Changing the Tide

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Event Name: Changing the Tide
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Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 3/29/2019 8:41:11 PM
Transcript Version: 1

Transcript Text

WhyIslam Speech - By Sh Hamza Yusuf

Nov 2006

Transcribed by a friend of tux08902

Found here:

The following is a rough transcript (from my memory) of the powerful and moving speech that Shakyh Hamza Yusuf gave to the ICNA Symposium on 1877-Why-Islam one week ago, when he came to New Jersey after a long time. I was luckly enough to get a seat in the sold out event held in one of New Jersey's largest state theatre: the 2,500 seat Ritz Theatre in Elizabeth which was again filled to capacity. If you missed the event, I am sending you this and insha'Allah it'll be of benefit.

 Again the following are the main points of Imam Hamza's speech to my best of my knowledge. I tried my best to list them, and ask for forgiveness if any parts are missing or stated incorrectly. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson was born in Washington State and raised in Northern California. In 1977, he became Muslim and subsequently traveled to the Muslim world and studied for ten years in the U. A. E., Saudi Arabia, as well as North and West Africa. He also founded Zaytuna Institute which has established an international reputation for presenting a classical picture of Islam in the West and which is dedicated to the revival of traditional study methods and the sciences of Islam. Shaykh Hamza is the first American lecturer to teach in Morocco's prestigious and oldest University, the Karaouine in Fes. In addition, he has translated into modern English several classical Arabic traditional texts and poems. Shaykh Hamza currently resides in Northern California with his wife and five children.


 Bismillah. AssalaamuWasalaam A'la-RasoolAllah Wa'Ala-Ashabee Ajmaeen.

 I would just like to say there I have nothing but great love for ICNA and this organization. Unfortunately I couldn't speak or take previous invitations for no other reasons except scheduling conflicts. I'm invited on the same 4th of July weekend in California as ICNA holds its annual convention. Unfortunately my annual invitation in California over the 4th of July weekend is made by my cardiologist, which means, that I must go otherwise my heart could be at risk …{Laughter}

 In any case, I'm glad to be here tonight. Masha'Allah we have Imam Chebli here with us. As Muslims we must all acknowledge that we must treat all communities with respect. We have got to stop being self-righteous as if "we are the chosen people" of God. Many times in the past we've made, including myself, some statements, which I later come to regret. Not because of any posturing but because my previous comments were not Islamically sanctioned, neither by the Koran or the example of the Prophet. We human beings are constantly growing and changing. We may say things at one time but regret it another, not because we are afraid; but because we have grown wiser, prudent, and more mature. We are ever changing just as a seed grows into a young plant (and they don't look alike) and just as a young plant matures into a fully grown tree (again the two appears different at two time periods) the overall changing and maturing is a process. Similarly, we human beings are constantly growing, maturing, and changing. And hopefully for the better, which is called wisdom. If you are not changing than you're not alive…right…I mean that's one of the characteristic of life adaptation…If you're not changing then you might as well be dead.

 It comes as no surprise then to realize that our community is under siege. I don't know if there is anyone who feels otherwise. If you don't think that our community is under siege right now, then I'm not sure if you're even alive.

 But our situation right here in America is still better than the situation of our brethren in many Western European nations, where there is open hostility and antagonism against Muslims just under the surface. I am talking about countries such as Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium. Laws are being made there openly challenging our religiosity. They are creating "tests" for immigrants, particularly for those from Muslim countries and checking their "loyalty" and forcing them to see homosexual acts on films to test their limits on "tolerance." This is not tolerance it is racism, nationalism, and xenophobia.

 When I went to Denmark to speak after the cartoon controversy, I must say that we found people on the streets who knew nothing about Islam or Muslims. And I must attest the Danes were a genuinely nice people, a majority of whom didn't support the cartoons or the editor's decision to run them (Those gratuitously denigrating someone they perceive to be our Prophet). We Muslims are being manipulated by the press and being used as pawns in their ugly game. We react just as expected giving them fuel and additional ratings. We must stop and use our heads.

