Islam, Citizenship, and Religious Liberty

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Event Name: Islam, Citizenship, and Religious Liberty
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 3/29/2019 8:41:02 PM
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Islam, Citizenship, and Religious Liberty – Hamza Yusuf




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 you like for dinner dear now interestingly enough according to Epstein in congruence theory that is necessary for a democracy to thrive and survive why because what he says is that governments will only work to the degree with which the system of government permeates the social institutions of the society so if you have dictatorships you need tutorial parents if you have dictatorships you need dictatorial doctors you go to the doctor you're not going to have a conversation with them about what you think the best approach to this problem is because you've googled it and read all about it it's not going to happen in a lot of places in the world they're gonna get upset about it and the same with the teachers I have a friend from Isle Vale the country with charity but he was in a Muslim country and he told me when he was a young boy the teacher was tying the pig is Haram and he raised his grin and he said why is the pig Haram and he said that the teacher came up to him and said put out your hand and he whacked him and he told me that he learned never to ask a question from that day forward that is that makes perfect sense according to Epstein for a society to have a dictatorship or a tyrannical government you have to replicate that behavior in all the social institutions so that the people in turn internalize these ways of being if you want to see one of the most extraordinary talks you'll ever see I would watch James Baldwin's debate with William Buckley at at the Oxford Union and one of the things James Baldwin says is that very early on a black learns what it means to be black in America but he says what also happens is that white people learn what it means to be white in America that a lot of us are unaware of how we internalize social systems that dictate to us ways of being and and what he argues in that debate and why it's so powerful is that white people are as much a victim of racism as black people are that he got the longest standing ovation according to the BBC man that he'd ever seen at the Oxford Union after that address so Epstein's argument is very relevant to our situation now in the Muslim world which has social institutions that are unfortunately very tyrannical people unfortunately associate that with Islam and think somehow this is this must be Islam because they're all Muslims and all those governments are horrible they tend to forget that for instance in West Africa Senegal is a democratic government Senegal is actually an incredibly liberal society with their religious conservative ISM they are a very wonderfully functioning society just recently they refused a visa to the sheikh al Assad from Egypt because the shekhar azad said gave a stamp of approval for the Sisi coup and they said we're a democratic society and we don't want a religious leader that sanctioned the coup because it threatens the security of our government so there's an example of a Muslim state that's democratic that does not function as a tyranny or a despotic state but people don't know about it Malaysia is another example of an incredibly multicultural society that has Islam as the constitutional religion despite the fact that it has Hindus it has Buddhas it has Animus it has what are called the Orang Asli you know Arango tongue in in Malay language means jungle man or Aung is man so orang asli are the original people the Aboriginal people who live in the jungles they had their animus there in Malaysia so this is a multicultural site or Turkey which despite the tensions that are going on right now Turkey has been a Democratic Society for a considerable amount of time Iran definitely has villi to fucky and there are certain things in their constitution that would would I think caused people here pause but lest we forget Iran today compared to the American experience 200 years ago is an extremely progressive society and so I think one of the things that we tend to do as Americans is project on the world our view of the world when we were Christian we had a civilization a civilizing enterprise of proselytize increased anity and in particular Protestant Christianity around the world hence we have the American University and in Beirut and the Protestants went around the Muslim world establishing these centers now that we're a capitalistic society we go around with liberal democracy as the idea that we want to convert everybody to this very often we failed I think because of our ethnocentrism way of viewing the world some of those ways might be wrong as far as we're concerned and some might be wrong might be right or wrong but nonetheless they are the ways that they view the world many women in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia do not want to be liberated from the hijab now there are people in critical theory which would say that's double consciousness what we need to do is liberate them from their backward thinking again this is the type of patronizing attitude that a lot of people in the West have about other people's we simply have to recreate the world in our own in I was just in Japan and I was stunned at the incredible deference that Japanese culture has to foreigners and to other people I was in Tokyo walking around the city for five days I did not hear a horn honk once and when I asked one