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Islam, Citizenship, and Religious Liberty

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Event Name: Islam, Citizenship, and Religious Liberty
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Islam, Citizenship, and Religious Liberty – Hamza Yusuf

 

 

2015

director of the Bandon institutes and the Ignatian Center for Jesuit education here at Santa Clara University

Provide leadership to advance the integration of faith justice and the intellectual life

 

What is the relationship between islam, citizenship and religious liberty

 

Good afternoon and welcome my name is Teresa Ladd regan Whelpley and I serve as the director of the Bandon institutes and the Ignatian Center for Jesuit education here at Santa Clara University the work of the Ignatian Center is to provide leadership to advance the integration of faith justice and the intellectual life on our campus and in the larger community and one of the ways in which we seek to actualize this integrating vision and mission is through events such as today when we come together to reflect on pressing contemporary religious and cultural issues and consider all the dimensions of our response as individuals as a university as a nation and as a human family what is the relationship between Islam citizenship and religious liberty how our current streams within our contemporary American political discourse sometimes informed more by Islamic oviya than the founding principles of this country is Islam compatible with the free exercise of religion what might we learn from drafters of the recent Marrakesh declaration in Morocco which championed the full human rights and citizen status of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries we are very privileged today to reflect upon these pressing contemporary questions with Sheikh Hamza Yusuf a contributing author to this Marrakesh declaration and president and co-founder of Zaytuna College the first Muslim arts college in the United States just up the road from our campus in Berkeley several faculty staff and student leaders from Zaytuna College join us today as distinguished guests a warm welcome to all of you to offer our formal introduction of president Yousef and facilitate a dialogue following president Yusuf's remarks I would like to invite forward at this time dr. Fareed Sens I associate professor in the Department of Political Science here at Santa Clara University and longtime friend of president Yousef please join me in welcoming dr. Sanjaya Thank You Teresa it is an honor and a privilege to welcome all of you here this afternoon our discussion today on Islam Citizenship and religious liberty couldn't be more timely today the relationship between Muslims and non-muslims is at an important crossroads a time when tensions are high in the very place and identity of Muslims as citizens in America is being put into question these are certainly troubling times when one out of two Americans has an unfavorable view of Islam and Muslims where one out of three feel that the Civil Liberties of American Muslims should be curtailed emits a ratcheting up of divisive rhetoric that we're hearing during the presidential politics and the debates that are taking place we're also seeing criminal threats against mosques harassment and bullying of kids in schools and violence targeting citizens simply for being Muslim a time when speaking Arabic will get you kicked off a plane or for instance the North Carolina man that used forced against a Muslim woman on an airplane he walked up to her and said in effect take that hijab off take that thing off this is America the man then proceeded to pull the hijab off of the woman leaving the woman's entire head exposed these are indeed troubling times but those of us that care about religious freedom and understand that this discriminatory backlash doesn't just harm the Muslim community it hampers the rights of all Americans and violates the divining values of our country yet at the same time there are Americans that continue to propagate animosity and hatred