group of religious
      leaders invited to pray with President Bush, sing "God Bless America," and
      endorse the president's plans for military action.

      "Hate knows no religion. Hate knows no country," Yusuf said that day outside
      the White House. "Islam was hijacked on that September 11, 2001, on that
      plane as an innocent victim."

      Yusuf's mixed message created awkwardness for the White House -- and
      revealed a dilemma for the suddenly very visible Muslim leadership in

      The president invited Yusuf because he is one of the "leading Muslim
      clerics," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. When the president
      meets with a group, "you should never assume . . . that he would ever agree
      with anything anybody in that group has said," added another Bush spokesman,
      Ari Fleischer.

      Before the Sept. 11 attacks, Yusuf's speeches would occasionally stray into
      anti-American rhetoric, hitting apocalyptic themes. At least one other
      Muslim leader invited to the White House since the attacks also has made
      provocative remarks about America.

      But now Yusuf has joined other American Muslim leaders as they have closed
      ranks behind the message that Islam is a peaceful religion and that
      extremists are outside its fold.

      No one suggests that Yusuf had anything directly to do with the attacks, and
      he has not endorsed violence against American targets. But some Islamic
      experts said Yusuf is one example of a Muslim leader who speaks of peace to
      the American public though he has used incendiary language in private.

      The contradictory idioms are, in part, an outgrowth of the American Muslim
      community's reluctance to air its disagreements in public, said Ali Asani,
      an Islamic studies professor at Harvard University.

      Muslims "are so sensitive about the perception of Islam," Asani said. "Even
      when there are disagreements within the Muslim community about extremism,
      they will project to the outside that we are all monolithic and peaceful."

      Asani, who has watched the spread of rhetoric such as Yusuf's with dismay,
      added that it was time for a reckoning. After Sept. 11, the more extreme
      leaders went "on alert," said Asani. "They realize that they are part of the
      problem, that the Sept. 11 incident can be the result of this kind of
      thinking they have been propagating for so many years."

      Yusuf said he partly regrets the speech, adding that it was "tragic timing"
      and that he would never give it now, after the attacks. "I don't want this
      country to be destroyed," he said. "I don't want to have punishment come to
      this country. I'm not a wrathful person."

      Yusuf was born in California to an American Catholic father and a Greek
      Orthodox mother. He converted to Islam at age 17, and studied with Muslim
      scholars in the Middle East. Then he returned to college in this country and
      began teaching Arabic and Islamic affairs at a center in California. He is
      known among his students as a charismatic teacher who can speak to the
      experiences of young second-generation Muslims.

      His Sept. 9 speech was not the first time Yusuf drew criticism. In 1995 he
      said, "the Jews would have us believe that God had this bias to this little
      small tribe in the middle of the Sinai desert, and all the rest of humanity
      is just rubbish. I mean, that is the basic doctrine of the Jewish religion
      and that's why it is a most racist religion."

      "Those are old speeches," Yusuf said yesterday about those remarks. "I've
      spent 10 years in the Arab world and I've learned their language. . . .
      Anti-semitism, anti-anything does not reflect my core values. If people were
      fair, they would see my spiritual growth, as a person, as a religious

      He gave his Sept. 9 speech in Irvine, Calif., to a gathering to support
      Jamil Al-Amin, a Muslim cleric facing charges in the slaying of a sheriff's
      deputy during an Atlanta shootout and the wounding of a second deputy. The
      case of Al-Amin, known previously as the 1960s black radical leader H. Rap
      Brown, has rallied Muslim activists around the country who say he is being

      "He's a man who by necessity must speak the truth," Yusuf said of Al-Amin in
      the speech. "That is a dangerous man. . . . Within this government are
      elements who will do anything to silence the truth. They'll assassinate
      either the person or the character."

      He told his audience that that was merely one example of the injustice and
      immorality rampant in America.

      "This country is facing a very terrible fate," he said. "The reason for that
      is that this country stands condemned. It stands condemned like Europe stood
      condemned because of what it did. And lest people forget that Europe
      suffered two world wars after conquering the Muslim lands. . . . [Europe's]
      countries were devastated, they were completely destroyed. Their young
      people were killed."

      Yusuf also mentioned the conviction of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind
      Egyptian cleric convicted of sedition and sentenced to life in a U.S. prison
      in connection with a plot to bomb Manhattan's Lincoln and Holland tunnels
      and other New York landmarks. "That sheikh was unjustly tried, was condemned
      against any standards of justice in any legal system," Yusuf said, citing
      Rahman's lawyer, former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark. "Now [he] sits
      in jail because it was a foregone conclusion."

      Yusuf said yesterday that the attacks had taught him a lesson.

      "One of the things I have learned is that we in the Muslim community have
      allowed a discourse of rage," he said. "This has been a wake-up call for me
      as well, in that I feel in some ways there is a complicity, that we have
      allowed a discourse centered in anger."

      Another popular Muslim cleric invited to the White House after the attacks
      also has made controversial remarks. Muzammil Siddiqi, who also spoke at a
      service at the Washington National Cathedral after the attacks, harshly
      criticized U.S. support for Israel at a rally outside the White House last
      October, at which marchers chanted in praise of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah
      terrorist group.

      "America has to learn," Siddiqi said at the rally. "If you remain on the
      side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Please, all Americans. Do you
      remember that? Allah is watching everyone. God is watching everyone. If you
      continue doing injustice, and tolerate injustice, the wrath of God will

      Siddiqi could not be reached for comment.

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      "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was
      not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not
      speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the
      Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for
      me, and there was no one left to speak for me." - Pastor Martin Niemoller
      regarding the Nazi reign.
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