of the Japanese don't people use horns here he said no it's considered very rude man I wish we would learn something about that in San Francisco right because I have I have what they call a Bazo vagal response for the doctors in the room you know like I go through the roof if somebody honks the horn my kidneys just literally go through the roof so I really appreciated the quietness and and everybody was so like I held a elevator for people on a few occasions and they run and say so sorry to keep you waiting you know and they're like bowing and I'm like wow that's first keeping the elevator door open you know what happens when you do really something for them really wonderful culture that I think has retained some of the beautiful things of traditional society in and in many ways we in the West have lost many of these things because of the negative aspects of tradition the Muslim world is still profoundly Thea centric even secular Muslims use we have words like goodbye which used to mean God be with you we we don't really have the type of words in our culture that are informed from a religious perspective my father constantly used God's speed whenever he would say goodbye because that was something that was said when he was a young man in this country god speed you know go with God the Arabs or the Muslims say Thea Manila go with God all right one of the things that's really interesting about that you know we called this rocket the Challenger Muslims would never do that I mean calling a rocket the Challenger is for a Muslim insanity they write things like may God be with us you know when you get on an airplane on all the airplanes it says like bismillah via man ela alhamdulillah they put like God's name and asking for a safe journey not like Challenger like who are you challenging because yeah so that the Muslim world is profoundly Theo centric and for that reason Islam and I was happy to see this in this week's Economist Islam still must be part of the solution for any of the problems facing the Muslim world in no foreseeable future can Islam be relegated in in the way that much of religion has been relegated in Europe less so but nonetheless to a large extent in America also Islam is still central to the Islamic ethos and for that reason my teacher sheikh abdullah bin baya convened and this took five years to get to marrakech people think these things just happen overnight it took five years it began with a meeting five years ago in no Akshar about citizenship and the reason that he did this was he was so troubled about the debates about jizya and jizya for those who don't know about the Islamic tradition jizya is the idea that that we that in a Muslim majority state or a state being ruled by Muslims non-muslims go under a status what is known as them them them now or them matured and this is the grist of a lot of Islamophobic material out there and there are many websites about dhimmitude I actually saw a bumper sticker a few weeks ago in Santa Clara in San Ramon that said on a kafir Wafaa hold on it said I'm a disbeliever in Arabic I'm a disbeliever and proud which which is again a kind of in-your-face statement about how people think that Muslims view the other it's interesting one of the linguistic intriguing linguistic aspects of English and Arabic is that in English we have other in brother but in Arabic you have brother in other so in English we say brother and so you have other embedded in the word brother but in Arabic you say aha which is other and the word brother is uh it's embedded in the word other and and and I just think that's a very interesting thing so we have to see the brother in other but we also have to recognize the other in brother and this is something that a lot of people have a difficult time doing so he had a series of meetings to talk about the problem of limited which is in surah the ninth chapter it's one of the it's the last chapter revealed in the Quran and it's the idea that those who disbelieve in God is messenger that they have to pay a jizya and it says hello Jesus Ananya then we'll home Saul you know until they pay a tribute with their hands and their sake alone and there's a lot of debate about what that word means some say it means humbled some say it means humiliated and you will find debates in our books about this the shade what he did was he looked at our tradition and he said that the first relationship that the Prophet had with the other in Medina was ful enfranchisement and this was the Jewish community and this is called Sipho to Medina in some ways it's the first written constitution even though the Athenian even the Spartans they had constitutions but they were not written and this is a case where the Prophet actually had a constitution written down and in it the Jews are given full enfranchisement in the state to practice their religion and to have mutual defense and they're entitled to their religion they have their own religious courts and and fulfill their functions and so it was a full enfranchisement they were not seen as less than the Muslims in that state and most Muslims think that this was but Fred Donner shows in his book on Islam Muhammad and the believers that actually there were Jews on the Arabian Peninsula up until the 9th century historically documented even his hawk who's the most famous biographer of the prophet's life says that all mah expelled the Jews from Medina that did not have the contractual agreement of the Medina and charter and so the Medina charter was maintained even after the prophets death which means that it was not abrogated so what sh abdullah bin baya argues in the marrakech declaration and in