Hamza Yusuf Hanson is president, co-founder, and senior faculty member of Zaytuna College located in Berkeley, California.
He is an advisor to the Center for Islamic Studies at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union and also serves as vice-president for the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, which was founded and is currently presided over by Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah.
In an interview with Mehdi Hassan at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) conference in Toronto (December 24-27, 2016), Hamza Yusuf said among other things the following:
A lot of the problems in the United States with the black community being shot by the police – we have about 15,000, between 15 to 18 thousand homicides a year, 50 percent are black on black crime, literally 50 pe[rcent]… One black person being shot or white, there are twice as many whites had been shot by police, but nobody ever shows those videos. It’s the assumption is the police are racist and it’s not always the case, and I think it’s very dangerous again to just broad stroke any police now that shoots a black is immediately considered a racist and sometimes these are African-American police officers… It is an important debate though, because I think, you know, we can’t, the police aren’t all racist, we cannot say that…
We should all be against any ideologies of superiority of one people over another people. It is completely antithetical proposition, but we have some of the worst racism in our own community… We have some of the worst racism in our own community. The anti-Jewish rhetoric, you know, here in the Islamic community is horrific.
And one of the things about Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah who is an Arab Sheikh – I’ve never over 20 years I’ve known him, I’ve never heard him saying a bad word about Jewish people ever, and yet I’ve heard in our community so many blatant remarks [about Jews].
Also, do you know what it is like to be a Pakistani in a lot of Gulf states or in India or from Kerala even worse. Do you know? Talk about people, talk about white privilege, what about Arab privilege over non-Arabs in the Middle East? I mean, I just feel like we have so little moral capital while pointing our finger at other people and it actually makes me a little sick to my stomach when I see all these people rising up about this anti, you know, anti this kind of white privilege and all these things and it’s like our community is rife with these things [racism] and our religion is so profound… [Question: How do you deal with that in our community?] by practising Islam, that would be a good start.