towards Muslims Americans who insist they have never met a Muslim or those that have those that have but continue to view Muslims through a prism of the security lens for them Muslims cannot be trusted they do not belong when religious leaders like Franklin Graham suggest that Islam is a violent religion at its core at a time when 24 hour news propagates talks and all of the images that we see of beheadings Muslims are often then consequently targeted and attacked we then also see of course Muslims engaged in violence and that only reinforces the animosity towards Muslims the San Bernardino attacks is a case in point clearly it is not an easy topic for us to to address in to tackle but today we have an extraordinary Muslim a Muslim leader who has devoted his life to tackling some of these very difficult and contentious issues we're fortunate to have Sheikh Hamza here with us this afternoon after all who better to address and examine the question of citizenship and the right to belong than a man born as Mark Hansen to to academics in Washington State and raised in Northern California who converted to Islam and has now built the first Muslim college a man that has devoted his life to educating about Islam and Muslims I have known Sheikh Hamza since I was in high school growing up in Sacramento when Sheikh Hamza would occasionally come up to give talks to a packed audience it was a time when those of us growing up in place like Sacramento that very few Muslim leaders to look up to and very few that we could learn about Islam from I have since gone - no shake Hamza much better both personally and professionally including the many joint conferences and events that we have attended including a project that we both participated in for several years it was initiative spearheaded by an extraordinary individual named George Russell who established what was known as one nation an attempt to address the tensions that exists between Muslims and non-muslims it's also had a distinct pleasure of serving and I also had the distinct pleasure of serving on the initial board of Zaytuna College when the school was initially launched and then later as a member of the Academic Affairs Committee when the college began to establish its first round of classes as you heard from Teresa Sheikh Hamza Yusuf is currently the president and co-founder and senior faculty member at Zaytuna College it is the first Muslim liberal arts college in the United States he's also an advisor to Stanford University's program in Islamic studies in the center for Islamic studies at Berkeley's graduate theological Union Sheikh Hamza serves as a member of the board of advisor of George Russell's One Nation program he also in addition is the vice president for the forum for promoting peace in Muslim societies which was founded and currently presided over by chef Abdullah bin baya one of the top jurists and masters of Islamic Sciences in the world most recently she Hamza contributed to the writing of the 2006 Marrakesh declaration in Morocco affirming the rights of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries he also met with Pope Francis in Rome to discuss the implications of this declaration Sher Hamza Yusuf will speak for 30 minutes this afternoon followed by a brief dialogue and then we'll have time for question and answers it is my distinct pleasure privilege to introduce one of our country's most distinguished and well recognized muslim scholars to finally welcome him here to Santa Clara please join me in giving a warm Santa Clara welcome to Sheikh Hamza Yusuf SMIL ar-rahman ar-raheem in the name of God the most merciful the most compassionate but hamdulillah praise be to our Lord and peace and prayers be upon our prophet and upon all the prophets first of all I really want to thank the college for the University for inviting me the the Bay Area is I think one of the intellectual hubs of the United States were also a very odd assortment of ideas some of the craziest ideas come out of California but also some of the most interesting and progressive I was just to give you an example;