the essay that he wrote to substantiate it as a jurist he argues that citizenship is an islamic concept and that the prophet muhammad didn't franchise the jews and that this should be the model for muslim states today the OIC acknowledged this now two points and I'll finish one the Ottomans already abolished jizya in the 1830s under Sultan Abdul Majeed and they did it with the Shia Islam and with the scholars at that time it was agreed upon that this was no longer an appropriate relationship to have with minority communities in the Muslim state this is all that Chef Abdullah is trying to do is basically substantiate within our own tradition the normative practice of citizenship in the modern world it's the one that most moat makes the most sense now people would say well why do you have to go back 1400 years because Muslims believe that Islam is a revelation and if you do not convince them from their revelation many of them will not accept the UN Charter it's as simple as that they will say this is just the words of the kuffar and we're not obliged to follow it Isis is a good example now of people that are reviving medieval attitudes that and and in some ways I take offense at calling it medieval because I've spent a good deal of my life reading medieval writers and I'm always struck by how enlightened many of them were when we talk about dead white men most of those dead white men were actually spent a good deal of their lives in jail many of them were killed by the state we tend to forget that the only good Indian is a dead Indian Malcolm X gets a stamp after he's assassinated Martin Luther King gets the day after he's assassinated that power structures tend to incorporate their dissidents after they're dead because they're no longer a threat to the power structures anymore so I have a defense for dead white men because I I think a lot of them had a lot of interesting things to say and I don't think they were all white either san agustin was from North Africa lest we forget so my point being is that if you do not substantiate this in our tradition many of Muslims will simply not accept it how do we change the scenario the only way that we can change the the situation that we're in today is education and so it's not for nothing that we're here in a great institution of Education and that we can civilly sit and discuss things because our society is based on persuasion one of the things that is threatened in our modern society is argument argument is not a negative term in scholastic tradition argumentation is the basis by which we speak with one another and attempt to convince one or the other of the merits of our argument and what happens when you lose argumentation is prejudice takes over and we simply are not willing to sit down and and with an interlocutor and discuss things and be either convinced or convince them hence the need for these traditional subjects like logic and rhetoric which taught people how to argue persuasively and rationally and intelligently so now we have demagogues emerging and these are harbingers of a frightening future if we allow these things to be lost our early period despite whatever fault and I don't like to project onto the past the sensibilities of the present they were of their time they had the prejudices of their time not all of them but many of them but they were also great men and women we should never forget some of the great women of that time certainly John Adams wife was a brilliant woman Abigail and if you read how she raised her her son John Quincy great and brilliant American president now you recognize the incredible merit of that woman but it's it's just important not to always project on to the past they were men of their time and they had their faults but they also had things to tell us today and and I think we ignore them with great danger and peril so having said that I'm I'll just end with with with one thing is religious liberty incompatible with Islam the only real answer to that is whose Islam I think for many people in the Muslim community in the past and the present in some ways religious liberty as is defined in the modern world is incompatible with their version of Islam the Islam that I embrace which I believe is normative Islam I do not believe religious liberty is incompatible with Islam and I think I could make a very powerful argument I certainly think I could do it from the Quran and I'll leave you with three verses the Quran says Arabic ah lamina Memphis articulo home jamia had God wanted everyone would have believed in the world in other words he gave you free will and then it says a vanta to criticalness I had the acuña momineen are you going to coerce people into believing because all you do when you coerce people into believing is create religion filled with hypocrites the other verse in that was in Yunus verse 99 the other verses in baqara 2 56 second chapter 256 the Quran says let could I have a Dean at the billion orders to minify there's no different there's no coercion in religion falsehood should be in clear contra distinction to truth and then finally in chapter 18 the cap it says famine Shia Fedya Fedya men woman Shia phallic for whoever wants to believe in this that him believe and whoever wants to reject it let him reject it most of us love chocolate I just bought some Japanese chocolate for my family and people are usually happy with chocolate but nobody likes chocolate and when it shoved down their throats thank you well thank you so much Sheikh Hamza I think a lot of questions were raised in many cases questions about Muslims as majorities in living in majority countries Muslim majority countries what