 We have to get the message across that it is not ok to defend the right to offend. You can criticize us all you want, but don't be gratuitously rude, offensive, and insulting. Just as it is not ok in some European countries to deny the Holocaust… in fact it is a criminal offense. Just as it is against the law to make hate speech based on race, we Muslims should make it clear that we derive our self-identity from our faith; just as some African Americans derive their identity from race.

 By Allah, to me my Islamic identity is many times greater than my race, creed, or what have you. Unlike racial identity which goes only skin deep, our religious identity runs all the down to our hearts. It defines who we are. This is a pin of my clan and ancestors from Scotland (pointing towards an insignia on his suit) during my visit to that country. My clans motto is ferrero ferrero which means we are ferocious towards those who are ferocious towards us. [Imam Hamza chuckles]. That should be an Islamic motto [laughs]. Well that's human nature, isn't it?

 Denmark has a very just and lenient refugee policy, the best in all of Europe. It has the lowest corruption in the world, all of which are noble Islamic policies. And some Muslims haven't lived up to their end of the bargain. The highest crime rate in Denmark is amongst the Muslim population, esp. those of North African descent including Somalia.

 The fact of the matter is we haven't explained Islam to people, esp. in the West. There was a recent Gallup poll done which asked, "What is the first word that comes to your mind when you think What Good Islam Has To Offer?…" A majority 56% said, "Islam has nothing good to offer." That's a solid majority who believes that, but what's ironic is that an even greater majority 60% admitted they knew very little or nothing about Islam or Muslims. When in fact the Islam took the Europe out of the Dark Ages, and Islamic inventors offered their creations to the rest of the world…

 Now the second most common response was (by 34% of respondents) was "I like their devotion and religiosity." [Silence…] That's a good thing folks! We need more of that and less of "nothing good to offer," and we do that by telling our non-Muslim friends, neighbors, colleagues about who we are. We have to define who we are and don't let some hate-monger define Muslims to the American people.

 One of the tragedies is any American who wants to know more about Islam is being bombarded with negative aspects. This is the strategy being employed by them. Just by the fact the number of Islamophobic books being published and ending up on the bestseller list. Just walk into Barnes and Noble or any bookstore and you will find books distorting the real essence of Islam. And unfortunately people who know nothing about Islam take the people who write such distortions at face value because they have Ph.D's next to their name. All of a sudden these people who knew nothing about Islam before 9/11 become experts on our religion overnight? I mean one of the best ways to make money these days, is being an apostate from the religion and you'll instantly become a media darling. They'll harp on how courageous you are in holding up your beliefs. (My own words: But if you're a Muslim woman wearing your headscarf after 9/11, then your not brave in holding up your beliefs but rather "oppressed").

 One of such books called Infiltration by Paul Sperry has even blacklisted me on one of his pages by a 2005 speech I gave during ISNA. He says I'm an Islamist sympathizer which means I better watch what I say tonight and behave. {Laughter}.

 Seriously, publishing these books has become an industry. One of the fastest ways of making money is to become an apostate from Islam. There is nothing better that conservatives like better than parading a former Muslim who hates his own faith. Its similar to parading black people during the Republican Party Conventions because African Americans have usually voted Democratic. They try and portray themselves as an "all inclusive" party whereas the facts and their policies are not. (In another speech with Chris Hedges Imam Hamza said insha'Allah it'll be welcoming to see if the Republicans should lose this upcoming election in '06). Showing a former Muslim is also a very clever, cunning, and a dangerous strategy. We should be aware of it. It is sending a message that, "What good does Islam have to offer if Muslims themselves are leaving their own faith?" The agenda is a very cynical, deceitful, and their message is one of lies. And if we don't have Muslims writing books or countering their hate that "Islam teaches violence" then the easily impressionable non-Muslim, who lacks any fundamental knowledge of Islam, would accept what these people have to say as a fact. (My own words: God-forbid we are held responsible for not passing on the correct teaching in front of Allah on the Day of Judgment). At the heart of Islam is peace. The religion's essence is peace. He was a Prophet of peace during a time of war and conflict. Our noble messenger Muhammad (saws) prayed for peace during every prayer, 5 times a day imploring: "Oh Allah you are peace, and from you flows peace, let me live in peace, and let me die in peace, for you are The Lord of Majesty and Generosity." He (saws) brought warring tribes together in peace and ushered in an era of peace not known to fractious and constantly warring Arabia.

