No good deed goes unpunished. After agreeing to serve on the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf finds himself the target of criticism from many within the Muslim community.
As the co-founder of America’s first accredited Muslim undergrad college, Zaytuna College, Yusuf is a respected Muslim scholar and leader in his community. That doesn’t make him immune from angry denunciations by Muslims upset that he would lend his services to anything even remotely connected to President Donald Trump. Religion News Service reports:
“Despite Sheikh Hamza Yusuf’s rich, robust and arguably unparalleled contributions to Islamic thought in the West, it pains me to see him collaborate with the most Islamophobic administration in American history,” said Hamzah Raza, a graduate student in Islamic studies at Harvard Divinity School. “Donald Trump is a president who asserted that ‘Islam hates us’ and incited violence against Muslims as a tool to get elected.”
Whether you accept Raza’s hyperbole regarding Trump or not, it seems counter-intuitive to take to task someone who has the ability to help steer this nation’s views and responses to Muslims. The Commission on Unalienable Rights exists to “provide the Secretary of State advice and recommendations concerning international human rights matters. The Commission will provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.”
Among the criticisms directed at Yusuf, RNS adds:
Several Muslim activists told RNS that they feared Yusuf’s social conservatism would color his foreign policy recommendations on the commission. The debate over Yusuf’s role on the commission among Muslims, however, has focused less on the international human rights implications and more on the collaboration with the Trump administration — mirroring perennial debates over the value of participating in White House iftar events.
Shouldn’t Raza and other Muslims upset at Yusuf’s participation in the Commission want an ally on something that has as its purpose advising the Secretary of State about issues of human rights? That answer seems like a no-brainer. Sadly, though, we live in a time when if you’re not upset, you’re not trying hard enough. Raza’s virtue signaling will only serve to widen the gulf between Muslims and non-Muslims in this country. By way of contrast, Yusuf’s service will help unify this nation as we seek to promote a society that enables all humans to flourish (assuming that the pressure exerted on him by the Muslim community doesn’t cause him to resign).