I'd like to do in our discussion is talk about Muslims as minorities in the context of the United States and within the United States especially within the context of what we're seeing politically howdy can you reflect it could you reflect on the place for Muslims here in the United States as a minority community well first of all we have to remember that Muslims have been here from the start there's substantial historical evidence that's proven that at certain periods about one-fifth of the of the slaves that were brought here were Muslims we have handwritten piron's from slaves we know we have Arabic letters from slaves Suleiman bin I knew of is a good example of that prince after him is another example of that that the film was made I think you were involved in that yeah with Mike Wolfe that's right right unity Productions so we also have the early example of a white convert to Islam is George Bethune English who got his master's degree which was the highest degree at the time at Harvard at Harvard believe it or not Harvard was teaching Arabic alongside Hebrew and if you get the first edition facsimile version you can buy it of Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary hence we get the word Webster's dictionary but that was the first american dictionary he wanted to prove that English was from Arabic and I mean from Hebrew but he ended up feeling that there were actually more Semitic roots in Arabic that rule related to English so the the book is filled with Arabic typography and so he's got earth our baby Babu's cave calf he shows all these Arabic words and and and so they were teaching Arabic in the United States and in the in the 18th and 19th century so Muslims have been here and they're here and you know notwithstanding some major events where you would have incarceration like what happened to the Japanese which has never been constitutionally declared unconstitutional it has to go to the Supreme Court so that's never happened you know and FEMA does have interment camps for a national emergency or something like that so I would hate you know god forbid if there was some kind of nuclear dirty bomb or something like that who knows you know I don't know so it's a it's very troubling prospect but I think Muslims are here in large numbers it's a highly educated as you know community and and there's also a lot of really hard-working decent Muslims that are here like many other communities one of the things about the United States is historically most communities have have been forced to duke it out other than the the anglo-saxon peoples that came here the Irish community if you study their history the Irish community fought hard there's a very interesting book when the Irish became white which is about Irish Catholics people think Kennedy was the first virus president was actually Andrew Jackson but he was all stir Irish Protestant so they weren't really considered Irish but the Irish Catholics had a very hard time in this country but what they did was they duked it out on the streets they created world-class teaching institutions and and and now you know one out of every four Americans has some kind of Irish roots and Saint Patrick's Day is the biggest parade in New York and Boston so good things happen if people work hard enough and are willing to kind of take the blows in regards to the question of religious liberty and religious freedom there's a intra Muslim debate that's taking place about the extent to which religious freedoms and liberties should be granted especially when it comes to for instance attacking Islam and we see sort of the violence that erupts when cartoons are drawn her in the image of the Prophet and and and there's this in in troublesome debate about that what are your thoughts well I mean I would say first of all that the the the idea of vigilante justice is totally prohibited in the Islamic religion no Muslim is allowed to take extrajudicial action in in any situation so there are blasphemy laws in Islam just like there were there still are blasphemy laws in some European countries so it's not like these things have completely gone away they just don't implement them anymore I mean the last person to be killed for blasphemy was in Scotland you know in the late 17th century so it wasn't like Europe didn't have these things also the Muslim tradition is a pre-modern tradition and so it has many of the sensibilities of the pre-modern world view in in in in today's current situation I think Muslims first of all need to get used to to being offended the Quran has many about being offended was potala may applaud and be patient about what they say that's my live you know Otsuka time a company community no co-ed then kathira you're gonna hear from the people that were given the book before you meaning the jews and the christians and the policy is much odious or noxious statements and it says to be patient and not don't get angry and and so there's a lot of things about just not getting angry the Prophet once heard somebody call him with m-mom which means it's the opposite of Mohammed it means blameworthy because Mohammed means praiseworthy and he said isn't it interesting how God has removed there my name from their tongues when they want to curse me and he said they're talking about something you name with them them and my name is Mohammed you know in other words they're not talking about me and so those cartoon anybody that says those cartoons were the Prophet Mohammed as far as I'm concerned is not a Muslim you know as a beautiful Magritte has a beautiful picture and it's it says this is not a pipe and it shows a picture of a pipe because we forget