 So now is the time to educate people about Islam and who was the Prophet Muhammad. The respect our scholars had for the Prophet, I think must not be lost on us. There was once a scholar who was walking with his student beside him. As they were walking the student recited a hadith and sought clarification. The Shaykh replied, I never thought you, of all my students, would recite a Hadith of the holy messenger standing up. Subsequently the shaykh lost respect for him. Of course this doesn't apply in situation such as giving a khutbah on a pulpit or giving a speech, but it is indicative of the degree of love and respect we should have towards our beloved Messenger (saws).

 Some people asked me what I thought about Franklin Graham calling Islam wicked. I didn't know he had said that until it was brought to my attention. I have met him in person and have shook hands with him. If I knew he said that then I would have reminded him to think twice before shaking hands w/ the devil. (Laughs).

 Last week I did a program on Radio and gave a speech with a very interesting guy called Chris Hedges who holds a doctorate from Harvard Divinity school, was a foreign reporter for the NY Times, and has traveled throughout the world, including many countries in the Middle East. The subject of the topic was, "Does God Love war?" And Chris mentioned a very important point. He said that out of his 15 experiences of war torn regions, all of them began with one side spreading propaganda, creating fear and hate within their population against the "other." There was a systematic attempt to demonize the other side before war began and the same thing is happening right now in America today.

 I have five boys and I don't' want them growing up in an era of fighting and war. You must be a fool if you did. These people who want war are warmongers. They are planning war against Iran and we must do all we can as American Muslims, as the community who stands in the middle, as bridge connecting the two, to stop them. We love this country's ideals and don't want it to go down a wrong path or take a plunge. And I say today, Wallahee (By God), Wallahee (By God), if they declare a war against Islam, they will NEVER be able to defeat Islam. [Roaring applause. Takbeer…Again strong applause].

 There was a book which says Militant Islam comes to America? The only reason militant Islam came to America is because militant America went over there. [Applause.] We talk about winning hearts and mind in the Muslim world…well I'm no scholar of international law…but I sure would give advice any time of the day to the State Department that you don't win hearts and minds by dropping bombs on peoples heads. You don't drop bombs on their heads, and then expect to win their hearts. That is very hard in general for people to do.{small laughter from audience}

 Our nation is willing to spend billions of dollars in finding ways to produce weapons that are engineered in killing people most effectively while we are ignoring the millions of people who are dying in Africa of basic hunger?

 The world looks up to the United States for leadership. There is a lot of good things happening in this country. We are blessed that we have the freedom to say and gather in this great State of New Jersey without government interference or intervention. There are researchers doing study on diseases day and night. What if the Bird Flu breaks out and afflicts the world tomorrow? The world would be looking for the United States for leadership and cures. But in spite of that, more and more money is being diverted to military programs to the detriment of so many other social programs, including fighting HIV and AIDS. Weapons are being sold to countries locked in wars and disputes. The Prophet Muhammad said Allah would reserve the deepest depths of hell for those who'd sell arms during times of strife [Gasps of bewilderment from audience]. I'd like to quote a sentence from the philosopher that our current leader looks up to as his greatest role model (referring to Jesus) who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they for they shall be called the children of God."

 America was great when we put our interests over a foreign nation…[pause]… [Repeats] Puts our interest above a foreign nation's… [Crowd understands and applauds]. Lastly in closing I must say we are all ambassadors of our deen. The founding American values which this country is based on, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, has a lot in common with Islamic values. I would just like to see Americans being Americans and Muslims being Muslims. If both live up to their basic ideals, I honestly feel we wouldn't have so much problems today.

 There is a thing called soft power and hard power as coined by an American Professor at Princeton University. He described hard power as anything of or relating to force and military strength. And soft power is the power of talk, dialogue, discussion, and persuasion…to persuade the other side of your viewpoint without force. And I firmly believe Islam at its very root has a tremendous, overwhelming power to persuade anyone open to reason. All we need to do is convey the message. We don't need to dress up Islam, just pass the essential Islam to those unfamiliar with it. For we Muslims for far too long have used hard power, its time to use soft power. W'salaamAlaikum [Generous, hearty applause]