 

I was inspired by the fact that we had the largest solar installation in the world back in the late 70s;

and out of just passing by there one day, I was so inspired by it, that I asked a friend of mine to see what it would take to get Mauritania completely energy dependent independent with solar panels and he did an incredible project for me and I ended up presenting that to the government in Abu Dhabi.  From that, came the largest solar installation in West Africa which is in Mauritania which is providing 10% of the energy to the state of Mauritania and we opened that two years ago in Rock shop as you fly into Norwalk shot you see just this incredible massive array of solar panels. My point being that California's is an inspiration for some of the most creative thinking that we have and it's the Bay Area in particular is a place where I grew up

 

 and I think in many ways my religious understanding is informed by my early experience in an incredibly tolerant place our main city is named after Saint Francis who is attributed by the Franciscans with ending the Crusades and actually met with the Muslims in in Egypt and they were very impressed with st. Francis he convinced the Pope to allow instead of going on Crusades to allow people for penance to actually make a pilgrimage to Assisi where he was we're also a state that's named after saints despite the fact that in many ways were probably one of the most sinful places in the world but those Saints like Santa Clara are reminders nonetheless of what this state was founded on it was founded on a deep and profound religious belief from people that that brought a great religion to people that I mean these are all arguable and debatable points today but in many ways benefited from that tradition so I want to talk about citizenship which is is an interesting concept because in the Islamic tradition citizenship the actual word in Arabic for citizenship is mohana and a Maupin as a citizen what then is the the place you're born and historically citizenship is conferred upon people based on birth you can be naturalized but it's it's a birthright if you're born in a place historically you were a citizen of that place one of the interesting verses in the Quran is that the the Quran swears by the city of Mecca and it says that the Prophet was a lawful citizen of that city in other words that he had a birthright by being born into that city he had a right to be there and he had a right to free to think freely and and he was being wronged and oppressed and so citizenship is a birth but it's also related to the idea of suffrage or enfranchisement the idea that we can actually participate in our government and this idea is a relatively new idea arguably the Greek concept of citizenship does not have a lot to do with the modern concept of citizenship because it was for free Greek males in a society that was largely driven by a slave labor force and women were certainly not part of the citizenry but it was also interesting enough our first historical account of what we would call today a direct democracy because the citizenships were not we're not that the citizens were not passive citizens they were active citizens they actually had to participate in government that the responsibility of participating in government and that's something that in in our culture many people do not have any sense of civic duty I'll give you an example for years I got off of jury duty and and most of us find ways of finagling ourselves out of jury duty but at a certain point I actually realized I never want to be judged by a jury that needed the $10 a day that they give you for being on jury duty and I really felt that I'm not going to do that and I actually served on a jury once and it was a felony case and it was a very powerful experience I would say there's something if anybody's been in a jury room there's something very mystical that happens in jury deliberations but civic duty was considered when this country was founded something very important but again it was free propertied males and they they were basically largely anglo-saxon so our idea of citizen 3 even in this country has evolved and changed the suffragette movement which was a very powerful movement to enfranchise women and allow them to fully participate in the government the idea and this is a conte an idea oddly enough as well as enlightened as he was the idea that a citizen should be somebody who was actually independent and not an employee an employer they should be independent in their means in order for them to be involved in government because they would have more of it of a sense of obligation and they had more responsibility and more concern about the government because of it would affect them and they didn't feel that people that were uneducated or were not propertied or well not independent should be involved in making decisions that would affect laws that would in turn affect those people that were independent so this was a debate my point in all this is that citizenship has been a it's a debated term it's a contested term to this day what it means to be a citizen what are the rights of citizenship what are the obligations the duties we have a bill of rights but we don't have a bill of responsibilities in in the Muslim world you largely had what was known as al Hakham and on macomb the the ruler and the ruled the the idea of being a subject was the normative experience for most people in in most parts of the world for centuries and this was certainly the case however in the Muslim world just like in feudal Europe most people did not experience a type of intrusive government in their lives in some ways today the government is far more involved in our lives than they were in pre-modern societies leisure time in pre-modern societies was much greater I'll give you an example I lived with Bedouins in the Sahara Desert and the Bedouins are completely free people they are self-governing by and large they live in tribal units their lands even nomadic people's lands are very well known and demarcate 'add they know if people infringe upon their lands it'll create conflicts over water and and other natural resources like grass because grazing rights are very important to that one things the Prophet said is people share grazing so the right to graze your animals is kind of a universal right in the Islamic tradition but many parts of the world peoples lived without government when you get into any type of sophisticated societies you need laws to govern those societies and hence citizenship is a concept that emerges out of that and this is why Aristotle talks a great deal about citizenship he in fact talks about the three ways of being in the world of being a slave of being in a type of infant alized condition which he would place women as the third not the children but as the third category which is a citizen so he actually used the woman as an example of a citizen in the family because she was under the authority of the husband but the the relationship was more of a relationship of mutuality as opposed to a type of dictatorship the children were in a situation of a benevolent despotism and then the servants were in the situation of slavery he argues that these are the three ways that human beings exist in the world they exist as citizens they exist as subjects of benevolent dictators which is the father who and the mother who are caring for the children and decide for them and then he looks at the third category which is the slave that has no rights or authority in their own lives they're simply dictated so it's a type of dictatorship that they're under in our culture we in many ways reflect what Epstein calls congruence theory because one of the things that strikes many immigrants that come to this country particularly friends of mine that have come from the Muslim world is that they're always struck by the idea of giving children a lot of choices so for instance I have Arab friends that cannot believe that American parents will ask their children what they want for dinner because in in in many many cultures that children are subjects that they simply get dinner and they have to eat it whereas here what would y