that the image is not the thing and so if you make an image of something it's it's not that thing that those crucifixes it's not Jesus on the cross you know and so any image that's made especially if it's a caricature it's certainly not our prophet as now they do with our prophet and then Wilson's have to ask themselves have you contributed to the drawing itself has your behavior contributed to the person to the perception of this religion so when Muslims do heinous things unfortunately the Islam gets blamed and with Christianity that's not the case because we're in a society where Christians are fully enfranchised I know some people would debate the war on Christianity and on Christmas and things like that but Christians are enfranchised so when one Christian does a crazy thing all the Christians aren't blamed for it but unfortunately we're not in a situation where Muslims are fully in franchise din this country so when one Muslim does a crazy thing Islam is blamed for it I mean a lot of these people clearly have mental illness and in a man that the plane into the IRS building after writing a serious political screed you know he was just considered a crazy white guy but if his name was Mohammed that would have been a terrorist act it's as simple as that so you know the Arab said your preposition works and mine doesn't you know like you have different grammatical rules that night Santa Clara University as you know is the oldest institution of higher learning in California it's grounded in the Jesuit tradition of educating citizens and leaders of conscience and compassion to build a more just and more humane world can you reflect on your mission at Zaytuna College especially within the context and rooted in Islam what are your hopes in achieving in embarking on this I mean I would say that the Catholic and the Islamic traditions share a lot of things the central thing that they share is a profound dedication to education but but another thing they share is a profound dedication to the the the instrumental arts and and I buy art here I mean power the ability to do something historically that is from instrumental arts and both art traditions were the language arts and the number arts the the qualitative and quantitative reasoning and so in the language arts it was grammar logic and rhetoric there's a wonderful fresco by Botticelli of a student being led into the other six liberal arts by grammar and and it's personified as a beautiful woman and overlooking them as Prudential or wisdom and and one of the things that we don't realize is that that language is incredibly complicated when we speak I mean I was in a hotel recently and and we asked for somebody who asked asked me what I wanted I said an omelet with everything except the the meat and so the omelet came with everything with nothing but the meat and the reason was is the person's English was limited and and the concept of an exception using accept is actually a complicated concept language like had they said no meat it's very clear but to say except meat will confuse somebody who's not a native speaker sometimes if they don't know the language so we we don't realize how complicated languages and historically on Christian doctrine by st. Augustine st. Augusta argues that you have to learn the liberal arts in order to read scripture one of the crises in the Muslim world is that the liberal arts are no longer taught and so people are reading scripture without the liberal arts if you don't know what a conditional sentence is you should not be reading Scripture other than as a devotional practice but if you think that you can derive knowledge or wisdom from it you're going to get in serious trouble and there are many things in the Quran that are highly nuanced in in the Islamic tradition the last book that you read in our scholastic tradition is a two-volume work and I showed Graham wood this book who studied Arabic at Harvard who wrote the article for the Atlantic it's a two-volume work just on the particles and prepositions in in Arabic and how difficult they are there are several just in Arabic in the Quran has several possibilities there's something called phobia which is the causative there's you know there's a fad that is related to it happens after time has transpired it's it's a conjunctive that happens after time has transpired so every sentence in the Quran in in the Catholic tradition they used to study the sentences which were the sentences they studied this in in in seminaries for sometimes for 10 years this is a book of sentences because there's so much sophistication in great writing especially inspired writing by great theologians and so we've lost a lot of this and and our complex compound sentences are diminishing in our writing you can see this very clearly in modern writing we're losing the sophistication of language many of our students are incapable of reading Melville I sometimes wonder if David Foster Wallace really left the world just because of a kind of despair because he he's a you know he's a very sophisticated writer that sometimes writes sentences that last for a age and and he was teaching students English literature and he said he would always begin with a crash course on grammar because the students couldn't read and one of the things that I have done is just give students the first sentence to the Declaration of Independence and I've done this in several classes not just at say tuna but at other places and out of 50 students on average three or four actually get the main Clause of that sentence because they're unable to identify the difference between a subordinate and a main clause we've had a war on