Zaytuna College has gained official accreditation to grant a Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Law and Theology despite founders’ extremist records.
Clarion Project, by ELLIOT FRIEDLAND, March 18, 2015:
Zaytuna College, an Islamist college in the US, has become an accredited institution of higher learning. It was accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
It is now authorized to issue a Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Law and Theology.
There is nothing wrong with accrediting Muslim colleges in the United States (or anywhere else, for that matter). Yet Zaytuna specifically has a long history of inciting extremism and of relationships with terrorist supporting clerics that should be pause for thought before regarding the college as a respectable institution of higher learning.
Hamze Yusuf, the founder of Zaytuna College said in 1996:
“[America] is a country that has little to be proud of in its past and less to be proud of in the present. I am a citizen of this country not by choice but by birth. I reside in this country not by choice but by conviction in attempting to spread the message of Islam in this country. I became Muslim in part because I did not believe the false gods of this society, whether we call them Jesus or democracy or the Bill of Rights.”
He has never retracted these remarks.
Yusuf is also vice-President of the Global Center for Guidance and Renewal, an organization chaired by the radical cleric Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah.
Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah is described on the Zaytuna website as being “one of the top jurists and masters of Islamic sciences in the world.”
Yet bin Bayyah has a lengthy track record of extremism. For example, in 2004 the International Union of Muslim Scholars, which he was then vice-chairman of, issued a fatwa imposing a “duty on every able Muslim in and outside of Iraq” to support attacks on US soldiers there.
It is not surprising that Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah is praised so highly on the Zaytuna website, since Hamze Yusuf studied under him, receiving an ijazah (an Islamic diploma of learning) from bin Bayyah.
For his part, Sheikh Abdulla bin Bayyah attended the first graduating class of Zaytuna College and delivered a series of lectures.
Zaid Shakir co-founded Zaytuna College and is the chairman of the board and the Student Affairs Committee of Zaytuna and has made various radical statements over the years.
In 2006 the New York Times reported that “he said he still hoped that one day the United States would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law.”
In a recording from 1992 he supported the idea of a unified Muslim Caliphate which would “undertake the jihad” against the “enemies of Islam.”
After the Charlie Hebdo murders, Hamze Yusuf said on his blog about the victims that “They suffered the fate of a man who gratuitously calls another man’s mother a whore and is surprised when that man stabs him.” This was despite opening by condemning the violence.
He then proceeded to quote the co-founder of Charlie Hebdo, blaming the murdered editor Stephane Charbonnier or ‘Charb’ directly, saying: “Retaliatory murders for honor or otherwise are clearly wrong under Islamic law, or any other reasonable system of law, as they should be. But even the co-founder of Charlie Hebdo, Henri Roussel, blamed the editor for knowingly endangering the lives of his employees.”
Hamze Yusuf made the same argument in the aftermath of the murder of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, stating in a lecture that just as racial slurs are unacceptable, mockery of religious belief should be similarly forbidden.
The speech tacitly justified the murder of Ambassador Stevens by directly comparing racism to mockery of Islamic religious belief. He asks: “if you go down to East Oakland [in California, a black majority area] right now and you shout the n-word as a white man in East Oakland and somebody comes and stabs you, is anybody going to be surprised?”
He conflates the two situations by going on to say “we [Americans] don’t recognize that for believers [how Muslims refer to each other] when you die you lose your racial identity, but when you die you maintain your religious identity, this is how the Muslims understand it.”
Although he goes on to say “I’m not going to justify anything the Muslims did in their reactions,” his point has already been made.
Contrast this with the attitude of Muslim counter-extremism activist and former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir Maajid Nawaz, who recently persuaded the Liberal Democrat party in the UK to adopt a platform of the “right to blaspheme” at the party’s annual conference.
Other staff at Zaytuna College are also problematic.
Hatem Bazian is the Academic Affairs Chair of Zaytuna and chairman of American Muslims for Palestine, an Islamist group that holds conferences that are like a party for Islamic radicals.
One such conference had a special session on teaching children about its cause.
Bazian is seen in Clarion Project’s film The Third Jihad calling for an “intifada in this country that change[s] fundamentally the political dynamics in here,” comparing the needed intifada to the “uprising in Iraq” and the “intifada in Palestine.”
He has similarly accused the U.S. government of warmongering, racism and of trying to “target” the Muslim leadership at home.
Zaytuna College has problematic links with other speakers and organizations. The college hosted a guest lecture series which invited Dr. Tariq Ramadan, a leading Muslim Brotherhood affiliated academic in the West to speak.
Furthermore, both Hamze Yusuf and Zaid Shakid regularly speak at events organized by Muslim Brotherhood affiliated organizations, such as the Council on American Islamic Relations, which was designated a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.
Any college with links to terror-supporting clerics and whose leaders have justified or minimized violent extremism should be subject to scrutiny. Whatever the desire to accredit the first Muslim college in the United States, Zaytuna College is not the right one.
If you wish to express your concern about the decision to accredit Zaytuna College, please contact the WASC Senior College and University Commission by email or call them (510) 748-9001.