grammar for about 50 years it's literally been a war on grammar and grammar matters you know let's eat grandma without that pause we could become cannibals right so commas are a matter of life and death will open we had some questions that were written down we can take some more as well if you had them please put them on the on the cards someone asked please continue to express your thoughts on how Isis revives or leverages medieval Muslim traditions and behaviors well I mean first of all they they do not they aren't they are a real reflection of modernity they're not they're much closer to kind of Maoist or or radical Marxist tradition a lot of people are unaware of how profoundly impacted Marxist thought has I mean even in our colleges and universities in the United States critical theory which I mean we can trace it right back to Karl Marx and Karl Marx who has undeniably some brilliant criticisms about capitalist society but overall the end justifies the means is a Marxist concept it's not a religious concept and so the idea somehow that you can just enslave people the Prophet said that there's three people that he will be an advocate against on the day of judgment and one of them was men by Horan you know that the one who sells a free person you know and an alma wrote I would have been a toss about taking people as slaves in Egypt he said Metis stabbed it to them and what it did to Mahatma Harada when did you what right do you have to enslave people that their mothers gave birth to them and freedom you know they're free people and so this idea slavery is anonymity Islamic tradition there is undeniably a component in historical Islam of indentured servitude which was largely a way of reintegrating war victims and refugees into a society we have in our Islamic law the ability of anybody who's in indentured servitude to get money from the public funds to be freed if they so desire and so this idea of modern chattel slavery has nothing to do with Islam at all and so what these people are doing is not medieval in Dark Ages it is it is a gross distortion and I'm not going to deny that within I've spent enough time in pre-modern books to know that there's some really weird stuff in pre-modern tradition but I could take the Jewish religion numbers 31 if you go into the the city kill every every male even the little ones you know kill the the girls who have known intimately men and take the girls who have not known men intimately for yourselves right which was concubinage so that that's in that's in the Bible there's things that are in in our pre-modern text but you you'll find in the Islamic Scripture you will not find there's nowhere where there's racism and I would argue that the Prophet Muhammad is the first human being in human history to declare the Equality of human beings I have never found anybody prior to the Prophet Mohammed where he said there's no preference of a white over a black or a black over a white except in piety and I've never seen that articulated in any other and the Quran clearly says we made you peoples and tribes to know one another not to hate one another and even though that's an interpretation it's it is a sound interpretation so I really feel that Isis in no way represents normative medieval Islam there is a strain of radical Islam even in the pre-modern tradition that gets pretty ugly the idea that women who were taken as concubines could be coerced into Islam why did they want to coerce them because they couldn't have sexual relations if they weren't Muslim so you'll find the full kaha talking about these things but those things are relics of the past and they should not be revived in in in in the modern world somebody asks it's been said that Muslims and blacks are people that have been oppressed here in the United States historically and Muslims are the target today do you think there are currently any initiatives in which these two communities or two groups work together now first of all I would say anybody that can make a statement like that knows nothing about black history in this country the Muslims have in no way any comparison to what the african-american people went through or the Native Americans or even the Chinese Americans so you know I just or Japanese Americans I mean I could go on but you know we're doing relatively well let's face it you know I mean you know so you get some rude remarks you know welcome to America you know I mean I'm sorry like I mean we've got a front runner out there who just is as rude as can be and everybody loves them so you know Americans like rude people sometimes I guess I don't know but I mean I just think it's an odious comparison personally I really do what's down the road I don't know like I'm troubled definitely by the rhetoric but I think there's still an incredible number of very decent Americans that are troubled by what's happening and I'm also very wary of polls because you know I just my own experience I've been the bra I've had the brunt of of anti-muslim thing but it's a good thing also to experience prejudice sometimes you know because it gives you empathy I mean one of the things the Bible says is do not vex the stranger or oppress him for you two were strangers in the land of Egypt so it's sometimes to inculcate empathy we need to go through what other people go through to be more appreciative one of the things that the immigrant community failed to do is to really help the african-american Muslim community that was I think an egregious shortsightedness ethically and pragmatically


Here's a question to you: personally could you share the story of your own personal decision to convert to Islam for me?

You know I my mother raised me even though my great-grandfather built the Greek Orthodox Church that's on Valencia and there's a plaque with his name on it and I was actually baptized Greek Orthodox I went to Catholic schools my father was Irish Catholic and but my mother did tell me that religion is largely arbitrary you tend to have the religion that you were born into and so don't think just because you were born into this religion it's the only truth out there so she kind of raised us with that idea and she took us to various religious communities I went to a mosque when I was 12 years old at in Redwood City she took us to a mosque to experience you know a mosque I actually did wudu and prayed with the congregation so she took me to synagogue she took us to a Hindu temple so I read the Quran when I was 17 and after reading several different scriptures and the Quran was the one that really resonated with me because one of the things I really liked about the Quran was I got all the prophets that I grew up with and and you know I I definitely I think the the atonement story I never fully got you know and but I have incredible respect for Christian tradition I have spent a lot of time in Catholic theology I'm kind of an armchair Catholic theologian I would say I've read a lot of Aquinas Agustin and Joseph Pieper is one of my favorite writers I you know I always think the Catholics are just so bad at marketing because they they really do have an incredible tradition and in terms of ethics there they are the most advanced religious ethical tradition I think on the planet right now I really believe that they're just so ahead of all the other religions in really deeply dealing from a philosophical perspective a lot of the things that were confronted with because people are there's a lot of shallow thinking out there about what's going on and and we're looking at transhumanism which is profoundly troubling CS Lewis who was really kind of a closeted Catholic CS Lewis wrote a very very prescient book called the abolition of man which is a very troubling book and I would add to that book a book by the big noob residence key called between two ages and we're moving into a new phase I don't know if people notice but a law firm just hired the first AI lawyer so it's happening and it's happening at a very rapid pace and we're not really thinking about the ethical implications of eliminating diseases this was called eugenics in the Hitlerian project we had a eugenics movement in the 1920s where they in this country they sterilized a lot of poor people and African Americans so it's you know it's I think we really need Ephesus and we need ethicists that can think metaphysically and philosophically and right now the Catholic tradition is is one of the few that I really feel is deeply rooted in a sound of philosophical tradition to be able to grapple with these things and in the way that they need to be grappled with you had touched on this in your talk can you provide some examples in history where Muslim majority countries did in fact practice religious liberty Muslims were historically way ahead and I'll just give you an example this is a recent book that just came out it's called when Christians first met Muslims a sourcebook of the earliest Syriac writings on Islam this is a very important book by Michael Phillip Penn the reason it's important is because most Western Orientalism looked at Byzantine sources and people forget that the Muslims defeated the Byzantines so most of those sources were polemical and so they would attack the Muslims and say horrible things about the Muslims in the same way that we said horrible things about the Huns during World War one when they weren't like the Nazis and certainly the Iraqis in Kuwait we know what they said about throwing the babies out of the and then we found out that was a PR firm that coached that daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to say that that it never happened the Iraqis didn't pull any babies out but this is polemic you know in war the first casualty is the truth they say and so in reading this book I was struck by how the Syriac most that Christians loved the Muslims because they were liberated under them because they were oppressed under the Byzantines and so they were saying how wonderful the Muslims were and how incredible and also Fred Donner who is a world-class historian it showed in Muhammad and the believers that there's no historical evidence that Muslims destroyed any churches in in the conquest he said there's no historical evidence and one of the things we have in assault is called if sis haben Marcus which is is a it's a very sophisticated backward approach to a current situation so traditionally look at precedent and how it affects the pret the the present the so how the path but there's also a way that jurists in Islam look at the present and how it informs us of the past the fact that these great churches existed in Iraq for fourteen hundred years and the Christians perceive the Muslims in those places is proof that the Muslims always honored those so the destruction of these churches is completely alien to the Islamic tradition the Muslims did not forget their religion for 1,400 years and then this enlightened group called I see suddenly realized here's the true Islam that we're going to implement it's just complete nonsense so these great churches that have been destroyed this is one of the greatest crimes in our history and and unfortunately they are a sect of people that claim to be Muslims and it's going to be a blemish on our history just like the the the burning of the church of the sepulchre was a blemish on the fought them it's when they burned it down and 70 years later caused the Crusades but less people forget Muslims immediately rebuilt that church and recently shed Mohammed paid for the renovation of the of one of the great churches in Jerusalem so the Muslims you know they they honored the Christians and I have a two hundred years ago I have a book by Solly in Egypt where he says it's sad to hear so many Muslims saying I wish I was a Christian because the perks that the Christians got the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey were called The Omen favela you know before the Armenian crises they were one of the most honored groups in the ottoman tradition and the same is true with the Jews that Sabbath was a what we would call a prime minister today under the ROM and a second so Christians and Jews and even Buddhists of our Meccans were from a Buddhist shrine keepers the the great Buddhist traditions of Central Asia so the Muslims you know they had multicultural multi-ethnic civilizations this whole idea that were the first multi-ethnic civilization history is it's just stupidity you know it's it's just a hallmark of our ignorance and and they're undeniably I would argue that America is probably the most progressive civilization in human history in terms of legislating non-discriminatory law.  I think that would be a fair thing to say.  But for the Muslims for pre-modern records nobody compares to the Muslims.  And I say that objectively as a student of the history of that of that civilization I don't think any society and Toynbee and others would would also I think you know make that point as well in terms of the context of what we see today both within many Muslim countries as well as the tensions that exist in the United States in the the amount of Islamophobia that continues to exist in this country and in many ways is is getting worse what are your thoughts about this context and are you hopeful for the future I think Islam phobia is is a problem globally I think it's a problem in Muslim countries there's there's a lot of fear that the rulers have of kind of awakening that comes from Islam because Islam has a profound justice based element in its tradition but as far as I'm concerned I think you know overall the Muslims are doing relatively well in this country I think we have dropped the ball I think we dropped it over after 9/11 I made arguments for pre-empting this study you were in that meeting we had 15 16 years ago yeah where I made these arguments about having a getting you know a national organization and to start dealing with the anti-muslim rhetoric that's going to emerge in the coming years that's right and nobody listened to me at that time so you know Cassandra was cursed with you know seeing the future but not being listened to so it's kind of a bummer but that's the way things so in terms of what I see I see if if Donald Trump gets elected I think it could could be very problematic for the Muslims I think if Hillary gets elected Huma Abedin might end up being the chief of staff at some point so I I wouldn't say I'm hopeful I know enough about history to know how bad it can get but our religion is a religion of optimism were challenged to be optimistic and so I'm probably an optimist trapped in a pessimist body so let's hope for the best and expect the worst and Shella we as you know we're taping this on c-span and so her time is quite fixed and so I'll stop there please join me in thanking Sheikh Hamza she hums on behalf of Santa Clara University we just want to extend our deep gratitude for your presence with us and your thoughtful engagement and reflection and entering into dialogue with our community and thank you for Reid for your facilitation and also to all of you for coming today to participate and for your thoughtful engagement please join me in thinking once more our guests thank you